by: Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca
Facing Lake St. Louis, on two-and-a-half acres of wooded land stands what is likely the oldest house in Dorval, built around 1675 by Jacques Morin, a farmer and a contemporary of Robert Cavelier, Sieur de LaSalle, who arrived in New France in 1666.
In 1674, the Sulpician priests, who owned the Domaine de la Présentation, granted Jacques Morin the land on which he built a stone farmhouse. On the morning of August 5th, 1689, the Lachine Massacre took place and Jacques Morin, his wife Louise Garnier, and his 24 year old son, Antoine were killed, and their home burned. Over 100 inhabitants were slaughtered, and many others were captured. From the 77 homes in the settlement, 56 were completely destroyed.
After the “Great Peace” of 1701, descendants of the Morin family returned and eventually reconstructed the house. The long two-storey house has 3 feet thick walls, and a high-peaked roof with chimneys for its two fireplaces. A trap door in one of the rooms leads to a tunnel in the basement, which might have gone out to the palisaded fortification of Fort de la Présentation which was located in this area. It might have been built by the Morin members as an escape route in case of another Indian attack.
The early 19th century was the stagecoach era, and a section of the house served as a coaching inn for travellers between Montreal and Kingston.
One of the few owners who lived in the old home was James Bryce Allan, a lawyer and nephew of Sir Hugh Allan, the president of the Allan Shipping Line. James B. Allan bought the property in the 1850s as his summer retreat, and named the house “The Hermitage”. He became the Mayor of the Village of Dorval in 1893, after being a member of the first council under Mayor Désiré Girouard in 1892. In 1898, Allan was elected president of the Forest and Stream Club, a gentlemen’s social club for some of Montreal’s most powerful and wealthiest industrials.
In 1950 the property was bought by Mr. Robert John Pratt, an architect, playwright, and politician, who was to become the Mayor of Dorval from 1955 to 1964. Mr. Pratt completely modernized the old house, and decorated it with period furnishings to bring back its 17th century charm. John Pratt passed away in his beloved “Hermitage” in 2003 at the age of 97. His son Robert A. Pratt is the current owner of the house, which still stands, almost unchanged since the early 1700s on what is known today as
Allan Point in Dorval.
Source: University of Laval / Dorval Historical Society / André Duval -Dorval 300 years of history / Mtl Gazette