The Foundry at St Marys Paper (PHOTOS)Sunday, March 03, 2013 by: Riversedge
Special to SooToday.com by: Rick Vosper
As the newer buildings on the former St. Marys site are dismantled and recycled, and the equipment is shipped to distant mills, more ancient treasures are revealed.
Nestled in behind the Pulp Tower is a two story sandstone building with large, arched windows and doorways on the lower level and multiple banks of rectangular windows on the upper level.
The architectural details and the red sandstone reveal it as part of the original complex built by Francis Hector Clergue between 1894 and 1901.
This was The Foundry where employees of The Sault Ste. Marie Pulp and Paper Company cast metal components for the equipment in Clergue’s many industries.
The Foundry is a large building, 197 feet long by 69 feet, with tall ceilings and exposed stone throughout.
The paper industry is constantly changing and responding to the demands of the market and the light-speed advances in technology.
Over the last century, the foundry has been repurposed a dozen times – most recently it was the Board Mill.
Your father probably had a different name for it than his father.
The Pulp mill has had its share of names as well:
1895 The Sault Ste. Marie Pulp and Paper Company
1911 Lake Superior Pulp and Paper Company
1911 Lake Superior Paper Company
1913 Spanish River Pulp and Paper Company
1928 Abitibi Power and Paper Company Limited and then
1984 St. Marys Paper Limited
In the hectic years of Clergue’s manic industrial expansion, Sault Ste. Marie was known globally and reporters filed stories for major publications regaling readers with the wonders of the north and the exploits of the “Cecil Rhodes of Canada”. Cecil Rhodes was the founder of De Beers, so that’s pretty high praise.
The New York Times devoted a full page to the economic potential of Sault Ste. Marie, but only refers to the buildings as “handsome but plain manufacturing buildings.”
In the May-October 1900 issue of the Canadian Magazine, Principal Grant (really - that was his name) celebrated the genius of Clergue in an article entitled “The Jason of Algoma”.
He’s referring to Jason and the Argonauts, that icon of tenacity and courage in Greek mythology.
Listen to this:
“...he designed new machinery to economically convert moist into dry product, spending a hundred and twenty- five thousand dollars establishing a foundry and machine shop for the purpose, how foreman after foreman despaired till six months passed after the machine was in place before success crowned his effort, how he advanced from the manufacture of mechanical to that of the much more valuable chemical pulp...”
Clergue built the foundry because he needed equipment that hadn’t been invented yet and he needed to cast the components.
This was ground breaking work.
The foundry workers were backed by a team of chemists and metallurgists labouring in the new sandstone laboratory close by.
So, if your grandfather worked in the foundry or the lab way back then, he had a hand in revolutionizing the pulp industry.
Principal Grant (were his siblings named Land and Federal?) really liked the new buildings:
“Now, near at hand one foundry and blacksmith's shop, an admirably furnished machine shop in process of enlargement, the stately sulphite mill, smelting and reduction works, offices, all built of the same kind of stone, a native sandstone streaked in irregular bands with a warm red colouring which is very effective. Every building is planned to be capable of enlargement, and the group harmonizes in a way that shows artistic taste as well as business capacity presided over the design. In procuring the stone, the economic adjustment of means to ends has been considered. The maximum of advantage is gained at the minimum of cost. A new 40,000 horse-power canal is being excavated, parallel to the first one, and from it as a quarry all needed building stone is obtained. Thus, the excavation of the great canal may be said to cost nothing, for the stone is needed for the new buildings going up and still to be erected.”
Prince (what else would you shorten it to?) really liked Clergue too.
He filled ten pages with his purple prose:
“It was in 1894 that this modern Colchis was discovered by the process of elimination; but, just as in the olden time, dragons of horrid shape guarded the Golden Fleece; and no Medea, not even a Pocahontas, appeared to help the Argonauts. Their leader had to fight unaided by spells, save those which down-east brains and modern science supply; and in the fight which has now been continued for six years, defeat stared him in the face again and again, so irretrievably, that, had it not been for a very rare quality of brains, the millions of money invested in his enterprise would have been lost...”
Sorry. I got carried away there.
But I just love this guy.
That turn-of-the-century writing style, his enthusiasm, the deification of FHC (Grant calls him Faith, Hope and Charity at one point).
The sun broke through as we approached The Foundry.
She’s had a few rough years, but the good bones of the old building still show and she’s an aging beauty.
Some decorative motifs have succumbed to weather and the roof is not the original.
The solid arched windows attest to the craftsmanship of the masons who brought their trade and their families to Sault Ste. Marie over one hundred years ago.
Once again the landlords surprised us with mounted posters of colourful fruits, vegetables, a baguette and other baked goods.
I can see and hear the scurry and hurry of a Saturday morning Farmers’ Market.
The great-grandchildren of masons and chemists browsing through a new northern harvest, under the cover of a structure they can trust.
That would be repurposing at its best.
Look for The Foundry in the videos at huronstproperties on YouTube.
Photos courtesy of SSM Museum
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