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Old houses - Monteregie, Quebec


By elke


Hi everyone,
Some of you seemed to like the blog on vernacular South Shore Nova Scotian architecture, so here’s another, from around the area where we lived in Quebec, on Montreal’s South Shore this time – part of a region known as the Montérégie. The photos were taken in a very limited area, between the St. Lawrence River and the Richelieu River, which meets the St. Lawrence at Sorel. I’ll include a map.

The Richelieu River runs north from Lake Champlain (Vermont) all along Rte 133, to its mouth at Sorel, where it meets the St. Lawrence River. It passes through Chambly, where there is a restored French fort used in the wars against the English and to protect New France from attacks by First Nations people who, not surprisingly, did not always take kindly to these new inhabitants.

First, a little history, if you’ll bear with me. Quebec’s first white settlers were from France, and they brought with them the ‘seigneurial’ system of land tenure. You can read more about this if you’re interested at these sites, as the pattern of land division is very distinctive and different to the English ‘village green’ or town and country system. If you have Google Earth, you can see this system stretching all along the valleys of Quebec, aprticularly the St. Lawrence itself.

So you can see that at first, everyone needed to have access to the main thoroughfare (the river) in order to get about, trade, go to church, etc. Some of my photos were taken on the road installed between these first plots and the second row (known as Rang or range roads), and some even further inland as more range roads were built.
Of course, none of the buildings in these photographs were built by the original settlers – those would have been built of logs as the tenant farmers cleared their land. The buildings here are more substantial ones mostly built of stones cleared from the fields.

Here is a view of the Richelieu River itself, near St. Antoine:

These next 4 photos should all be joined together to form a panorama. You can see the mighty St. Lawrence River in the background, so this would have been one of the original plots handed to a tenant farmer by the benevolent Seigneur, who had been granted the land by the King of France.

The single-storey addition on the right of the main building is what is known as a ‘summer kitchen’. In the colder months the kitchen stove would have been used to heat most of the house, but in summer there was no need, so they had a small stove just for cooking in this addition.
The church (Roman Catholic) was of course the major institution on each ‘seigneurie’, and the buildings are huge, majestic and imposing, especially across a flat landscape such as these flood plains. It is said that Quebec is one of the best places to research your genealogy as the curés kept such good records of births, marriages and deaths.

This house is one of the oldest in the area. I believe it is in Contrecoeur, on the St. Lawrence.

I would love to have been able to do a more in-depth study of the vernacular architecture, and compare the very different regions of Quebec. And I’m sorry that these were all taken in winter – the gardens are glorious, and if we ever go back on a visit, I’ll try and take some photos more appropriate to this wonderful web site. However, I hope those of you interested in buildings and history will get some fun from reading this and looking at the photos.

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Lovely Blog Elke
~Its very interesting to see that a lot of the old stone built cottages are very similar to those still found all over the UK today.Thank goodness!

27 Jan, 2009


Fascinating to see the architectural styles of the buildings.
Good blog :o)

27 Jan, 2009


Another very good blog Elke,the snippets of history link them together wonderfully.The wintry setting makes the buildings stand out,but I'm sure it's a lot colder than it looks !!

27 Jan, 2009


Hi Elke, thank you for some lovely photos and info. It looks so beautiful. Even though it is winter time the sky is such a bright blue.

When I was a child, during the war, Grandma got food parcels from someone she knew in Canada. She used to tell me how the snow was deep enough to cover the house door, and that they couldn't get out of the house for weeks.

It's really funny (funny strange, not funny ha ha!), I joined a garden blog and I am learning so much about Canada.

27 Jan, 2009


Quite a beautiful place and an interesting blog! Thanks Elke.

28 Jan, 2009


Thank you all for your kind comments. Hope it didn't appear too much like a history lesson - I used to teach Grade 10 History of Quebec (and Canada), so I can get a little carried away in my enthusiasm for that and for buildings in general.

28 Jan, 2009


Rather spooky this Elke as drove through Maine and Vermont across those connected islands on Lake Champlain that seemed to disappear into the mist.

Beautiful scenery and stunning architecture with much older history than I thought.Loved those covered bridges but not sure as to why they were covered.

Drove to Toronto , Niagra Falls of course then back in a loop up through New York state and back over to N.S.

Didnt get to Montreal but must have been close to the area you describe - dont apologise for the lesson it didnt feel like one just an interesting journey to such a lovely place.All this and driving through New England in the fall , wonderful.

28 Jan, 2009


Sounds like a wonderful trip, Bonkersbon. Isn't that a great road through the islands? When we lived near Montreal we used to visit Burlington VT regularly and always took the road through North Hero, South Hero... I believe the bridges were covered in order to get horses/oxen to cross them, as the height and the sight of rushing water below would spook them. If anyone has another explanation, I'd love to hear it.

28 Jan, 2009


Well always felt like a trip of a lifetime to me very envious all this close to you.That the best explanation I ve heard and makes a lot of sense re the covered bridges.

Went for a walk one morning in Lake Champlain real early to photo the bridges in the morning mist.Noticed people began following me turned to find three locals staring at me ..I asked if there was a problem , they said what did I think I was doing ? As I spoke they then smiled hearing I was English .. they were suspicious as no - one walks when they can use the car and I too was photographing their lovely lakeside homes.

They thought I was casing their homes with photos to raid them later ! We laughed and was invited in for coffee and waffles .. I was then able to check their valuables too lol

28 Jan, 2009


It's nice to see the old stone walls have not been cemented over as hapens here often. The buildings are so varied too. Interesting - thank you.

29 Jan, 2009


ah! I so enjoyed looking at the photographs AND the history! I love history and can never get enough!

When I came to Canada, now 41 years ago, we landed in Montreal and were taken by taxi to the trainstation to go to Toronto. And I have lived in and around that city, ever since.

Not too long after my first hub and I were in Ontario. we took a trip to Ottawa and then went across the river to Hull. Then spend the rest of the day, driving in the low mountain region north of Hull. We too saw and crossed several covered bridges. We didn't know why they were covered and all day, we never even met one living soul!

But many years later, I happen to ask a quebecan. With whom I worked at British Petroleum, when they left Quebec after many business left Quebec? I asked why some of those bridges are covered and they too, told me the same thing as you just did. So you must have it correct?

I worked with them for 4 years and then moved on to work in the public library system of the city of North York in Toronto. I had a great time working with them and enjoyed their food at their home, when invited.

I DID notice though, that their french is somewhat different than that spoken in Belgium and France. But we got along and we razzed each other often about pronuniciations etc.

I was still in the Roman Catholic Church at the time and also attended a french speaking rk church near our home in Don Mills.

I learned french and latin at school in the Netherlands. This was also in the days, that the Roman Catholic masses were still done in latin. It didn't matter where one went in the world, the language was always the same and one could easily follow the mass. But now it isn't the same any more and even the structure of the masses have changed and I get lost in them. So don't go anymore.

What I noticed when we were driving through Quebec? wasss, that it had a feeling for me, as if I was coming home to the south-eastern part of the Netherlands, which is also quite hilly! And a lot looked as if I was back in Belgium and France. Not this spotlessly clean and tidy look as exist in Ontario, but much more higgledy piggledy all over the place. BUT what really did it for me, was all the geranium plants in the flowerboxes all over the place. OH! and the teatowels? that were hanging around? then? it was, as if I had made a short visit home to the sourtheastern part of the Netherlands and Belgium.

aah, one day, I WILL go there AGAIN! thanks for the trip and the history, JUST LOVED IT! greets from brush/or powderbrush

29 Jan, 2009


Yes, the French spoken in Quebec is very different from that spoken in Europe, it's more like the 'old' French from the time when the first settlers came over. And people in Quebec City speak the more formal French and are easier to understand than those in Montreal who use a lot of colloquialisms and slang.

30 Jan, 2009


Gardener,historian,photographer,tour guide,writer, is there no end to your talents, good on you girl.
there is a blog I wrote earlier, but I will repeat it to you.
KEEP LEARNING.more about hobbies,crafts,gardening,computers,whatever.
never let the brain idle."An idle mind is the devil,s workshop". & the devil,s name is ALZHEIMERS.
A long, healthy & happy life to you & yours.
ps, it,s my 50th anniversary today, so I got another
prezzie from you, thanks.

7 Feb, 2009

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