The Le Ber-Le Moyne House and its Annex are the oldest intact buildings on the island of Montréal. They were built between 1669 and 1671 for two of the most important merchants of the colony, Jacques Le Ber and Charles Le Moyne, on a site known and frequented by Indigenous peoples.
The fur trade and the Le Ber-Le Moyne House
The house initially served for the fur trade, in particular for storage. Clearly visible on a promontory and accessible by land, this outpost was a necessary stop on trips between Ville-Marie (Montréal) and the Great Lakes Basin. To avoid the turbulence of the Lachine Rapids, departing canoes bound for the Great Lakes loaded cargo there and unloaded furs on their return. The house was a refuelling station and a meeting place.
From farmhouse to vacation resort
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the house changed function to become, in turn, a farmhouse, a secondary residence and a vacation home. During this period, many changes were made to adapt it to these new uses. In particular, an annex and a greenhouse were added.
Founding of the museum
Around 1946, the house was put up for sale. Anatole Carignan, mayor of Lachine (1933-1939; 1944-1952) and a history buff, knew its heritage value. The municipality acquired the Le Ber-Le Moyne House to convert it into a history museum. The Manoir de Lachine, as it was called at the time, was inaugurated in 1948 during the village of Lachine’s civil centennial.
Restoration of the house
In 1981, the former City of Lachine undertook the restoration of the Le Ber-Le Moyne House. Under the leadership of Jacques Toupin, the museum’s new director, all the additions that hid the original aspect of the Le Ber-Le Moyne House were removed. The building was restored to its 17th century architectural character. It was decided to conserve the Annex, a 19th century addition abutting the north side of the stone house.
Archaeological digs lead to classification
At the turn of the millennium, the site’s archaeological potential became reality. Between 1998 and 2000, the museum, in partnership with Art Gestion and the Archéotec team, undertook archaeological excavations in three phases. The unexpected windfall from these digs brought to light a greater history of the house and the site. A glimpse of these discoveries and the fruits of subsequent research were presented in the exhibition The Le Ber-Le Moyne House, a place, a dream…
The site of the Le Ber-Le Moyne House and its archaeological collection were classified by Québec’s ministère de la Culture et des Communications in 2001. One year later, the Canadian Heritage Department designated it a National Historic Site.