The Château Ramezay was built in 1705 as the family residence for Claude de Ramezay, governor of Montreal. Built of fieldstone, with three floors including a vaulted cellar and an attic it is one of the few from the French regime that remain in the city. After Governor Ramezay’s death in 1724, his widow rented the house to the government, which used it as temporary residence for the colony’s representatives when they were in Montreal. In 1745 the heirs sold the residence to the French West India Company, which was responsible for all colonial commerce of the French empire. The Company remodelled and enlarged the building in 1756, partly on its original foundations. Other changes were made later, including the change from a higher, steeper roof to the present one. A turret, in the “chateau” style fashionable at the time, was added in 1903.
The building served as a Governor’s residence again in 1764 and later in 1775 became the US headquarters during the American Revolution when Montreal was temporarily in the hands of the Americans. It was here in 1776 that Brigadier General Benedict Arnold welcomed Benjamin Franklin, who called together some French-Canadian representatives to try to raise troops to fight for the Americans in the American Revolutionary War. The Château Ramezay also housed the Montreal Court House, the Magistrate’s Court, the Ministry of Public Instruction, and in 1878 the faculties of medicine and law of the Université de Laval à Montréal.
In 1894, the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Montreal proposed a plan that would showcase this unique building by converting it into a historical museum and portrait gallery. The city of Montreal agreed to support the project, and acquired the building from the government of Quebec and rented it to the Society for one dollar. After renovations and alterations designed by British architect Sir Andrew Taylor, the first museum devoted specifically to the history of Canada opened its doors in 1895. In 1929 it was the first building in Quebec to be classified a historic monument by Victor Morin, then-president of the Society.
In 1972, restorations of the building were done to a style inspired by New France. The residence of governor Ramezay was reconstituted as faithfully as possible, with only two rooms kept from the time of the English governors. Authentic wood paneling from the French West India Company in Nantes, France was installed in another section of the museum. The Château Ramezay Museum became primarily a museum, where the public could see how the inhabitants of New France and the native people lived in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. From 1997 to 2002, the Château Ramezay underwent indoor and outdoor restorations, including the creation of the Governor’s Garden, inaugurated in 2000. Today, the museum’s collection is composed mainly of gifts from private Montrealers and is estimated at 30,000 objects, including manuscripts, printed works, numismatic items, ethnological items, works of art, paintings, prints and furniture.
Château Ramezay is located at 280, rue Notre-Dame East
by: Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca
Source: Ville de Montréal / Encyclopedia of French Cultural Heritage in North America /