Located in the village of Sault-au-Recollet, the Maison du Pressoir was constructed in 1806 as an agricultural building by Didier Joubert, a miller, on land granted by the Sulpicians, who were the appointed Lords and owners of the island of Montreal. It was a wooden building consisting of a residential section on the south-side of the building, and a room to the north that housed two presses, used to press apples picked in orchards around Montreal into cider. This process required a great deal of time, and took a full-time workforce to operate the two presses. Remains of the original stone foundation on which the presses were mounted still exist today.
Didier Joubert operated his cider business until his death in 1821. Shortly afterwards, his widow, Marie-Louise Juteau, remarried to François-Xavier Racicot, a law student who became the notary of Sault-au-Recollet. The presses remained in the family until 1841, when the heirs sold the land and building to Benjamin Arel, a farmer, baker and tanner, who, between 1842 and 1848 modified and renovated the old building. The apple presses were transformed into fabric presses and used as such from 1850 to 1886. He transformed the hip roof into a high pitch gable roof, covered with Canadian made sheet metal, and filled the wooden framework in the walls with stone, a technique known as half-timbering.
It is the only known example in Montreal of this type of construction. Arel also installed an additional floor, making the building into a two-family residence.
In 1969, the northwest part of the house was demolished. The City of Montreal purchased the Maison du Pressoir in 1982. It was restored from 1987 to 1988 and the northwest part was rebuilt to give the building its original dimensions. A vertical joint visible in the facing of the main facade of the house is a reminder of this reconstruction.
In 1978, the house was classified historical monument by the Ministry of Culture. The building was integrated into the regional park of Ile-de-la-Visitation in 1984.
Today, the Maison du Pressoir with its terrace overlooking the waterfalls of the Rivière des Prairies, is transformed into an interpretation center, where visitors can learn about the history of Sault-au-Récollet, once the site of Fort Lorette, a trading post and mission for the conversion of First Nations people in the area. It is one of the oldest villages on the Island of Montreal with almost 300 buildings dating from the 18th century that can still be seen: churches, convents, mill ruins, cemetery, and archaeological sites.
A historical note: Didier Joubert’s great grandson was Janvier-Jacques Joubert, owner of a dairy farm in St. Vincent-de-Paul. In 1914 he opened a dairy business in Montreal. J.J. Joubert became the first dairy in the British Empire to deliver his milk, bottled in glass. In 1931, during the great depression, he started a milk distribution service to schools.
Source: Cité Historia / Héritage Montreal / Ministry of Culture and Communications of Québec
by: Dick NIeuwendyk – mtltimes.ca