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DELORME, CHARLES-SIMON, joiner, carpenter, building contractor, and landowner; b. 14 June 1769 in Montreal, son of Charles-Simon Delorme and Catherine Roy; m. there 22 Nov. 1802 Marie-Marguerite Dufresne, daughter of François Dufresne, a joiner; d. there 9 June 1837.

Charles-Simon Delorme studied at the Collège Saint-Raphaël in Montreal from 1783 to 1784. Then he probably apprenticed with a master craftsman, as was the practice at the time, particularly in the building trades. In 1794 he owned a small workshop in the faubourg Saint-Laurent where he himself made doors and windows, supplying the handful of building contractors in Montreal. He abandoned this line of work, which was not very profitable, to devote himself after 1800 primarily to building

Taking advantage of the surge in population that Montreal was experiencing in the early 19th century, Delorme put up more than 96 houses and 30 other buildings during his career as a contractor, which lasted from 1800 to 1830. At the beginning he was involved in most stages of the work, employing small numbers of workmen when necessary in order to meet the delivery dates demanded by his clients. As a result of the rapid growth of his enterprise he was able to concentrate on organizing the process of production on the sites, gradually giving up manual tasks except those connected with putting up the joists to support the structure of the buildings. Consequently, in the course of time his main concerns became to hire workmen, supply materials, and conduct day-to-day business. In general, the sites required a mason, three to five pit-sawyers, and half a dozen carters. In this business as in others wages became the essential link between employer and employees, and the basis on which capital was accumulated. Moreover, the pit-sawyers hired by Delorme in some respects foreshadow the modern proletariat: by then they worked in teams under a foreman, were paid on a piece rate, and no longer owned their tools.

Delorme’s fees ranged from £60 to £1,000. In most contracts he required a 10 per cent advance on the total price in order to raise the capital for beginning construction. From 1819, as a result of bad workmanship by subcontractors whom he engaged, Delorme went into partnership with mason Joseph Fournier. Their firm was also the product of intense activity in 1816–17, a period in which Delorme had undertaken to build 21 houses with the aid of 23 workmen. It had thus become urgent to find a partner in order to avoid postponing completion dates and paying the consequent penalties.

In addition to building luxurious residences on Rue Saint-Paul and Place d’Armes, Delorme was involved in erecting civil and religious buildings. As it became increasingly obvious in the early years of the century that Montreal was destined to become an import and export centre, Delorme built numerous warehouses and sheds for various merchants. In 1809 Louis Charland*, surveyor of highways, streets, and lanes for the town of Montreal, had him build a covered market with 14 stalls and a “weigh-house” on the Place du Vieux-Marché (Place Royale). The following year Delorme was one of the six contractors engaged to put up the church for Saint-Antoine parish at Longueuil; this was a profitable contract by which he had a share in £4,020. Probably because Delorme’s work was of high quality, other fabriques turned to him, including Saint-Constant in 1811, and Notre-Dame in Montreal for the building of a chapel in 1816. Delorme was also one of the contractors responsible for constructing sections of Notre-Dame Church in Montreal in the period 1824–29 [see James O’Donnell*]. It was in civil architecture, however, that he made his greatest contribution, with the building of the Hôtel-Dieu and the adjoining nuns’ residence, which he had undertaken with his partner in 1826 and 1827.

Delorme also profited from the spin-offs of urban development in Montreal during the period 1800–30. In 1805, for example, the commissioners for inland navigation chose him to remove the debris blocking the Sault-Saint-Louis (Kahnawake) channel and to build a 300-foot wharf there. Delorme seems to have had trouble carrying out this contract, since the following year the House of Assembly granted him some funds “for the extraordinary difficulties and losses in the course of his work during the summer.” In the years 1807–10 he did various jobs for the commissioners in charge of removing the fortifications of Montreal. In 1818, through Jacques Viger*, surveyor of highways, streets, lanes, and bridges for the town and parish, he received the contract for building wooden sidewalks, stairs, and sewers.

Delorme had so enlarged his holdings in landed property that when he died he owned in Montreal 13 building lots, 9 houses, 12 sheds, 8 stables, a joiner’s shop, and a cooper’s shop. There is some evidence that he was also raising horses; in 1819 the district agricultural society had awarded him a prize of “30 piastres” for the best Canadian stallion shown at an exhibition. Delorme was not, however, free of financial worries. On 20 April 1820 a fire destroyed his property in the faubourg Des Récollets, along with five other houses. Three days later the newspapers reported that Delorme was responsible for the fire and that he had no insurance.

The surplus capital that Delorme accumulated was on the whole not put back into his enterprises; part went into short-term credit and other forms of investment, as is shown by the £4,754 owed to him when the inventory of his estate was drawn up after his death and by the £800 he had put in the Banque du Peuple as a subscriber and the £500 in the Quebec Fire Assurance Company. Delorme’s progress illustrates perfectly the way in which the group on the leading edge of the community of craftsmen was busy consolidating its financial bases and creating the dynamic elements of a middle bourgeoisie shortly before the rebellion of 1837–38. Members of this middle bourgeoisie, including Delorme, were involved in a scheme for a banking firm launched in 1833 by Louis-Michel Viger* and Jacob De Witt* in order to ensure that Canadians would have financial resources committed to stimulating and encouraging trade and industry in the province. This firm opened its doors two years later under the name of the Banque du Peuple with an initial capital of £75,000. Delorme was also concerned with the problem of land transportation in the colony and in 1831 he participated in founding the Company of Proprietors of the Champlain and St Lawrence Railroad [see John Molson*].

Even though Charles-Simon Delorme was not directly involved in politics, he never hid his sympathies for the Patriote party. In the early 1830s, citing the troubled circumstances in Lower Canada, he had refused a post as justice of the peace. He died on 9 June 1837 – after an illness of several months, according to his doctor, Wolfred Nelson*. At that time La Minerve paid him this tribute: “He was one of the sincere friends of his country’s institutions and liberties.”

Robert Tremblay

ANQ-M, CE1-51, 14 juin 1769, 27 nov. 1802; CN1-16, 21 nov. 1802; 25 juill. 1809; 10 févr. 1816; 21, 26 janv., 12 avril 1819; CN1-28, 12 mars, 22 mai 1818; 20 janv., 4 juin 1819; 5 juill. 1823; 7, 15 avril 1824; 5 juill. 1826; 5, 14 mai, 26 oct. 1827; 8 sept. 1837; CN1-68, 23, 30 mai 1809; 8 avril 1811; 28 avril 1813; 14 mai 1814; 3, 26 avril, 6 juin 1815; 23 janv. 1826; CN1-74, 2 août 1802, 1er mars, 20 août, 22 déc. 1803; 24 janv., 11, 15 mai 1804; 1er mars, 26 août, 21 déc. 1805; 23 juill. 1806; 2 juin 1807; 4 juill. 1809; 5 mai 1810; 20 juill. 1811; 7 sept. 1812; 13 févr. 1813; CN1-121, 13 juin 1794, 17 sept. 1803, 20 avril 1804; CN1-134, 27 sept. 1816; 1er, 5, 7, 12, 23 mai, 14 juill., 19, 23 août 1817; CN1-194, 18 juill. 1809; CN1-215, 6 mai 1815; CN1-295, 13 avril 1805, 23 déc. 1807; CN1-313, 19 juill. 1832. MAC-CD, Fonds Morisset, 2, dossier C.-S. Delorme. L.C., Statutes, 1832, c.58. La Minerve, 15 juin 1837. Quebec Gazette, 13 March 1806, 11 Oct. 1819, 5 Oct. 1820, 23 April 1821. André Giroux et al., Inventaire des marchés de construction des Archives nationales du Québec, à Montréal, 1800–1830 (2v., Ottawa, 1981). Maurault, Le collège de Montréal (Dansereau; 1967); La paroisse: hist. de Notre-Dame de Montréal (1957). Robert Tremblay, “La nature du procès de travail à Montréal entre 1790 et 1830” (thèse de ma, univ. de Montréal, 1979). Louis Richard, “Jacob DeWitt (1785–1859),” RHAF, 3 (1949–50): 537–55.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Robert Tremblay, “DELORME, CHARLES-SIMON,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 17, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/delorme_charles_simon_7E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/delorme_charles_simon_7E.html
Author of Article: Robert Tremblay
Title of Article: DELORME, CHARLES-SIMON
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1988
Year of revision: 1988
Access Date: September 17, 2014