History

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.

 

1993 Quartier Ephémère is founded, following an association between Usines Ephémères in France, and the Fondation pour le développement des artistes de la relève in Québec.
1994 Quartier Ephémère officially opens its offices at 16 Prince Street. The Société de Développement de Montréal (S.D.M.) agrees to lease to QE an abandoned warehouse in Old Montreal, free of charge, in exchange for its occupation and maintenance.
1995 On the program: many exhibits and exchanges between French and Québecois artists. QE gains more space from the S.D.M.: room for 8 artist studios, in addition to the existing gallery space and offices.
1996 A new Board of Directors is formed, setting new directions for QE. The absence of public funding —with the exception of some employment subsidies, motivates QE to seek resources from the private sector.
1997 A very good year for QE: Panique au Faubourg is a great success; stable funding and permanent staff are secured, and a private patron (Discreet Logic) is found. QE’s reputation grows within the artist community, and a proposal for a new, permanent location takes root.
1998

Initiation of the project to create a visual arts centre in the Darling Foundry. Diverse exhibitions are presented. QE acquires residential space to accommodate visiting artists —a loft located in the historic Faubourg des Récollets neighbourhood. The Québec government announces plans for redeveloping the Faubourg into the Cité Multimédia.

1999 QE temporarily relocates its offices to "the Loft." and concentrates its efforts on in situ projects and securing the necessary financing for renovations at the Darling Foundry.
2000 QE operates from inside a trailer within the Darling Foundry; organizes several exhibitions, and produces the Silophone project.
2001 As plans for the Darling Foundry gain momentum, QE relies heavily on its directors’ involvement to secure financing for Phase 1 of the renovations. QE is awarded the “Prix Orange” from the group “Sauvons Montréal” for its efforts in preserving and enhancing Montreal’s urban architectural heritage.
2002

Official Launch of Phase 1 of The Darling Foundry, Visual Arts Centre.

2003 The Darling Foundry is nominated for the grand prize by the Montreal Arts Council, and is awarded a prize from the Association of Architects of Québec for the quality of renovations made to the Foundry. Financing is promised and the budget approved for renovations to begin on Phase 2, which is to include 17 artists’ studios and production workshops.
2006 Unveiling the second phase of the Darling Foundry, with its studios and residences.
2012 Celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the Darling Foundry.