Discover Gatineau’s heritage by foot! (west sectors)
The Outaouais is a young region but that doesn’t mean its history isn’t rich. The Gatineau we now know is the result of the merger of five former towns who each had their own history and their built heritage really shows how our city has changed through the ages. In order to get the population to discover these treasures the City of Gatineau has created walking tours in each of its five sectors.
I myself am a bit of a history and architecture enthusiast and the idea of being a tourist in my own town was quite appealing for two reasons : 1. Exercise. One can never have too much of it. 2. History rocks! Today, I will tell you about the Ruisseau de la Brasserie walking tour in Hull and the Vieux-Village walking tour in Aylmer.
I’m very fond of Vieux-Hull and that’s no secret. The Ruisseau de la Brasserie (Brewery Creek) sector is becoming an important hub in downtown Gatineau once again and that’s just awesome. I say again because it sure used to be, when the creek attracted the bulk of Hull’s industry, many of its remnants still being visible today. And I say it’s awesome because it’s such a beautiful sector!
This tour truly shows Hull’s industrial origins. This is particularly apparent at the corner of Alexandre-Taché and Montcalm, where what’s left of E.B. Eddy’s mill bears witness to an era where timber, paper, and matches were the main pillars of the local economy, the Fonderie building at the other end of Montcalm and the Hanson Hosiery Mills, now home to La filature art centre on Hanson Street. The creek itself reminds us of the importance of water in the region’s growth; the Brasseurs du temps are now located in a waterhouse become museum become brewery, on the very site that was once home to the region’s first brewery in the 19th century. At the other end of the creek, charming Théâtre de l’île was created in a former pumping station.
One cannot miss the cultural potential of the area. I already mentioned the Théâtre de l’île, whose magnificent gardens make for excellent wedding photos, by the way, and La filature, whose program is definitely worth investigating, but the shores of the creek have been home to many cultural events in the past few years, the Festival du Recycl’Art and Agwàtà to nam e a few, as well as becoming a skating rink with quite the program in the winter. Add to that superb mansions from another era and great restaurants and patios, BDT and Soif – bar à vin in particular, and you’ll have plenty to keep you busy for a few hours.
My favorite moments to visit this sector are by a sunny afternoon, with a stroll on the boardwalk along Brewery Creek, or at dusk, when the sunset reflects in the creek’s waters and the lampposts shed a soft light on the buildings’ red bricks. Magical, if you are a contemplative like me.
Aylmer. My grandparents had their summer house there, by the river right next to the marina, and Aylmer has always been synonymous with vacations for me. Since I became an adult, I’ve seized every occasion to go back, be it to wander in its charming streets, visit its points of interests or go see the many, many friends who have since settled there.
Vieux-Aylmer is one of these sectors where the built heritage seems the best preserved. Commemorative plates have been installed on many buildings and numbered lamp posts have been drawn of the sidewalk to help passersby spot these historical landmarks.
Many of these places have a new raison d’être; the former court house is now the Centre culturel du Vieux-Aylmer, the Hotel British has been revamped and now houses a restaurant, a café, meeting rooms and is a hotel again after changing calling decades ago.
The old stone houses, the ones made of squared logs, the ones with a huge veranda or gables reminiscent of the 19th century, the heritage square with the war memorial and the fountains, the old convent… We’re at the heart of a small town that’s known its share of history and the neighbourhood’s livelihood is most apparent during the many events and festivals held here throughout the year, especially on Rue Principale.
Visit this part of town on a sunny day, no matter the season. The Aubergiste, Bostaurus, Autre Oeil, Ambrosia, Café Mulligan and other Maison John Smith that are nearby will be happy to provide you with refreshments should you need a break from walking or if you need to fuel up after your tour!
In a future article I will tell you about the walking tours in the sectors east of the Gatineau River. Our city truly is beautiful. Let’s take the time to appreciate that beauty!
Don’t forget to visit www.outaouaistourism.com to keep up to date with all that’s going on in the region!
Cover photo: Maude Poulin