Description of Historic Place
Sir George-Étienne Cartier House is made up of two adjacent houses: the “east house” and the “west house.” The houses were originally separate but now form a single building. The façades facing Notre-Dame Street and Berri Street are made of cut stone and contrast with the rear wall, which is made of rubble stone. The projecting windowsills and a carriage entrance topped with a segmented arch are to be noted on the Notre-Dame Street side. The building has a large false mansard roof that has several dormers in the slate-clad slope, decorated with a pavilion roof with a rooftop terrace. The “east house” contains an exhibit on Sir George-Étienne Cartier, a middle-class Montrealer and politician, while the “west house” depicts the way of life of the Cartier family in the 1860s. Sir George-Étienne Cartier House is located on the northeast edge of the district of Old Montréal. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
Sir George-Étienne Cartier House was designated a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical importance, its architectural value and its prominence in its surroundings.
Sir George-Étienne Cartier House is a very good illustration of the establishment of urban middle-class society and the evolution of the City of Montréal in the early 19th century. It also recalls the political career and work of Sir George-Étienne Cartier, one of the Fathers of Confederation.
The house is directly associated with a person of national significance, namely Sir George-Étienne Cartier. Cartier was an influential political figure who helped shape many institutions that were forerunners of those that today govern Québec and Canada as a whole. He also helped consolidate the geographic and economic bases that led to the acquisition of the Northwest Territories, the creation of the Province of Manitoba, and British Columbia’s entry into Confederation. In addition, he politically supported the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Sir George-Étienne Cartier House is a very good illustration of the evolution of the neighbourhood in which the house stands because of the different functions it has had over the years, from a middle-class home in a residential area to a hotel on a commercial street to its current use as a museum in the heart of a tourist district.
Sir George-Étienne Cartier House is a very good example of a neo-classical building that underwent architectural modifications as its functions changed through the years. The result is a cohesive, harmonious building that incorporates Second Empire and Queen Anne Revival elements. Sir George-Étienne Cartier House has a very good functional design based largely on its adaptation of the London model and terrace homes. Sir George-Étienne Cartier House was built of very good materials that were assembled with care, as witnessed by their longevity.
The historical relationship between Sir George-Étienne Cartier House and its surroundings has changed over the years as new buildings with a variety of functions have been added to the neighbourhood and the traffic system has changed. Nevertheless, the urban character of the house and its presence on the street front remain intact, because of the close connection between the façade and the sidewalk, the historical connection between the house and the railway station, and the continuing use of the carriage entrance. Sir George-Étienne Cartier House is well known in Montréal because of its historical associations, its use as a museum and its designation as a National Historic Site of Canada. The house is often used to illustrate tourist brochures and has been studied in a publication dedicated to the heritage of the City of Montréal.
Sources: Yvan Fortier and Michel Bédard, Le lieu historique national du Canada de Sir-George-Étienne-Cartier, Montréal, Québec, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 05-107; Sir George Étienne Cartier House, 456 to 462 Notre Dame Street East, Montréal, Québec, Heritage Character Statement 05-107.
The character-defining elements of Sir George-Étienne Cartier House should be respected.
Its good aesthetic design, which bears witness to its architectural development:
- the features associated with the neo-classical style, such as the starkness and formality of the composition characterized by overlaid courses of stone, the jambs of the exposed, cut one-piece lintels and the slight setback on the façade indicating the transition from the basement to the ground floor, the smooth stone and thin joints on the Notre-Dame sides, the spare ornamentation on the sides, and some interior decorative elements, such as the square-section balustrades;
- the subtle decorative elements that are in keeping with the style of the original houses, in particular the windowsills, the carriage entrance topped with a segmented arch in which the radiating stones form a stepped outside edge, and the concave mouldings of the firewall consoles;
- the Second Empire elements, in particular the false mansard roof with dormers in the slope, decorated with a partial pavilion roof and clad with grey slate cut in a point or fish-scale pattern and laid in two bands, one at the top of the slope and one in the middle;
- the Queen Anne Revival elements like the monochrome roof and dormers with a pediment and a spandrel decorated with a stylized sunburst;
- the interior details, such as the plaster walls and decorative mouldings, whose colours are consistent with the period during which the Cartier family lived in the house, original hardware, and those elements that reflect the domestic use of the house.
Its very good functional design, its construction and its very good materials, as reflected in:
- the carriage entrance and its current use as a reception area for visitors;
- the main entrance of the “west house”, which has an inner vestibule that forms a shelter;
- the seamless addition of a square floor at attic level topped with a false mansard roof;
- a vaulted brick room adjacent to the kitchen that was apparently used as a strong room or coal storage;
- the numerous cupboards that still exist in the interior rooms;
- the wood doors lined with metal on the inside that were used to close off the fireplaces of the two secondary bedrooms and keep out cold drafts;
- the partition separating the office from the dining room, which has a heating hopper that can be closed off with a panel in the summer and used to install a stove halfway down the wall to heat the adjoining rooms in the winter;
- the cut stone of the Notre-Dame Street and Berri Street façades, the stone and brick of the party walls and the brick floor surrounding the hearth in the original kitchen along the party wall of the Perry House.
The manner in which the building reinforces the harmonious and homogeneous urban character of Notre Dame Street today between Bonsecours and Berri streets, and the building’s value as a landmark, as evidenced in:
- its visual prominence because of its profile, height and muted colours;
- the close relationship between the façade of the building and the sidewalk, preservation of the link with the nearby railway station and use of the carriage entrance.