Montérégie: an illustrated inventory to document the built heritage

A Montérégie historical society wants to compile an illustrated inventory of the houses in the territory it covers so that they do not fall into oblivion.

“We see that houses are destroyed by fire while others are demolished by the City or developers, worries René Fournier, president of the Société d’histoire de la seigneurie de Chambly and former mayor of Carignan, a neighboring municipality of Chambly. We asked ourselves: what can be done to preserve the memory of these houses? Because in the end, it’s our history that goes up in smoke.”

Several heritage homes have fallen under the peak of demolishers in recent years. This is particularly the case of the Boileau house demolished in the controversy by the City in 2018.

But it is not yesterday that century-old houses have been destroyed in Chambly. René Fournier remembers in the 1980s the demolition of the house where Emma Albani was born, a singer who rose to international fame at the end of the 19th century.

“I had passed in front of his house to go to work and in the evening, when I returned, it was completely destroyed. It marked me.”

Today, hardly any memories of the famous soprano’s house remain. Things would be different if there had been an illustrated inventory at the time with photos and information about the house.

This is why the Historical Society asks the owners of Chambly, but also of Carignan, Richelieu and Saint-Mathias-sur-Richelieu, for documentation on their residence (photos, date of construction, renovations, who lived there, the name of the street, its civic number).

Not just old houses

Since April 1, 2021, the Cultural Heritage Act has introduced the obligation for regional county municipalities (RCMs) to adopt and update an inventory of buildings built before 1940 that have heritage value.

The MRC de la Vallée-du-Richelieu, of which Chambly is a part, had already been doing this since 2015. For its part, Chambly has also had an inventory of heritage buildings for several years.

The project of the Historical Society is however different. First, unlike other inventories, it is the owners of the houses themselves who will provide the information. Next, the illustrated inventory aims to group together all the houses, both old and new.

“We want to provide future generations with documented data of this real estate heritage. This tool will be useful to those who will do research in 20, 50, 100 or even 150 years. Currently, when researchers search old houses, there are a host of answers they would like to have, but they don’t have any since there is very little information,” explains René Fournier.

If he knows he is powerless in the face of the demolition of heritage residences, Mr. Fournier at least wants there to be a memory of them.

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