La Fabrique National Historic Site of Canada
© Parks Canada / Parcs Canada, 2009 (Judith Dufresne)
255-295, boulevard Charest Est, Saint-Roch, Québec, Quebec
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1871 to 1871
1897 to 1988
1911 to 1911
1916 to 1916
1992 to 1993
1888 to 1888
1909 to 1909
Event, Person, Organization:
Former Dominion Corset Manufacturing Building
Research Report Number:
Built in 1871 and rebuilt in 1911, this building is a rare example of industrial architecture at the turn of the 20th century in Canada. Its medieval-style towers and rich Victorian architectural details contribute to its distinctive character. Between 1897 and 1988, it housed Dominion Corset, one of the largest manufacturers of women’s undergarments in the country. Thousands of women worked here, testifying to the essential contribution of this labour force to the Canadian clothing manufacturing industry. The building’s renovation in 1992–1993 illustrates the capacity of industrial buildings to be adapted for new uses.
Description of Historic Place
La Fabrique National Historic Site of Canada is located in the Saint-Roch district in Québec. Formerly an industrial building it now houses the offices of Québec’s land-use planning and economic development services and the Université of Laval School. This striking building fronts on Charest Boulevard East and is constructed of red brick. It features ornamental white brick trim, medieval-inspired square towers, and rich ornamentation. Official recognition refers to the footprint of the building.
La Fabrique was designated a national historic site in 2011 for the following reasons:
between 1897 and 1988 it housed Dominion Corset, a company that played a significant role in the clothing industry in the 20th century in Canada as one of the largest corset and undergarment manufacturers in the country; it represents an important period in the history of women and labour, recalling the contribution of the thousands of women who worked here and, by extension, of all the women who formed the core of the Canadian clothing industry's labour force; and, it is representative of the resilience and flexibility of Victorian and early 20th century industrial buildings, many of which evolved over time to changing requirements and were adapted in the late 20th century to new, non-industrial uses.
La Fabrique is valued for its significant role in Canada’s clothing industry. It began as the Argenteuil Paper Manufactory, built in 1804 by two American paper makers, Walter Ware and Benjamin Wales. By making paper from cloth rags, the mill supplied wrapping paper and newsprint largely to the Montréal market from 1805 to 1834. For much of this time it was under the control of James Brown, Montreal stationer and founder of the present “Montréal Gazette”. The mill, in the municipality of Saint-André-Est (now Saint-André-d’Argenteuil), Québec, was the first and for many years the only paper mill in what is now Canada. The origins of Canada's pulp and paper industry may be traced to its establishment. Its time as the Dominion Corset has further cemented its place in Canadian industrial history. In 1964, a modern addition was constructed in the International style. Rehabilitated and partly reconstructed in 1992-93, the building now includes an atrium and a renovated and subdivided interior.
Key features that contribute to the heritage value of this site include: - its location in the district of Saint-Roch, in the city of Québec; - the varied four and five-storey massing, inner courtyard, and trapezoidal-shaped footprint; - its Second-Empire influenced elements including the north-facing entrance with water tower, corner tower with clock, medieval-inspired square end towers, white voussoirs with keystones, and segmental and semi-circular arched windows; - construction materials including the red brick and, white fire-bricks; - workmanship and decorative program, notably the brick detailing, crenellated parapets, pilasters with fleur-de-lys, cornice with frieze, false machicolations in white brick, and doors and windows framed with white firebrick; - the 19th century industrial character of the evenly spaced fenestration pattern and functional, flexible interior spaces; - the International style influenced addition, a five-storey rectangular section faced in beige-coloured stucco, with bands of windows in green steel frames; - the composition of the entrance area, with stone shingles above the ground floor, keystones and various openings that indicate its administrative function; - remaining interior features including hardwood floor sections, a wooden staircase, and brick walls.