The Derelict Silo No.5 in Montreal

Silo No.5 as viewed from the nearby rail-tracks

photography by: Omri Westmark

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During the better part of the 20th century, Montreal played a major role in the global grain trade, serving as a gateway between the ample farmlands of the country’s western provinces and Europe. While nowadays, Montreal’s days as the epicenter of Canada’s cereal industry are long gone, one can still find a couple of rusting remnants of that era throughout the city. Perhaps the most notable of which is Silo No.5, a massive, abandoned complex that runs along the St. Lawrance River, deemed by many as the holy grail of urban exploration across the Paris of North America.

With more than 30 million tons of wheat annually produced within its borders, Canada is among the world’s five largest grain exporters. The country’s role as a global breadbasket dates all the way back to the early 20th century. It was during this time that a series of storage facilities were erected along Montreal’s waterfront, providing a link between the Great Lakes and the St. Lawerence River to the Atlantic Ocean through the Lachine Canal.


Following the opening of St. Lawrence Seaway and the subsequent shutdown of Lachine Canal in 1970, the multiple granaries were rendered obsolete. In the years that followed, most of these structures were abandoned and demolished, albeit with a sole exception that still dominates the cityscape to date – Silo No. 5.


Comprised of three inter-connected buildings across the Pointe-du-Moulin jetty in Montreal’s old port, the ginormous facility is almost half a kilometer long and crisscrossed by several railroads. The first segment of the cluster (Elevator B) was inaugurated in 1906, with further expansions completed in 1913, 1924 and 1958. In its heyday, grain-carrying lakers from Western Canada offloaded their precious cargo directly to the site’s floating elevators on the shores of St. Lawarence River, while to the east, ships heading to Europe were loaded with seeds before sailing via the Lachine Canal which bypassed the unnavigable rapids.


Given their different years of completion, the three buildings vary in style, size and materials. Elevator B, the oldest among them, is a 73.5-meter-long grain warehouse made entirely of non-combustible elements to mitigate the risk of explosion or fire by flour dust. The building is easily recognizable by its corrugated metal-covered façade and corroding exterior.


Linked to Elevator B by a number of aerial galleries are its two younger counterparts, Annex to Elevator B (constructed in 1913 and expanded in 1924) and B-1 Elevator (constructed in 1958) – both of which were built using reinforced concrete. While the former is a group of 60 silos closely-packed together, the latter features a more than 185-meter-long undulating clump of silos, topped by a 66-meter-tall tower, making it a prominent landmark within the area’s post-industrial skyline.


Ever since its abandonment in 1994, the buildings have fallen victim to the elements and vandalism alike. For urban explorers who manage to infiltrate into the fenced complex, however, the place boasts a Disneyland of decrepitude to marvel at. There are plans to renovate this industrial monument and put it to various uses, including a market, a vertical farm, studios, loft apartments and even a hotel. It remains to be seen if this ambitious project comes into fruition, but regardless of its prospects, Silo No.5 will always be the last vestige of its kind throughout Canada’s second largest city.