You may have noticed her in passing. She seems a bit lonely and abandoned, right next to the bike path on the Lachine Canal, it’s located between Peel basin and Smith street. The Wellington Tower is undoubtedly part of the industrial landscape and heritage of Griffintown, but does anyone know where it came from?
Wellington Tower was built back in 1943, right in the thick of the Second World War. Its purpose was to ensure the efficient movement of goods from the factories to the network of roads, railways and waterways connecting Montréal. It was here that the roads and rails of the Lachine Canal crossed paths, from the city to the Port of Montréal.
Last year, a study by the heritage division of the City of Montréal identified the tower as an exceptional heritage site. The study recognized the tower as a central element of this rich and complex site, where you’ll find the remains of an old drawbridge built in 1912 by the Grand Trunk rail company, the two abandoned Wellington tunnels and another bridge that’s still in use today (it was a drawbridge until 1966). The study also recognized the architectural significance of the building, which has a bunker style, something that’s pretty rare. It was the only direction tower used to control both a bridge and railway routes still standing in all of North America.
The tower was abandoned indefinitely in 2000 and the equipment was subsequently moved to the Canadian Railway Museum. These items included the switching console, the most technologically advanced one of its time. It was operated for 57 years by switchmen, signalmen and bridgemen, trades that today have all but disappeared.
Following the official recognition of the site’s heritage value, the City of Montréal has asked for propositions on how to turn it into a cultural landmark. This project fits perfectly into the current revitalisation of Griffintown. It is set to be completed in 2017, just in time for the citie’s 375th anniversary, and will be accompanied by a public park complete with artwork and a fountain.
On the 23rd of October last year, the city held an interactive information session to inform citizens of the request for propositions for the future of the Wellington Tower. Citizens and community groups had until December to submit a worthy plan for transforming this space situated in an ideal place, where past eras meet the cities transport routes.
See you soon