1.1 Commemorative Intent

The commemorative intent of a historic site, i.e. the specific element of the site that is to be commemorated, is closely tied to the particular features that led to its being recognized as having national importance and, in the final analysis, justifies its reason for being part of the network of national historic sites. The commemorative intent of a site is determined essentially on the basis of recommendations of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, and is approved by the Minister.

The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada has considered the national importance of the Manoir Papineau on a number of occasions. In 1920, when it was announced that the “château” was for sale, it issued a statement that the site was only of local importance and did not have great value as a commemorative site because it was not witness to an actual historic event. To fully understand the Board’s comments and recommendations concerning the manor house, however, one must consider its declarations with respect to Louis-Joseph Papineau himself.

The Board has considered the national significance of Louis-Joseph Papineau on several occasions: his life as a politician, his role as a seigneur and paterfamilias of the Papineau family, and finally, in association with his two residences (the Montebello seigneurial manor and his Bonsecours Street residence in Montréal).

In 1937, Papineau’s name appeared on a list of “outstanding figures in Canadian history”. It was recommended that a “secondary plaque” be erected in his honour at his birthplace, Montréal. The following year, the text for the plaque was approved and Papineau was described as a “Speaker and Political Leader”.

Papineau was once again on the Board's agenda in 1966 when the national significance of his home on Bonsecours Street in Montréal was assessed. In 1968, the building was declared to be of national “historic and architectural” importance and the Board recommended to the Minister that it be acquired. From that time forward, the Board's statements with regard to Papineau would be in reference to either the Montebello manor house or the Bonsecours Street residence.

In 1974, the Board recommended that Louis-Joseph Papineau be commemorated as a “figure” and a plaque was placed at his manor house in Montebello. His home on Bonsecours Street was declared to be of national importance because of its architecture. However, the Board suggested that the inscription on the plaque clearly make the connection between Papineau and his Montréal home. The wording was approved in November 1982 and refers to the building's architectural features, but also makes reference to the fact that it was the family residence of Louis-Joseph Papineau, politician and “leader of the Parti canadien and one of the figures marking the events of 1837”.

In June 1986, the Board reviewed the possibility of commemorating Papineau and his residences, stating at the time that Manoir Papineau was a good, albeit unusual, example of a 19th century country estate. The Board specifically observed that the architectural features of the manor, displaying several different styles, reflected “the social ambitions, tastes and personality of its owner – Louis-Joseph Papineau – during the later years of his life”. The Board then stated, “the Manoir Papineau has national architectural significance and should be the subject of a commemorative plaque which, while not forgetting the Papineau family, should focus mainly on the fact that the home reflects the personality of Louis-Joseph Papineau”.

At that same meeting in June 1986, the Board clarified past recommendations regarding Papineau and the Bonsecours Street residence (referred to as “the Papineau house”). It recommended that two commemorative plaques be erected at the Papineau house: one referring to the building's architectural value and the other honouring the politician, his life and his work, because of the “close ties between the house and the most active and important period in Papineau's life”.

Finally, the inscription for a plaque commemorating Manoir Papineau was approved in 1989. The wording evokes Papineau's political career but focuses particularly on the later years of his life when, ”seeing the seigneurial system as a defence against assimilation”, he left politics to devote his time to his La Petite-Nation seigneury. The inscription also makes the link between the cultured man who designed his home inspired by different architectural styles and the thinker who laid out his family property “in the image he had of an ideal estate”.

These words demonstrate the Board's firm intention to commemorate Louis-Joseph Papineau, the individual, and his two residences (for their respective architectural features): “Monte-Bello”9 and the home on Bonsecours Street in Montréal. The clarifications made by the Board in 1986 provide a clearer understanding of the situation. On the one hand, the national significance of the Montréal house stems from its association with the politician at the peak of his career (before 1837), whereas “Monte-Bello” is associated with Papineau the seigneur, thinker and man of culture following his decision to settle at the seigneury (1846).

Based on the above, the commemorative intent of the site has been defined as follows:

The Manoir Papineau National Historic Site of Canada primarily commemorates Louis-Joseph Papineau and the architectural significance of his manor house as a reflection of his social ambitions, tastes and personality.

It also bears witness to the man who, after leaving the political arena, devoted his time to developing an ideal estate and managing his La Petite-Nation seigneury.

Finally, the site commemorates the role played by the Papineau family in developing the estate.

  1. “Monte-Bello” was the name chosen by Louis-Joseph Papineau to designate both his estate and his
    manor house.

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