La Filature -The Textile Mill
82 Front Street
The Woolen Manufacture Company was born in 1878 on Montcalm Street at the corner of Ste-Bernadette. Its founder, John D. Hanson, a wool carder, was born in Quebec City and died in Hull in 1898. His son George, born in 1872 at 26 Front (Hanson) Street in Hull, bought a vacant lot on this same street from Janet Louisa and John Scott in 1905, and had a new building constructed for the George E. Hanson Carding and Woolen Co. Renamed "Hanson Woolen Mills Ltd." in 1925, it was incorporated only in 1934 under the name "Hanson Hosiery Company". In 1906, George Hanson had bought the lot at 19 Front Street, where he built his impressive residence. He died there on March 3, 1943.
The new Hanson factory, inaugurated in 1905, was built in the Italian style. It had three brick walls and a sheet metal rear wall to allow for future expansion. The room with the spinning, weaving and knitting machines, and the administrative offices occupied the interior. The factory included two other buildings: a sorting room and a boiler room. This was a steam boiler that ran the various machines as well as the mechanized tools. The sorting room, representing the first stage in the manufacturing process, was used for the preparation of the wool: shredding and sorting, and the removal of oil and foreign particles. The shredder of bundles of raw wool sometimes caused fires, which explains why the sorting room was built of brick and separated from the production area. Over the years, there were several expansions and modifications, and other production and storage rooms were added. Hanson's mechanical equipment was continually upgraded, and included the most up-to-date machinery.
On January 24, 1951, John David Hanson sold his share (a third) of the family business to his brother Stuart Evans Hanson who converted it into a limited company. On February 28 of the following year, Stuart and his brother Charles sold Hanson Hosiery to Robert Allan Kenny and James Henry Frederick Kenny, two brothers from Buckingham who were related to the MacLarens. Stuart stayed on as a member of the board.
On August 27, 1973, Hanson Mills Ltd. sold all those of its properties incorporated in Ontario to Mohawk Mills Ltd. of Hamilton, represented by James Kenny. The company became Hanson-Mohawk Ltd., with its head office in Hamilton. On April 9, 1974, the company decided to move the carding and spinning machines to its factory in Renfrew, Ontario, keeping only the knitting machines at the Front Street facility. These machines were moved to premises on Fournier Boulevard when the Front Street building was sold to the Société d'aménagement de l'Outaouais on June 23, 1980.
Most of the mill workers were women. In 1908, the factory employed "60 hands, mainly girls". In 1953, there were 15 men and 55 women working at Hanson. In terms of the number of employees, Hanson then ranked fourth among the textile companies in Hull. In 1978, it employed 150 workers.
The raw wool came from Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The Canada Packers slaughterhouse in Hull supplied wool suitable for work socks. After 1952, synthetic fibres were used. Since its inception, Hanson also made flannel, blankets, felt, thread, hats, gloves and mittens. For several years they supplied paper manufacturers like E. B. Eddy with pulp filters, large pieces of felt for draining the pulp used in the manufacture of paper. Hanson stopped making this product when it became a speciality of the Ayers mill in Lachute. However, Hanson continued to produce wool blankets and socks for E. B. Eddy's logging camps until 1960. During its last 40 years, the company's production expanded from 8 to 40 different styles of socks.
Hanson's many customers included Eddy and other forestry companies, large and small retailers such as Simpson's, Eaton's and local haberdashers, and the Department of National Defence during the Korean War. During the 1950s, the company's main clients were in the United States. With the reorganization of department stores in 1989, the rise of chain stores selling Asian merchandise, and free trade, the factory was no longer competitive. In 1993, the Hanson-Mohawk mill closed after 115 years in business. It was the oldest functioning textile mill in North America.
Today, La Filature (the Textile Mill), with its artists' studios, is a crucible of creativity and exhibitions.