Description of Historic Place
The Manoir Papineau stands atop Cape Bonsecours in Montebello, Quebec, from where it overlooks the Ottawa River. A large, imposing, stone building, its centre portion has a hipped roof with wide, overhanging eaves and banks of casement windows. Conical towers frame the river façade. A generous verandah runs along the garden side. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Manoir Papineau is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Manoir Papineau is one of the best examples of a structure associated with Louis Joseph Papineau, a politician who became the first French-Canadian nationalist leader, the seigneur, designer and first occupant of the house. The building bears outstanding witness to the final period of the seigneurial system in the 19th century when it played a considerable role as home of the administration and records of the Petite-Nation seigneurie. Constructed after Papineau permanently settled in Montebello, the building’s construction and the development of the seigneurie stimulated significant growth in the local community. The Seignory Club and later the Canadian Pacific Company took ownership of the building. It was named a National Historic Site of Canada in 1986 and Parks Canada became the custodian in 1993.
The Manoir Papineau is valued for its excellent aesthetic and very good functional design. The design reflects the personality, tastes and ambitions of Louis-Joseph Papineau, whose ideas were brought to life by architect Louis Aubertin. Related to neoclassical villas, but also drawing on a variety of styles, the imposing stone house consists of a central block flanked by towers. The building’s picturesque architecture blends well with the surrounding landscape. It features a number of unusual elements that demonstrate carefully planned, strategic use of spaces, such as housing the library in one of the towers, safe from fire. The fine quality of materials and craftsmanship reflects a level of refinement usually found in bourgeois houses of the period. The property includes a number of particularly fine elements, such as the spiral staircase, considered the masterpiece of the interior.
The Manoir Papineau establishes the present picturesque character of the estate setting. The manor benefits from a significant symbolic empowerment, is an outstanding landmark and is an increasingly popular tourist attraction.
Sources: Le lieu historique national du Canada du Manoir-Papineau (les édifices relevant de la juridiction de Parcs Canada), Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 01-087; Manoir Papineau, Montibello, Quebec, Heritage Character Statement 01-087.
The following character-defining elements of the Manoir Papineau should be respected.
Its excellent aesthetic design and very good quality materials and very good craftsmanship as evidenced in:
-the picturesque character of the manor, consolidated by its eclectic composition, which borrows from a variety of styles, including French, Regency and traditional Quebec architecture, and by the building’s strong massing composed of an imposing central core that rises to a broken hipped roof with wide eaves, a verandah and four towers, each topped with a different type of roof. Details such as the loopholes of the library tower add to the house’s character;
-the neoclassical elements of the design, particularly the squat appearance of the main block, the overall linearity of the building, the five pierced bays across the main façade, the regularity of the fenestration and the very definite symmetry both inside and out;
-the differentiation between the front and back elevations: the front is very articulated, echoing traditional Quebec domestic architecture with its broad-eaved roof pierced by chimneys, while the back is framed on both sides by towers that lend a monumental appearance accentuated by the position of the house overlooking the river;
-the quality of the exterior materials and finishing details, which include the turned railing of the verandah and the woodwork around the doors and windows;
-the cast iron balcony bearing the effigy of the Papineau family, an eloquent historical testimony to the identity of the primary occupants of the manor;
-what remains of the building’s original plan, particularly the originality of its spatial arrangements, which was largely based on efforts to take advantage of natural light and views of the surrounding landscape, contributing to the spacious, sun-filled interior rooms. With these design priorities, conventional plans were modified positioning formal rooms at the back and opening the wide vestibule and hall in order to draw the eye toward the river. Efforts were also made to maximize use of the southeast corner, with the heavily glazed conservatory tower. The row of French-inspired doors creates a sense of large space;
-the quality of the interiors, which ranges from the varied treatment of the formal rooms to a very stark and elaborate décor in the more private spaces. This “esthetic discrimination” is particularly evident in the decorative woodwork and plaster elements, as well as in the hardware;
-the spiral staircase in the southwest tower, an extraordinary piece of carpentry that eliminates the need for people to go up and down the stairs in the main part of the house;
-the dominant location of the manor on Cape Bonsecours, which is strengthened by the ceremonial seigneurie grand driveway. The transition from dense vegetation cover to a clearing that highlights the house contributes to this transition effect;
-the relationship between the manor and its surrounding landscapes, designed in the spirit of A.J. Downing, which contributes to the picturesque logic of the property. The views from and toward the manor are an essential component of this relationship, as are elements of topography, vegetation and circulation.