Le Ber-Le Moyne House (French: Maison Le Ber-Le Moyne) is the oldest complete building in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It is located in the borough of Lachine, bordering the Saint Lawrence River, between the Lachine Rapids and Lake Saint-Louis. It is a recognized National Historic Site of Canada since June 19, 2002. The Le Ber-Le Moyne site and its archaeological collection have also been classified as heritage assets by the ministère de la Culture et des communications du Québec since 2001.
The Fur Trading Post (1669-1687)
The Le Ber-Le Moyne House was constructed on land which once belonged to the French explorer René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle. In 1667 Ville Marie's richest merchants, Jacques Le Ber and Charles Le Moyne will buy the land from Cavelier de La Salle to construct Lachine's first fur trading post. Constructed between 1669 and 1671, the fur trading post enables the two brothers-in-law to control the main access routes of the Lake Saint-Louis and consequently the fur trade. Archival records indicate the merchants ceased to use the building sometime between 1680 and 1685. Today the Le Ber-Le Moyne House is the last remaining structure that can be associated to Charles Le Moyne’s career.
From Trading Post to Farm House (1687-1844)
Following Le Moyne's death in 1685 his widow, Catherine Primot, sells the former fur trading post to Guillemot dit Lalande in 1687. The dit Lalande family will not remain in Lachine for very long. In 1689 the family abandons their home following the Massacre of Lachine.
In 1695 Marguerite Chorel, the wife of Guillaume de Lorimier, will acquire the house and the surrounding land. The couple will move into their new home in 1698. Widowed in 1709, Chorel will live off the land with her children and will continue to reside in the Le Ber-Le Moyne House until her death in 1736. Her daughter and son will inherit the house and its surrounding farm land.
Hugh Heney, an Irish inn owner, will acquire the farm in 1765. Three years later, Heney will hire Jean-Baptiste Crête to modernize the home. Heney will never move into the house himself but rather will lease it and have his tenants cultivate the farmland.
From Farm House to Manor (1844-1946)
With the widening of the Lachine Canal in the 1840s, the site's agricultural land is greatly diminished. The retired colonel Edward P. Wilgress will acquire the property in 1844. Certain artworks, including Frances A. Hopkin’s “Wilgress House and Garden, Lachine” (1858-1860) and J.E. Taylor’s “The Cottage. Lachine” (1869) allow us to witness the house’s numerous transformations over the course of the century.
Sold in 1901 to the merchant William Curie, the Le Ber-Le Moyne House will become the Curie family's summer residence.
From Manor to Museum (1946-present)
In the 1940s the mayor of Lachine, Anatole Carignan, recognizes the Le Ber-Le Moyne House's historical value and believes the municipality should acquire it for the benefit of the community. When the house goes up for sale in 1946, the City of Lachine purchases it for $25,000. Carignan decides to turn the old house into a history museum. The Manoir Lachine officially opens its doors to the public on June 24, 1948.
In the early fifties a fish hatchery with rearing ponds and aquariums was installed on the site of the museum. The hatchery was established by Quebec's ministère de la Chasse et de la pêche and the Office de biologie. Although the fish hatchery brought the museum widespread public attention, it closed in 1962.
The museum underwent significant changes in the early eighties. Most importantly, the Le Ber-Le Moyne House and its Dependency were stripped of the massive architectural additions from the fifties and of earlier elements such as the porch and the dormers. The building was stripped of these and its many other additions to reveal the original stone walls and beams. The goal of this massive restoration project was to salvage the original architecture and restore its 17th century appearance.
Between 1998-2000 and 2009-2010, the firm Archéotec conducted archaeological digs in and around the Le Ber-Le Moyne House. Roughly 32,000 fragments and objects were uncovered during these digs. The artefacts and ecofacts document the various phases of the site's occupation. For instance, pottery shards, beads and tools dating back between 2,000 and 2,500 years ago confirm the presence of Native Americans on the Le Ber-Le Moyne site. Furthermore, many suspected the trading post constructed by Le Ber and Le Moyne had been razed by fire during the Massacre in 1689 and reconstructed by Chorel and her husband between 1695 and 1698. The archaeological digs conducted by Archéotec have refuted this theory. Archaeologists have been unable to find traces of the supposed fire nor have they found anything that would indicate Chorel repaired or rebuilt the house. Archéotec suggests the large quantity of artefacts commonly used as trading goods during the French Regime confirm the house was in fact built by Le Moyne and Le Ber.
Today the Le Ber-Le Moyne House is part of the Musée de Lachine complex. The Musée de Lachine comprises the Le Ber-Le Moyne heritage site, a designated archaeological collection, historical buildings constructed in the 17th century, and a sculpture garden known as the Musée plein air de Lachine. The sculpture garden is one of the largest in Canada and includes works by numerous artists including Bill Vazan, Ulysse Comtois, Marcel Barbeau, Michel Goulet and Linda Covit. In addition to the historical and archaeological objects on display in its permanent exhibition, each year the Musée de Lachine presents a contemporary art exhibition developed around works from its collection.
- Rémillard, François; Merrett, Brian (2007). Montreal Architecture: A Guide to Styles and Buildings. Les Editions Café Crème. p. 22. ISBN 2-923644-01-8.
- Le Ber-Le Moyne House National Historic Site of Canada. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
- Ville de Montréal. "À propos du Musée - Historique", Musée de Lachine, Montréal, Retrieved on 31 July 2014.
- Ville de Montréal. "Maison Le Ber-Le Moyne", Grand répertoire du patrimoine bâti de Montréal, Montréal, 28 November 2013. Retrieved on 31 July 2014.
- Bouchard, Lydia 2008). Un Musée qui a du coffre!, p. 27. Musée de Lachine, Montreal. ISBN 978-2-9800947-8-1.
- Bouchard, Lydia 2008). Un Musée qui a du coffre!, p. 30. Musée de Lachine, Montreal. ISBN 978-2-9800947-8-1.
- Bouchard, Lydia 2008). Un Musée qui a du coffre!, p. 39. Musée de Lachine, Montreal. ISBN 978-2-9800947-8-1.
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