The Château Ramezay Has a Gift Shop & Other Quebec Curios

The Château Ramezay, c. 1920-1925. Photo credit: Albertype Company/Library and Archives Canada (PA-031932). The Château Ramezay, c. 1920-1925. Photo credit: Albertype Company/Library and Archives Canada (PA-031932).

Continuing an ongoing series on Old Montreal landmarks on a lighter note, compared to the two courthouse buildings, the Château Ramezay indeed has a gift shop, because statistically, more people coming out there would probably want a souvenir.

The Château Ramezay has an interesting history as the residence of the governor of Montreal Claude de Ramezay, who took over from Vaudreuil in 1704. Originally built in 1705, it houses art, books, and photographs, preserving the daily lives of Canadians of the 18th century onwards. Today, it is classified as a National Historic Site. Not only a standard museum, it is also a re-enactment centre with many volunteers who donate their time in and out of costume to teach its many visitors about how life would have been like in 1700s New France. It houses gardens typical of the times de Ramezay and his successors would have had, such as a kitchen garden growing local herbs and plants and a “pleasure garden” (typically serving for recreation, i.e. not food) typical of the 18th and 19th centuries with peonies, sunflowers, and lilies.

Yet the Château Ramezay as it stands was not always a museum after de Ramezay’s ownership. When the Americans tried to take over Montreal (the first time) during the American Revolutionary War, it was the residence of the Continental army. After the Americans realised they couldn’t conquer Canada (Benjamin Franklin is said to have remarked that it would have been easier to buy Canada than to take it over), and after the Conquest when the British took over, it served as a government house for the British governors. Starting in 1878, it was the Medicine faculty of the Université de Montréal. Picked up in 1895 by the Antiquarian and Numismatic Society of Montréal, the Château was transformed in order to create the museum experience that continues on today.

The Château Ramezay has seen the likes of writer and revolutionary Benjamin Franklin and poet Émile Nelligan come through its doors, as well as its millions of visitors since its first opening.