FROM FARM TO MUSEUM
Maison Saint-Gabriel, museum and historic site, is the oldest example of rural architecture in Montreal. It is where the memory of Marguerite Bourgeoys, Ville-Marie’s first teacher, and the passage of the King’s Wards are preserved.
Marguerite Bourgeoys arrived in Ville-Marie in 1653. She wanted to teach the children of the colony for free. She considered agriculture as the path to the material survival of her companions who had come to support her in her educational endeavour.
In 1662, she obtained a land concession in Pointe-Saint-Charles from Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve. In 1668, she purchased the house and land of her neighbour, François Le Ber. At first, the farmhouse was the place where the King’s Wards were welcomed in Ville-Marie.
Marguerite Bourgeoys transformed the land into a true model farm, thus guaranteeing her community’s self-sufficiency. In the 18th century, this farm was among the largest in Montreal.
Self-sufficiency and RecognitionIn 1671, this financial independence also enabled her to obtain Letters Patent from Louis XIV. These granted official authorization for the “establishment of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame in the said island of Montreal in New France.”
Sharecroppers and Farm Sisters Marguerite Bourgeoys entrusted the farm operations to Catherine Crolo, the first sharecropper. A true pioneer, she oversaw all clearing, cultivation, farming and harvesting activities.
Until 1955, eighty-six sharecroppers succeeded one another in heading the farm. For almost 300 years, the farm at Pointe-Saint-Charles was at the heart of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame’s educational and agricultural activities.
In the mid-19th century, with industrialization and urbanization transforming Montreal’s landscape, the sharecroppers had to reduce their operations.
A New Vocation Recalling the bygone time of Montreal’s rural past, the old farmhouse attracted more and more interest. School visits multiplied, academics studied it, while others simply came to admire it.
In 1965, this magnificent house and the fieldstone barn were classified historic monuments. The following year, the sisters decided to make it a museum.
Since then, the institution continues a mission of education through history. Still today, Maison Saint-Gabriel, museum and historic site remains faithful to the educational vocation of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame.
A Heritage to Preserve and ShareThe museum is the only institution to communicate Montreal’s rural past on an authentic site. Through time, the members of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame have preserved this rich heritage.
Every year, thousands of visitors from here and elsewhere, accompanied by tour guides in period costume, discover Montreal’s rural past.
Mission of Education through History
As a “communicator of memory,” Maison Saint-Gabriel presents and explains the following elements to the public:
- The role held by Marguerite Bourgeoys in the development of the farm in Pointe-Saint-Charles
- The adventure of the King’s Wards in Ville-Marie
- The work accomplished by the Congrégation de Notre-Dame sisters and the social impact it had
- Rural life from the 17th to the 19th centuries and its cultural heritage
La mission muséale est également de positionner l’établissement de façon particulière auprès de la communauté.
- A place where the visitor from here and elsewhere can be at one with the spirit of the builders and with the values of the women pioneers of this country
- A museum that brings together cultural communities and organizations interested in Montreal’s history, heritage and rural past
- A museum beyond its walls, in the streets and parks at the very heart of its neighbourhood to promote the historic heritage of Pointe-Saint-Charles