Tucked away under the Bonaventure is a heritage building where Mathieu Colette, a blacksmith, is trying to keep the iron age alive.
The building houses Les Forges de Montreal, a non-profit group of blacksmiths teaching the trade.
“We call that the lady ’cause humanity is coming from that,” Colette said, pointing to the fire.
But a red hot dispute with the City of Montreal is coming between Colette and his dream to preserve his craft.
He’s been leasing the building from the city for about 15 years on one condition: that he invest about $400,000 into the building.
“You could see the sun through the roof, it was dirt floor, there was no electricity, there was no water,” Colette said.
The blacksmith said he thought he had a deal for five more years, but instead he told Global News he received an eviction notice for failing to invest another $600,000 in the shop.
He had several reasons for not doing more upgrades, including the slumping economy and uncertainty over the Bonaventure construction.
Colette said the city gave him the ultimatum this past February.
“You spend six years of your life, you spend close to $500,000, you believe in your project, so what do you do?” Colette wondered.
Marie-Paule Grimaldi, an artist, has started a petition to convince the city it’s in the wrong.
“It’s a treasure for Montreal,” said.
“It’s very sad that the city doesn’t recognize the work and effort of an independent organism like the Forges.”
A spokesperson for the City of Montreal denied Global News’ request for an interview, but said in a statement that the Forges are not fulfilling a clause in the lease and the file is following its course.
“It’s been 18 months of darkness with no explanation, no clarity of nothing,” Colette reacted.
“We don’t know what’s going on.”
Colette said he doesn’t know how long he’ll be able to keep plying a trade that’s been a family tradition since the 14th century.
He runs a side business to pay for the shop.
“I feel like home, it’s my place. I’m taking care. I love it,” Colette argued.
He said all he wants is to forge a deal and go back to what matters most: re-igniting interest in his ancient craft.