Montreal

18th-century village ruins discovered during Turcot construction to be destroyed

The remains of an old village dating back to the 18th century uncovered at the site of the new Turcot Interchange could be destroyed in a matter of days as construction continues at the site.

Ruins from St-Henri-des-Tanneries span two football fields, historical society says

Saint-Henri-des-Tanneries dates back to the 18th century. (Transport Quebec)

The remains of an old village dating back to the 18th century uncovered at the site of the new Turcot Interchange will not be preserved.

Transport Quebec said at a public meeting Wednesday evening the remains of St-Henri-des-Tanneries will be destroyed as construction continues on the ongoing $3.7-billion project.

The village that would later be known as St-Henri-des-Tanneries was founded in the 18th century, but inhabitants had settled there as early as the mid-1600s.

Sarah Bensadoun, a spokeswoman for the ministry, said there will be archeological specialists on site through September working with the artifacts side by side with construction workers.

But ultimately, she said, "there's no possibility for us to keep the ruins where they are now."

"It is not possible for them to stay where they are because it's right where the [water] collector needs to be, near St-Rémi and St-Jacques," she said, adding that Transport Quebec had been aware uncovering old ruins could be a possibility since at least 2008.

After residents voiced their concerns at Wednesday's meeting, Bensadoun said Transport Quebec would once again consult with Quebec's Ministry of Culture about whether the artifacts could be preserved in a museum.

"We heard what the citizens had to say regarding these artifacts and we will be analyzing the situation," she said.

​Guy Giasson, president of St-Henri Historical Society, said his group has long known there were ruins in the area, but couldn't find the funding to conduct an archaeological dig.

He said what's been discovered is "much bigger than we expected," measuring about two football fields in size.

"It's the ruins of the entire village," Giasson said.

"It's the place of the foundation of St-Henri. And we have to go as far as 1680. The first tannery was there at this time."

Craig Sauvé, city councillor for the Saint-Henri–Petite-Bourgogne–Pointe-Saint-Charles district, said he was shocked by the possibility the ruins could be demolished in a matter of days.

He said the borough council adopted a motion asking the Quebec government to try to save as much as possible, while still going ahead with construction on the Turcot without any major delays.

"We don't want construction to cost another billion dollars, but here we have an amazing site, way bigger than we thought it was going to be and way better preserved," he said.

with files from CBC's Lauren McCallum

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