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Block Magazine

Creativity has its place
Fall/Winter 2020
Issue 21

In Record Time

How the RCA Building brought the sound of music to living rooms around the world.

BY: Sydney Loney

 

Historical shot of the RCA building in 1924 vs. a recent 2019 image.
Top: Image courtesy of: Allied REIT; Bottom: Image courtesy of Montreal Archives

You can still sometimes catch the lively, slightly scratchy strains of a foxtrot being played on an antique gramophone within the brick walls of the RCA Building at 1001 Rue Lenoir in Montreal. Now home to the Emile Berliner Musée des Ondes (and its sizeable collection of gramophones, records and radios), back in the 1920s, it was the site of the famous inventor’s gramophone and record manufacturing plant, one of the most modern factories in the city. Berliner invented the gramophone in the late 1800s in Washington, D.C., and in 1900 moved his operations to Montreal, where he sold more than two million records the following year.

In 1924, the Victor Talking Machine Company (later RCA Victor) bought Berliner Gramophone. The company expanded the plant in 1943, adding a state-of-the-art wood-panelled recording studio that was famous for its acoustics, attracting stars like the Beatles producer George Martin, Sinéad O’Connor and Oscar Peterson. The factory manufactured radios and televisions, and in the 1960s, it produced Canada’s first satellite, the Alouette 1. In 2019, Allied acquired the property, which continues to celebrate and commemorate innovation and the arts, with tenants that include art restorers, the annual SOUK design event and the Montreal Bach Festival—plus the museum that honours the man behind recorded music, Emile Berliner.

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