Area bordered by Ottawa / Dalhousie / Wellington / Ann
Like many industrial heritage ensembles, here and around the world, the New City Gas Company of Montreal complex was built in several stages by a number of different engineers, contractors, and architects. The New City Gas ensemble was built between 1859 and 1861 in accordance with the plans of John Ostell (1813-1862), a leading 19th-century Montreal architect. Ostell was also a board member and then president of the company, after being a shareholder of the Montreal Gas Light Company, founded in1836. Despite the loss of some parts of the building, largely to make way for the elevated tracks of the Canadian National Railway in the 1920’s, the New City Gas complex is largely intact. Its impressive roofs and stone masonry are a strong and evocative presence in the urban landscape, as seen from neighbouring Griffintown or from the train or highway.
The New City Gas Company was built at a time when Montreal was entering a significant phase of its industrialization: the lighting revolution made possible the illumination of streets and buildings through the widespread production and distribution of gas, leading to increased productivity in the workplace. The company was a major participant in this revolution and, through the complex genealogy of gas companies that were later transformed into electric companies, is the ancestor of Hydro-Québec.
As part of a promising project to redevelop the Bonaventure expressway, the Société du Havre (created at the initiative of the City of Montréal), proposes to create a high-traffic bus corridor linking the South Shore to downtown Montreal along Dalhousie – a narrow street that runs alongside the New City Gas Company and now ends at the Canadian National railroad tracks. This proposal would require the building of a long and costly tunnel under the railroad tracks and result in some 1,400 bus trips past the building each day. The building of the tunnel would seriously threaten the integrity and solidity of this heritage building, and the heavy flow of buses would undermine any plans to revitalize the New City Gas Company.
In 1987, Heritage Montreal asked the City of Montreal to cite New City Gas as a historic monument to ensure its protection and contribute to its improvement. In 2007, we intervened directly with the developer Devimco to ensure that this complex would be recognized, preserved, and respectfully revitalized within the framework of the (excessive) Griffintown project. In 2009, Heritage Montreal reminded the City of Montreal and the Société du Havre of the importance of this exceptional heritage complex, urging them to withdraw the proposal to concentrate the 1400 bus trips on Dalhousie Street. We also met with the administrators of the Agence métropolitaine de transport and received assurances of their reservations concerning the plan to create this bus corridor. Heritage Montreal is also in communication with the owner of the site and with local residents and organizations, which are also deeply concerned by the proposal for this high-traffic public transit corridor, which was apparently developed in a vacuum with no thought to the impact it would have on the revitalization of this neighbourhood.
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