Montreal blacksmiths fight to keep open 130-year-old stone building
Published Monday, September 5, 2016 5:36PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 12, 2016 7:15AM EDT
Deep in the heart of Montreal's industrial past and present lies a 130-year-old stone building where blacksmithing is still taught.
One of the few places in North America were the ancient art is taught, non-profit group Les Forges de Montreal is now facing eviction.
The group is turning to the public to help keep the doors open to the building at 227 Riverside St. near the Victoria Bridge.
“It's important to protect the trade that made the world as it is,” said master blacksmith Mathieu Colette, who hammers and shapes hard metal in a 1600-degree-Celsius fire.
Blacksmiths, including Colette who teaches the trade, are now facing eviction from the city over a lease dispute.
“And what the Service des immeubles, what they say, is you're not respecting your lease because you didn't invest a certain amount of money in a certain amount of time,” he said.
Their original agreement was for the group to invest $1 million into the building by 2008.
Colette says they didn't spend that money because the neighbouring Bonaventure Expressway was about to undergo major changes. He said it was unclear until 2013 what the city’s plans were.
While Colette says he can raise the money, he now needs the public's help to get the city to change its mind.
“Public opinion is really important, because the public and citizens can say what is patrimonial. It's not up to mayors to say this is patrimonial or not. Citizens are on our side Canada-wide,” he said.
A petition to save les Forges de Montreal has already garnered over 5000 signatures.
Heritage Montreal has also taken on the cause.
“To put above all this administrative and bureaucratic consideration is not the right order of things. If there is something to be resolved at the administrative level, then let’s work on this,” said Heritage Montreal spokesperson Dinu Bumbaru, who calls les forges a cultural project the city should protect.
“What's going to happen to that building? It's going to be vacant in that place and it's an open target for the wrong thing to happen.”
The city wasn’t available to comment on the matter.