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 Vieux-Montréal.
In the late 19th century, industrialization grew apace in the old city, extending beyond the confines of the original fortifications. With the printing and publishing industry booming, buildings were erected to meet its specific needs: they featured large open spaces, structures strong enough to withstand the weight of printing presses, and ample window openings. Completed in 1884, the John Lovell & Son building is a fine illustration of this functionalist architectural language—one that specifically addresses production requirements, but that is not without poetry and character.
The building’s outward appearance has changed very little since it was built. Our eyes are immediately drawn to the metal stairways leading to the fourth floor above the main entrance, which consists of a large door that was used for receiving merchandise destined for printing as well as for shipping the finished works. Positioned at the centre of the main façade, the stairs form a singular zigzag that feels like a hybrid of decorative motif and functional fire escape. A further interesting element is the lateral wall, which reveals the exterior structure, with its stone and brick framing, and also allows us to make out wooden beams and steel columns of the interior structure.
Lovell and Son & Mandy's © Héritage Montréal
Sweeping our gaze upward, we see the overhanging wood and metal cornice, and the Lovell & Son sign, recalling the history of the family business founded in 1836 by Irish-born Montrealer John Lovell. This printing and publishing company occupied the premises until 2016, when it moved to Avenue du Parc. Here on Saint-Nicolas, it printed newspapers, magazines, books, textbooks, sheet music—and most famously, its flagship Lovell’s directories and gazetteers.
The ground floor on the façade side features distinctive rusticated grey stone framing the door and window openings. The hung windows, each with 16 panes, provide views of the current occupant of the street-level space. In 2017, sisters Mandy and Rebecca Wolfe decided to open their fourth Mandy’s Restaurant in the building. Another family business!