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It sits at the base of Montreal’s skyline and as the evening draws in, the lights burn bright on the Farine Five Roses sign . A bilingual message for the river, the city, and the weary traveler.
For more than half a century this sign has greeted Montrealers driving over the Champlain Bridge, walking through the Old Port or Little Burgundy, or descending from Mount Royal. The neon Five Roses Flour sign is a Montreal landmark. Erected in 1948 atop the Ogilvie flour mill in the Old Port, the original sign read “Farine Ogilvie Flour”, named after the Scottish family that owned the mill. The sign was changed in 1954 in favor of advertising the Five Roses brand of flour rather than the Ogilvie family business.
The sign then read “Farine Five Roses Flour” for over 20 years, until the Bill 101 language law forced the removal of the English word “flour” in 1977. (Ironically, the English words “Five Roses” are acceptable to the French-only law because they’re a brand name. This type of linguistic duality is totally representative of Montreal…) The sign’s final transformation in 1977 is what we still see today: “Farine Five Roses”.
In 1993, the Ogilvie Flour business was sold to U.S. multinational Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), who sold it to the J.M. Smucker co. in 2006. ADM still owns the building atop which the sign is perched, and, naturally, doesn’t want to continue promoting a brand it no longer owns. The sign was then switched off, with plans of dismantling it. However, public outcry from Montreal citizens and heritage activists lead to the sign being switched back on, temporarily, until it’s owners make a final decision regarding it’s future. The city of Montreal refuses to get involved because the sign is private property. It is also in a state of disrepair, and would require major investing for it’s restoration. If only the future looked as bright as those letters.
Re-designed: Todd Stewart 2012 www.breeree.com
Original design: Todd Stewart 2005 www.breeree.com