Friday, April 27, 2018

Bouvril Building

Bouvril Building – 1921

Bovril Building art deco building located on the corner of Van Horne and Park Ave was built in 1921-22 by Montreal architect James Cecil McDougall for Food Specialists of Canada Limited, the manufacturers of Bovril in Canada.

In the mid 1800s, John Lawson Johnston, a Scottish butcher, having an interest in food science and preserving, experimented with heating beef trimmings, and came up with a concentrated beef stock, which had a long shelf-life. It became a favorite nourishing beef beverage for Edinburgh’s poor, as it would also have restorative and medicinal values.

Johnston emigrated to Montreal in 1863, where he set up a factory, where he developed “Johnston’s Fluid Beef”. In 1871 he went back and married Elizabeth Elliott Lawson in Edinburgh, Scotland. The couple lived there until 1875. In 1874 Johnston won a contract to produce preserved beef products for the French army of Emperor Napoleon III during the Franco-Prussian War. According to Bovril’s official history, around a million tonnes of beef product were produced, in the wake of it losing the war that year to the Prussians. In 1875, John, his wife and their first three children moved back to Canada and settled in Quebec City. There their last two children were born. He kept working on his liquid beef and re-invented it as a concentrate, which he made from beef parts leftover from the French government order of tinned beef. In 1879, John moved the business from Quebec City to Montreal. When, in 1884 his factory was destroyed by fire, he decided to move back to Europe, where he set up business in London selling his concentrate to grocery stores and pubs. In 1887 the name “Bovril” was registered, and a new brown-glass bottle was introduced. In 1895 John bought Kingswood House in Sydenham, London, and enlarged it by adding a wing and a large entrance. The Victorian mansion became known as “Bovril Castle”. The Bovril empire was sold in 1896 for £2 million. John Lawson Johnston died in 1900, but his product has survived to this day.

Food Specialists of Canada Ltd. occupied the Bovril building to 1948, when they moved and sold the building to British based Brooke Bond & Co, as a packaging plant for the Red Rose Tea factory established by Theodore Harding Estabrooks in 1894 in Saint John, New Brunswick. After Red Rose moved out in 1962, the Bovril building was home to several small businesses, mainly clothing shops. It has also been a low-rent place for artists such as painters, musicians, mimes and other various struggling artists.

Today, the building, owned by the Skver Yeshivah, houses a Hasidic Jewish primary school, library and daycare, and a non-profit artist’s cooperative with studios on the upper floors, each with their own entrance. The Bovril name has been removed, but the 1920’s industrial architecture remained intact.

©2018 The past Whispers
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Saturday, April 21, 2018

The barbers of Saint-Hyacinthe

If there is a place of sociability at the beginning of the twentieth century, it is the barbershop where news and the latest gossip are exchanged. This photo from the CH085 Studio BJ Hébert Fund was taken in 1926. We see two barbers with their clients. Who are they?

We consulted the 1915 Saint-Hyacinthe Guide for the number of barbers in our city a little over a hundred years ago. In this guide, the population of Saint-Hyacinthe is 12,000…more

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Great Famine Voices

Why do so many people associate Strokestown with Irish Famine and emigration? The reasons are manifold. In November 1847, at the height of the Great Famine, the landlord of Strokestown Park, Major Denis Mahon, was shot on his way home from Roscommon. Over 100 years later, Major Mahon's ancestor, Olive Parkenham Mahon, sold Strokestown Park to Jim Callery, a local businessman who needed land in the town to expand his thriving business. Although now owner of the house, Jim allowed Olive to remain resident for many years. Jim tells the story much better than I do. He can take over...more

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dominion Corset

In the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century, the city of Quebec, which saw its port activities decline and shipbuilding disappear, reoriented its economy and became an important center for the production of shoes and corsets. Many factories established themselves in the populous districts of Saint-Roch and Saint-Sauveur and employed more than five thousand people in 1900.

The Dominion Corset of Georges-Élie Amyot was one of the largest corset factories in America. In 1886, Georges-Élie Amyot began making corsets. At the turn of the twentieth century, he became Quebec's largest employer and was appointed legislative counsel in 1912.
In production, the labor force has always been exclusively female and the workers have been supervised by female foremen. Factory work allowed single women to support themselves outside of marriage and religious life, but until the late 1950s, married women were prohibited from remaining in the employ of the company.
Note that corsets made in the late nineteenth century gave a size of wasp to those who wear them by means of "turns" in the form of hoops adapting to the dresses of the time. At the beginning of the 20th century, the rust-free whale refined silhouettes without over-constraining breathing. New corsets and bustiers reduced the unwanted curves of tubular fashion in the 1920s.
The arrival of synthetic fabrics made the whales disappear after the Second World War. The clientele adopts the first models of sleeves and bras. The 1950s are the golden age of the company, which launches the lines Sarong and Daisyfresh.
From Pierre Amyot in 1973, the management of the company is entrusted to Maurice Godbout.In 1977, the company adopted a new market strategy and took the name of Daisyfresh Creations. It is still sold in 1988 to the company Canadelle WonderBra, which abandons the manufacture of the lower town to settle in the industrial park of Vanier.
The decommissioned factory was finally reorganized to house the Center de développement économique et urbain (CDÉU) of Quebec City and the School of Visual Arts at Laval University.
The arrival of public servants and students in the early 1990s contributes to the revitalization of the Saint-Roch district. Its vast building, at the corner of Charest Boulevard and Dorchester Street has been restored and is occupied by services of the City of Quebec and Laval University. The ground floor, open to the public, evokes the memory of the hundreds of workers who once worked there.

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