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The Brewery and the Water Tower
170 Montcalm Street


This structure was built on the grounds of the Columbia farm, granted to Philemon Wright in 1806. In 1813, he built a large distillery that used the barley and rye produced by the colonists. It had three sections: the distillery itself, the brewery and the maltery. Grain was converted into malt, which was then used for making beer and whiskey. Around the brewery were hangars and a stable for the animals. The equipment used in the distillery included boilers, barrels, casks, kettles, implements for transferring liquids from one vessel to another, spouts, stoves and measures used in the manufacture of beer, whiskey and malt, as well as maintenance tools: hammers, wrenches and screwdrivers.

The master brewers hired by Philemon Wright & Sons signed a contract granting them the use of the production buildings and the outbuildings as well as a place of residence. In 1832, Ralph Smith was hired for five years and three months, at the rate of 80 a year and the use of two acres of land, but he was not permitted to use more water than required for the brewery. The lower salary of subsequent contracts indicates a decline in production. In 1838, Thomas Brigham, Philemon's son-in-law and a member of the company, received 50 a year for two years, and in October 1840, Isaac Smith earned only 40 a year. The brewery-distillery stopped functioning after 1845. The buildings were converted to accommodate an axe factory.

Towards 1855, Sexton Washburn, an axe manufacturer, left the shores of the "Devil's Hole", where he had been located since 1845, and moved into the former brewery. After the death of Sexton's son in 1886, Henry Walters and Sons took over the Washburn factory. In the early twentieth century, Walters moved all his operations across the creek to make room for the water tower.

We tend to take our water mains for granted. But in the past, in order to obtain water for domestic consumption, people had to fetch it themselves from the river, dig wells, or buy it from a water carrier. In 1872, five water porters transported a large barrel, with a capacity of about 525 litres, from street to street, to fill the water barrels or kegs of the citizens. The first aqueduct, built in 1886, was not adequate. In 1897, the fire prevention committee suggested that more powerful pumps, run by electricity, should be installed at Brewery Creek and on December 29, 1899, they ordered Walters to vacate his premises by the following April.

Besides the removal of the axe factory, the construction of the water tower involved the acquisition of the rights to the waterpower from the creek, which had been harnessed before the 1830s. The firm of Wright & Sons and, subsequently, the heirs of Ruggles Wright had control of the water until 1872, when control was acquired by E. B. Eddy. Eddy ceded it to Charles B. Graham in 1886, who sold the rights to the city in 1888 and 1889, in two successive transactions. As the other half of the creek belonged to the heirs of Nancy Louisa Wright, who died in 1901, the City had to appeal to the provincial government, which declared itself the owner of the hydroelectric power from the falls and transferred its rights to the municipality.

On January 3, 1905, the wheels of the turbines were activated by Mayor Ovide Falardeau, Joseph Bourque, president of the aqueduct committee, and two engineers, Read and Berthiaume. The initial building was expanded with an additional wing, completed in 1910. The aqueduct was designed not only to serve as a filtration plant and water delivery network, but also to produce the electricity required for its own functioning and the illumination of streets and public buildings. In 1950, the water was distributed through some 63 km of mains to which were linked 400 fire hydrants. The pumps supplied, on average, 55 million litres of water a day. One of the pumps was always run solely by water pressure, as a backup in case of a power failure. Many citizens of Hull remember the floodlit fountain, installed on July 4, 1938, in front of the water tower. It was demolished in April 1989 during the renovation of the Montcalm Street Bridge.

With the decreasing water output, the increased demand for electricity and the thorough renovation of aqueduct and power plant equipment, a new aqueduct was built and this one was abandoned in April 1971.

The building deteriorated. In autumn 1983, the City of Hull restored the structure and the foundations. A project for a technically advanced theatre in December 1986 was blocked at the last minute. Ten years later, on September 28, 1996, Mayor Yves Ducharme inaugurated the Hull Ecomuseum, focusing on ecological issues, in the former water tower building. The museum did not attract enough visitors and closed its doors in spring 2004.