The Cadieux Forge

The Cadieux Forge is an important testimony to the strong industrial presence that once occupied Montreal’s Faubourg des Recollets. This building, preserved intact amongst a quickly changing environment, is a rare reminder of an enigmatic by-gone era.

The modest Forge Cadieux was built at 815 Rue St. Paul in 1903, and replaced a previous forge built in 1886. Continuously in use until 1982, Cadieux Forge played a role in the shaping of the south west Montreal suburb Faubourg des Recollets, located to the south of Griffintown, noted for its industrial activity – mainly in metallurgy. Between the 19th and 20th centuries, half of the industries present in the suburb were working to transform metals. However, like most the neighbourhood’s buildings, the forge didn’t stand a chance against the rapid de-industrialisation that was to hit Griffintown and its surrounding suburbs. In 1982, all activity at the forge was ceased, and so began the slow and wearisome process of decay which explains its current state : an abandoned building, empty and detached from an urban context whose emphasis is mainly on large infrastructure and housing projects. A state, which not only belies its historic significance, but the unexpected richness of what can be found within it.

Protest and befuddlement :

Faced with this reality, some have come forward in an attempt have the heritage value of Cadieux Forge recognized. Heritage Montreal has kept it on its list of “most endangered” heritage places since 2009. Yet, these voices have gone mostly unnoticed; there is nothing planned for this place, no rehabilitation project, or restoration, nor even a vote to have it officially designated as a heritage site. For now, this human-scaled building (three storeys high) must confront its new neighbours, mostly glass and concrete structures, with no recourse or measure of protection. It would be an understatement to say that the building is being negatively affected by these developments. In fact, the work being done around the building on the Bonaventure AutoRoute has weakened the buildings structure, due to the heavy vibrations. Left to its own devices, it is easy to imagine the structure falling into ruin and being designated a safety hazard, thus leaving authorities “no other choice” than to tear it down. This kind of situation is common, and echoes a recent case which still profoundly resonates with Montreal’s Heritage aficionados; the demolition of the Redpath Mansion in March 2014 which was judged “unsalvageable” due to its advanced state of degradation. 

Will this be, yet again, a case of the interest of a select few (developers) outweighing the interests of the collective and out-financing the interests of cultural wealth? The property value does indeed greatly surpass the monetary value of the building itself. What kind memory do we wish to transmit – or erase – with our actions? Will this be another situation where the rule of the Markets wins over care for the preservation of our historical treasures? Cadieux Forge would be an excellent occasion for the city’s urban planners and decision makers to show it can learn from errors in the past…

Hidden potential :

What is inside the red-brick façade which gives nothing away? A treasure trove of unexpected things. The interior has remained untouched, entirely preserved, aging with rust and covered in dust, but full of memory, or what some prefer to call “spirit of place”. Since the day the workers left in 1982, every artefact has remained in place: from the forge oven; to the hundreds of tools; pieces of their daily uniforms, like workers hats and notebooks; and all other traces of their passing. A material and immaterial legacy rich with heritage! 

Possible uses for the forge are unending, with such an inspiring interior, and strong reminders of the founding uses for the neighbourhood: educational center, archive on metallurgy, study centre, etc. To begin with, an inventory of the tools and artefacts contained within it should be made, lest we forget that heritage conservation begins and ends with documentation; knowledge allows recognition, followed by public appropriation.

The proper documentation and recognition of this place is important ! Not only because of its rare contents, but also because of its strategic position as a heritage asset within an area burgeoning with new developments, as well as artists and creative types who should have a role to play it in its revitalisation. Note the proximity of the Forge Cadieux to the Darling Foundry, Horse Palace, New City Gas and Wellington Tower – other key heritage assets whose charm attracts new residents. Their proximity would suggest that the natural solution would be to create a network between them, to support the rich and varied heritage assets present. Do we require being reminded of the functional relation evident between a Forge and a Foundry, or that at the beginning of the 20th century a blacksmith-farrier had many functions? 

Finally, it is housed within a socio-cultural environment ripe for a transformative initiative, characterized by the existence of an authentic and well-defined potential for a pole dedicated to metal-working; some steps away from Forge Cadieux, in the former pumping station on Rue Riverside, artisans who are members of the organisation Les Forges de Montreal (The Forges of Montreal, est. 2000) meet with the goal of promoting the ancestral art of metal work. Here again, a potential relationship could serve one as much as the other, from one forge to the next heritage can be passed down.

There you have it, the possibilities are endless for the Cadieux Forge! She awaits only appropriation and engagement, from a large enough number of citizens, to be saved. Calling all ideas and for a union of voices to sway the balance in her favour !

© Marc Gosselin, La Forge Cadieux, 2013, technique mixte sur bois. source : http://www.marcgosselin.com
© Marc Gosselin, La Forge Cadieux, 2013, technique mixte sur bois. source : http://www.marcgosselin.com

For more information :

  • LEDOYEN, Daniel, « La Forge Cadieux », Bulletin de l’Association Québécoise pour le Patrimoine Industriel, 17, n°3, automne 2006, p. 6-10.
  • Héritage Montréal, Le Faubourg des Récollets : deux cents ans d’histoire et d’architecture, 
  • Ville de Montréal, Extrait du rôle d’évaluation foncière du lot 1179709, mis à jour le 28 nov. 2013.
  • PROVOST-CHATIGNY, Monique, « Les Forges de Montréal », Bulletin de l’Association Québécoise pour le Patrimoine Industriel, 25, n°1, printemps 2014, p. 34-35.
  • Site internet : Les Forges de Montréal.

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