Montreal

Group wants to save Horse Palace

Efforts are underway to buy up a unique equine landmark in the heart of Griffintown, Montreal's once-thriving Irish industrial district.

Efforts are underway to buy up a unique equine landmark in the heart of Griffintown, Montreal's once-thriving Irish industrial district.

The Griffintown Horse Palace Foundation hopes to raise enough money to buy the neighbourhood's famous stable, which is still working 147 years after its construction.

"What we want to do is to keep the stables [and] restore them," as a heritage site, explained Juliette Patterson, a landscape architect who heads the foundation. "Perhaps integrate other services such as zootherapy, or other opportunities for people to interact with the horses, because that again is unique — you don't really find that in the city."

The foundation had an art auction Wednesday night to raise money and draw attention to the project.

Horse Palace owner Leo Leonard says he's too old to run the stable. ((CBC))
The Horse Palace is still home to a handful of horses, but its future existence was at stake during talks two years ago between the city of Montreal and Devimco, a developer that wanted to raze and rebuild Griffintown from the ground up.

Devimco's multibillion-dollar urban redesign included plans to demolish the Horse Palace and build condominiums and stores in its place. But the bulk of those plans is on hold in light of the economic downturn, and offered a unique chance for palace lovers to save the site from demolition.

Current owner Leo Leonard says he still loves the horses, but as an octogenarian, it is time to sell because "I'm too old, and my legs...I fall all the time," he said.

The foundation wants to buy the facilities from Leonard to keep the stable running, and hopes to interest Montrealers.

"It feels like you're going into the country, but in the background, you can see the skyscrapers of Montreal," Patterson said. "It's very close to downtown Montreal, and yet, completely a different world."

The foundation is also interested in creating a museum in the stable's next-door building to showcase the lives of 19th-century Griffintown workers, Patterson said.

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