Griffintown: a Biography and a Walking Tour

The rejuvenation of close by Griffintown is a wonderful example of how a community can resurrect a neighbourhood through hard work, passion and dedication.

The biography of  Griffintown was launched recently in both book  and online self-guided tour appropriately at Hurley’s Irish Pub, Crescent Street.

Griffintown’s story is told in author Matthew Barlow’s book Griffintown: Identity and Memory in an Irish Diaspora Neighbourhood . Published by UBC Press and MacLeod9 Productions, the book, a vibrant biography of Griffintown, an inner-city Montreal neighbourhood, brings to life the history of Irish identity in the legendary enclave.

“As Irish immigration dwindled in the early twentieth century, Irish culture in the city became diasporic, reflecting an imagined homeland. Focusing on the power of memory to shape community, Matthew Barlow finds that, despite sociopolitical pressures and a declining population, the spirit of this ethnic quarter was nurtured by the men and women who grew up there. Today, as Griffintown attracts renewed interest from artists, scholars, and tourists, this textured analysis reveals how public memory defines our urban centres.”


Griffintown Tour – A Self-Guided Urban History Walk

At the same time, The Griffintown Tour & Guidebook, an online self-guided tour and guide of Montreal’s historic Griffintown neighbourhood by film director G.Scott MacLeod was launched in conjunction with Barlow’s book.   and ttp:// g-scott-macleod/griffintown-tour-a-self-guided-urban-history-walk/paperback/product-23059221.html

The tour and guide was conceived and created by acclaimed former Westmount resident visual artist, animator and filmmaker G. Scott MacLeod. The Griffintown Tour takes participants  on a walking tour of 21 of the most fascinating historic sites in Montreal’s iconic Griffintown neighbourhood, including, The New City Gas Company of Montreal,

The Darling Brothers Foundry LTD.

and the former Dow Brewery .

Working in collaboration with historian and author Matthew Barlow, MacLeod has blended archival photos with his own animations and Barlow’s storytelling to bring to vivid life the forgotten past of this working class industrial neighbourhood that was instrumental in the growth of Canada.

The Griffintown Tour features original music by noted Canadian singer-songwriter Rob Lutes.

About The Griffintown Tour & Guide

The 75  minute  online self-guided tour is presented in English and subtitled in French.This project documents 21 of the key residential and industrial buildings and historical sites remaining in Griffintown, a historic Montreal neighbourhood that birthed the Industrial Revolution in Canada and was once home to a large immigrant community. Photography, drawing and animation were used to create a visual record of these sites.

With only a handful of original civic, residential and industrial sites remaining, this once thriving community of predominantly working class Irish and French Canadians has all but disappeared. New construction and gentrification are well underway and have brought a condo boom. But this community endures in memory, via recent books, films, and community art projects and through Barlow’s stories. And now, through The Griffintown Tour & Guide. The online self-guided walking tour of Griffintown is available on all platforms. .MacLeod also offers guided group tours following the path of The Griffintown Tour & Guide. Visit

Sample group tours

Scott recently took the membership and guests of The Rotary Club of Westmount on a guided urban history walk of Griffintown. The virtual walk included 21 key residential and industrial buildings and historical sites remaining in Griffintown, an historic Montreal neighbourhood that birthed the Industrial Revolution in Canada and was once home to a large immigrant community. Using detailed research and archival and his own sketches and photographs and interviews with present and former residents, MacLeod has put together a visual presentation backed up by brief descriptions derived from published works on Griffintown and Point St. Charles.

Starting on Notre Dame West, MacLeod’s first site is the Rodier Building considered by some to be Montreal’s version of New York’s Flatiron.

Continuing on MacLeod explained the history of the Darling Brothers Foundry Ltd. that has recently been repurposed as an art gallery and restaurant.

The Montreal Light, Heat & Power built in the early 1900s was Canada’s first electrical substation and served a key function in Montreal’s electric grid. The New City Gas Company of Montreal was in direct competition with the Montreal Gas Light Company. It produced gas by burning coal, and went on to acquire the assets of the Montreal Gas Light Company in 1848.

A highlight of the presentation was the reference to the Five Roses Flour Refinery Though not the original, the illuminated sign on this building is a landmark well known to locals and visitors. Seen by travelers entering and leaving Montreal by train, boat and automobile, the 15 foot familiar red letters flash ‘Farine Five Roses’ in 22 second cycles. According to the Farine Five Roses Project, it was in 1946 that Ogilvie Flour Mills Co. Ltd. opened the New Royal Mill but their original sign, installed in 1948, flashed ‘Farine Ogilvie Flour’. In 1954, Ogilvie purchased Lake of the Wood Milling and changed the sign to read ‘Farine Five Roses Flour’. In response to the new signage laws in Quebec, in 1977 the word ‘flour’ was removed from the sign. The building was bought in 1994 by a company that sold the Farine Five Roses brand to Smuckers in 2006, Smuckers promptly shut off the sign but due to a public outcry against Smuckers for pulling the plug on this much-loved sight, the sign was later turned back on and still flashes today.

The Gault Brothers Company and The Crescent Manufacturing Company first used by the Gault Brothers Company was later occupied by a textile industry company that manufactured shirts and undergarments that became known as” The Cotton King of Canada”. Today the building has been converted into condominiums.

Similarly Walter M. Lowney Company of Canada building, a chocolate factory familiar for the bright Cherry Blossom logos on William Street, was built in 1905 and modified in 1950 then converted to condominiums in 2006.

The Dow Brewery consisted of many buildings used as a brewery and refrigerated warehouse. The building has an interesting heritage that can be read at

MacLeod included the crash site of the Liberator EW 148.On April, 25th, 1944, an RAF Liberator bomber crashed into six tenement houses on the block bordered by Ottawa, Shannon, Smith (now Wellington) and Colborne (now Peel) Streets after leaving the Dorval supply base. All members of the crew and ten residents were killed on impact.

About MacLeod 9 Productions

Based in Montreal, MacLeod 9 Productions is an independent film studio with a focus on telling stories of identity, history and individual lives. It recently completed The Water of Life (, a feature-length animated series on the untold histories of Quebec and Canada in collaboration with internationally acclaimed oral storyteller Mike Burns.


About G. Scott MacLeod

Scott MacLeod is a multimedia artist in the truest sense of the term. A critically acclaimed painter and photographer whose work has been exhibited around the world, he is also a performing songwriter and recording artist.

Born in Red Deer, Alberta, Scott’s family spent time in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia before relocating to Montreal, where he was educated in both English and French.

His many-faceted career in the arts, along with his lifelong love of history and storytelling spurred an interest in documentary filmmaking and animation. His work has reflected social, political and historical themes with an aim to promote education and accessibility to art and culture.

Scotts holds a BFA and a Master’s in Art Education from Concordia University. His artwork is in many permanent collections, including the National Gallery of Canada. He lives in Montreal. His work can be seen at  514. 487. 8766

About Dr. Matthew Barlow

Writer, narrator Matthew Barlow is a Montreal native, and descendant of Griffintowners.  Matthew holds a PhD in Public and Irish History from Concordia University. He has appeared in a number of documentaries relating to the history and memory of Montreal. He is a former member of the Board of the Griffintown Horse Palace Foundation and has been involved in a number of initiatives drawing attention to the history and culture of Griffintown and Pointe-Saint-Charles.

Griffintown: Identity & Memory in an Irish Diaspora Neighbourhood is his first book. He currently teaches at the University of Massachusetts — Amhers.

About Rob Lutes

Since the release of his first album Gravity in 2000, Rob Lutes has steadily built a collection of exquisite songs that inhabit the intersection of blues, folk, Americana, and the contemporary singer-songwriter genre. Rober is a former Kerrville New Folk and ISC award winner, and a Maple Blues, Canadian Folk Music Awards and Lys Blues nominee. In 2015, he was runner-up in the Toronto Blues Society’s Cobalt Prize, a national award for Contemporary Blues Composition.

Robert’s seventh album, Walk in the Dark, released earlier this month, is a collection of songs that highlight Lutes’ unmistakable voice and literary writing style. Co-produced by Rob Heaney it features a group of Montreal’s finest musicians who include  longtime collaborator, guitarist Rob MacDonald, Bob Stagg, Mark Nelson, Andrew Horton, Josephine Von Soukonnov, Rob Fahie and Josh Zubot and some special guests, the noted artists Guy Belanger, Joe Grass and Ian Kelly.


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