211 Montcalm Street
The Hull Iron and Steel foundry was born in 1913. Archibald H. Coplan, a Lithuanian who immigrated to Canada in 1905, established the foundry with the financing of Janet Louisa Scott, great-granddaughter of Hull founder Philemon Wright, and her niece, Lois Scott-Hadley. The new factory was built on part of the Wright family farm, not far from their house, a beautiful property at 28 Taché Boulevard, on Brewery Creek.
More than 700 employees, mostly from Hull, transformed the iron and made steel in the new foundry. Casters, moulders, smiths and day labourers produced one thousand steel parts used in the manufacture of railway trains, and mining and industrial machinery. They also made train tracks, rails for internal industrial transportation, caterpillar tank treads for National Defence and building materials. At the end of the First World War, the foundry was the fourth largest steelworks in Canada. In 1940, it was the largest with furnaces run exclusively by electricity. The company held patents for the manufacture of heatproof steel parts. During the period between the wars, the number of employees dropped to about 150. Nevertheless, in some Hull families, fathers and sons worked in the foundry for many years. Shortly after the end of the Second World War, Hull Iron and Steel went bankrupt. It shut down abruptly in July 1946.
Of the roughly 20 buildings that comprised the industrial complex, only three remain. The former head office of Hull Iron and Steel, built in 1913-1914 at 211 Montcalm Street, was probably renovated around 1930. It housed the courthouse and the offices of the ministère de la Famille et du Bien-Être (Ministry of Family and Social Welfare) for eight years. After that, the artist-run spaces Axe Néo 7 and the Daïmon production house had studios there until 2002.
The largest building in the complex, the enormous production plant, dates from the winter of 1942-1943. The Hull company Ed. Brunet et fils constructed two new buildings designed by Ontario architects Richard and Abra. The first, a production plant in the classic modern style, was built around the old 1912 building, without stopping the production of steel. Inside, there were furnaces and lagoons, mullers and a variety of moulds. A rail served as an ornamental steel beam on the facade of the building. The frieze of crinkled steel was also produced in-house. The history of the foundry was inscribed in the building materials. The initials of the company and the date of its founding are registered in the concrete, on the walkway leading to the door of the administration building. The second building, built in December 1942 at 2 De Lorimier Street, had showers, a cafeteria and an infirmary for the staff of Hull Iron and Steel. These three facilities exemplify the improvement in factory working conditions in terms of health and services.
The Montreal firm J. H. Connor & Son Co. Ltd, manufacturers of washing machines since 1875, became established in Ottawa around 1880 and bought the Hull factory in 1949. They converted the interior of the buildings, especially the production plant. The company employed about 800 people annually. The Connor factory carried on a metal-based industrial function, but in a different form. It stopped production in Hull around 1960 or 1961, but kept the factory until 1966, gradually selling the property to the Bourque brothers, under several company names. The Bourques rented the buildings to various provincial and federal government institutions. In 1972, the Government of Canada located the Technical Services of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources here. The National Capital Commission acquired the property between 1974 and 1977, retaining the government tenants. It ceded the property to the City in December 2001.
The foundry on Montcalm Street, especially the large production plant, is significant not only because of its size, but also because of its industrial activity - particularly important in the evolution of metallurgical products in the twentieth century - its contribution to the war effort, and its role as a workplace for several thousand men in the Ottawa Valley during the half century of its existence.
In 2003, the new city of Gatineau began restoring the main building under the supervision of Quebec architects Côté and Leahy. The contractor Raymond Brunet carried on the work of his grandfather. Today, the foundry serves as a reminder of Hull's importance as an industrial city in the twentieth century. The building is entering the twenty-first century with a new function: a sports centre.