Although Montréal was already the commercial centre of Canada by the late 18th century, the invention of the steam-powered engine in 1811 was the catalyst to the industrial revolution here, just as in the rest of the world, making Montréal the undisputed hub of Canadian industry as well. With the creation of the Lachine canal, built between 1821 and 1825, the modernization of the port between 1830 and 1845, and the building of a railroad between Montréal and Lachine, manufacturers settled along the banks of the canal and in the Faubourg des Récollets (formerly Griffintown). A high demand for ship building, machined parts, and iron works led to the establishment of several foundries in the Faubourg.
The Darling Brothers got their start in 1880, at a time when metal works in Griffintown were operating at full tilt. First housed in a building at Queen and Ottawa Streets, they found they needed more space by 1888. Architect J.R.Gardiner built a second building and in 1909 another addition was needed. In 1918, the Brothers decided to add a fourth building, and they retained T.Pringle & Son’s engineers to build it for them. At the height of its production, the Darling was the second most important foundry of Montreal, housing more than 100,000 ft2 of functional space. Each of its 4 buildings was dedicated to its own specialized purpose: inventory & stock, a showroom, the iron works, and the assembly plant.
The Darling Foundry is an important example of the quality of construction of buildings of its kind, and an important symbol of our industrial history. Its foundations and portals are made of concrete with steel rod reinforcements. The principal façade and secondary walls are made of brick. The Darling gets its nickname, “the snake,” from the elaborate ventilation system visible to passersby, on its roof.
The Darling Foundry continued to prosper until 1971, employing more than 800 people at one point. The Brothers were known for their particular technique of pouring metal into “grey sand” molds, as well as the high-quality of their machined parts, used widely in construction. Several separate parts would be poured and, once hardened, would be soldered together to create the finished pieces. Although the company was commissioned to produce armaments during the two World Wars, it was principally known for its production of industrial equipment, including heating systems, steam and water pumps, elevators and tramway stairs.
The Lachine Canal was closed in 1970, affecting the fortunes of many companies including the Darling Foundry. The company was sold to Pumps and Softerner in 1971. All of these changes were symptomatic of the end of Griffintown’s industrial role. Griffintown is known, today, as the Faubourg des Récollets.
The extent of the DF’s metal works operations demonstrate how important a role they played in the development of the industry and in the economic and commercial activity of the port of Montreal.
The Darling Foundry shut down all operations in 1991, and the building was abandoned for the next 10 years.
©2016 Linda Sullivan-Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved