By Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca
During the 19th century, spring floods due to melting ice jams were a common occurrence in the lower city. In order to remedy the situation, De la Commune Street is elevated and in 1887 two pump stations are erected – Craig Station, at the foot of present-day Jacques-Cartier Bridge, and Riverside Station, near Mill Street
Both were built by architects Perrault and Mesnard according to plans of Percival W. St. George, inspector of the City. The pumps functioned for the first time during the winter 1888-1889, and almost every year there-after when the waters of the St. Lawrence reached critical heights.
The station operated with centrifugal pumps and steam engines coupled in pairs. The kettles which produced steam were originally heated with coal, but purchase and storage of coal were a constant concern. In 1960 Riverside station was converted to oil and we can assume that the same transformation has been made to the Craig station simultaneously. An internal memo from the Superintendent of the Water Division dated 21 August 1974 indicates the presence of two underground oil tanks with a capacity of 6 000 gallons each on leased land adjacent to the National Ports pumping station lands. An equipment inventory list dated June 9, 1976 states that Scotch boilers (not the original Dominion Bridge boilers) were oil-fired and were provided with feed pumps, fans and burners.
After the St. Lawrence River was canalized in the 1950s, the water level stabilized and ice-breakers were used to keep it navigable year-round. Amemo from the Engineering Superintendent to the Director of Public Works of the City, dated September 7, 1979 states that “over the last twenty years or since the canalization of the St. Lawrence and regular passage of ice-breakers in winter in the river, the flood of the latter is much lower than before, so since that time we did not have to use steam pumps of the two (Riverside and Craig) stations”. In the early 1990s, the City decommissioned both pumping stations. The equipment from Riverside station is long gone and the building is now home to Les Forges de Montréal, an organization who’s mission it is to preserve the cultural heritage of blacksmiths: their knowledge, skills and values.
The former Riverside Pumping Station is located at 227 Riverside, just east of the Bonaventure autoroute.