200 years of history in east Montreal

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After renovations and a year of pandemic, Château Dufresne is finally presenting a new exhibition. As with its permanent collection, this temporary exhibition immerses us in the history of eastern Montreal.

Located at the corner of boulevard Pie-IX and rue Sherbrooke, the Château Dufresne does not go unnoticed. Remarkable for its architecture, the pavilion bears the name of the brothers Oscar and Marius Dufresne, two influential figures who were its first occupants at the beginning of the 20th century.

The permanent exhibition of the museum takes us back to that time by immersing us in the luxurious decorations of a bourgeois interior. The moldings, gilding, parquet floors and antique furniture echo the ambition carried by the two brothers.

“Oscar was very involved in the municipality of the town of Maisonneuve at the time […], he participated a lot in the development of this sector. For example, he was the one who donated the land for the Botanical Garden. But it also played an important political role in establishing a French-speaking culture in Montreal, ”explains the director general of the Château Dufresne museum, Manon Lapointe.

“Marius, he worked as an engineer for the town of Maisonneuve. He was a visionary and it was he who gave the East an urban plan. We owe him in particular the Public Market, the Public Bath and he also supervised the construction of several bridges and Boulevard Pie-IX, ”she adds.

Both were also art lovers and patrons. We thus find in their respective apartments works by painters such as Guido Nincheri and Alfred Faniel.

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La Cordonnière

In addition to its link with the urban and architectural development of the area, Château Dufresne is also rooted in the industrial history of eastern Montreal. Oscar Dufresne himself ran several large shoe manufacturing companies, traces of which can still be found in Hochelaga.

The temporary exhibition FICTION REALITY. Marie Victoire and the shoe in Maisonneuve traces the history of this industry through the prism of a character both real and fictional. Indeed, Marie Victoire Dussault was the mother of Oscar and Marius, but she is also the heroine of the series of novels. La Cordonnière de Pauline Gill.

Based on historical elements, the exhibition disentangles the true from the false and gives a realistic insight into what the life of a bourgeois woman could have been like at that time.

“In the novel, Marie Victoire is portrayed as a strong businesswoman, but the historical context was not very favorable to women. His signature can be found on several documents, but was it just being used as a nominee? It seemed interesting to us to ask these questions, ”emphasizes Ms. Lapointe.

Part of the exhibition is also devoted to the often very harsh working conditions of the workers in the shoemaking industry in eastern Montreal. In particular, we discover the “tactics” put in place by the bosses to pay these women as little as possible.

Past and future

Bought in 1948 by the Fathers of Sainte-Croix, the Château Dufresne was a day school for young boys for several years before later becoming the Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal, then the Museum of Decorative Arts.

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The building, which offers a breathtaking view of the Olympic Stadium, was almost demolished in the 1970s to be replaced by a parking lot for the 1976 Olympic Games.

It has since been recognized for its heritage value and was the subject of major works in 2019 and 2020. The facade, the windows, the roof, everything has been restored to restore the prestige of the castle.

To make the history of this place shine, the director of the museum has many projects in mind. In particular, it intends to greatly modernize the permanent exhibition using new technologies to offer a completely immersive experience.

A new equipped room should also make it possible to accommodate school groups for educational and creative workshops.

The exhibition FICTION REALITY. Marie Victoire and the shoe in Maisonneuve will be presented until June 27, 2021.


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