Old Montreal’s heritage is far from frozen in time; it is diverse, alive, and can be experienced every day. Discover portraits of timeless buildings, each one a page of history proposed by Heritage Montreal as part of a special collaboration with the SDC Old Montreal.
Montreal’s first suburbs weren’t in Brossard or Laval. They were the faubourgs that developed outside the stone fortifications that bounded the old city. Prompted by fire risk and a lack of space, some residents moved to these new neighbourhoods, which included the Faubourg des Récollets. This district, directly to the west of the old walled city at the mouth of the Lachine Canal, was originally residential, but took on a resolutely commercial and industrial character in the 19th century. That land-use change was closely tied to the creation and eventual widening of the canal, which was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution in Canada, as well as the tentacular sprawl of the rail network, with Montreal as its epicentre.
The manufacturing concerns that sprang up in the Faubourg included foundries—factories that produced metal castings and parts used in various industries. The first in the area was the Ives & Allen Foundry, built between 1864 and 1872. The Darling brothers set up shop in the neighbourhood in 1880, with the metalworking industry at its peak. They built a complex of four buildings totalling over 9,290 square metres at the corner of Queen and Ottawa streets. Each had its own specific purpose in the production chain: there was a warehouse, a showroom, an iron works and an assembly plant.
The most recent building of the four, completed in 1918, was the work of the noted engineering firm T. Pringle & Son. It has a concrete structure, visible from the exterior. This material first appeared in the city in the early 20th century, in industrial architecture. Concrete framing made it possible to design solid structures with ample open interiors, since bulky columns were no longer needed to support floors and ceilings; it also meant large window openings could be used, allowing natural light to flood the inside. Brick cladding was used only for the side wall and main façade.
The Darling Brothers Foundry closed for good in 1991 and stood empty for a number of years until the mid-1990s, when artist Caroline Andrieux, at the invitation of the Quebec Ministry of Culture, began working to revitalize vacant buildings in Montreal. She helped create the Quartier Éphémère association, dedicated to bringing temporary art projects to abandoned spaces. These transitional uses bring the spaces back to life pending their permanent repurposing. The group eventually succeeded in mustering partners and resources to transform this heritage building into a vibrant hub of creative activity. Today, in addition to exhibition spaces, 10 individual creative studios, five production spaces and two studios for artists-in-residence, the former industrial complex is home to a restaurant, Le serpent, designed by architect Annie Lebel of Atelier in situ in collaboration with Hubert Marsolais.