by Dick Nieuwendyk
In 1805, Perrine Charles Cherrier, inherited a vacant lot of land facing Marché Neuf (now Jacques Cartier Square) from the estate of her late husband Denis Viger, a carpenter, businessman and politician.
In order to get access to the rear portion of the lot, she had to open a narrow alley between the Marché Neuf and Rue Saint-Vincent. In 1913, Perrine Cherrier together with her daughter Marie-Pierre Viger commissioned Montreal entrepreneur Charles Simon Delorme to build two houses, which were completed in 1817.
George Adam Idler, an Innkeeper, was the first tenant until 1822 in one of these.
In the next few years, additions were made and the Viger-Cherrier properties now included five houses and a warehouse store in the location bounded by Saint-Paul, Saint-Vincent, Saint-Amable and Place Jacques-Cartier, and a refrigerated warehouse on the north side of the Rue Saint Amable.
Marie-Perrine died in 1820 and her mother, Perrine Charles died 3 years later in 1923. After mother Perrine died, her son Denis-Benjamin Viger, a lawyer and politician, inherited the property. Over the years, the buildings have served as residences for merchants, artisans and professionals, inns and restaurants, and as warehouses and stores for dry goods merchants, tobacco merchants, and haberdashers.
Originally, the alley was known as Viger Lane, but in 1842, a signed document shows that it was known as Rue Saint-Amable. Presumably Denis-Benjamin Viger gave the name of his wife, Marie-Amable Foretier to the street.
Today, rue Saint-Amable attracts thousands of tourists during the summer months, and has become a busy pedestrian street where you find yourself surrounded by shopkeepers and artists, employing all their charm and talent to sell you their wares. But if you listen carefully, you can still hear the voices from days gone by, echoing from the stone walls—discussing politics, as always, and the recent price hikes… for beaver pelts.
A Historical note: in 1796, Denis Viger and his wife’s brother-in-law Joseph Louis Papineau, both members of the patriot movement, ran for the Montreal East riding, and Viger was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada in Montreal East as a supporter of the Parti Canadien. His son, Denis-Benjamin Viger was elected to the Legislative Assembly for Montreal
East in 1808 and 1810, and elected to the Legislative Assembly of the United Canadas representing Richelieu in 1841. From 1843 to 1846 he was one of the Joint Premiers of the Province of Canada. Denis Viger was the uncle of Jacques Viger, the first mayor of Montreal
Sources: City of Montreal, Wikipedia, Dictionary of Canadian Biography.