Montreal

Saint-Henri historical society wants to keep newly uncovered artifacts where they were found

The artifacts are remnants of the Saint-Henri-des-Tanneries village. The village was founded in 1670 and poulated by various leather merchants, such as tanners and shoe-makers. 

Transport Ministry archaeologists found remnants of five buildings underneath the Turcot Interchange

Transport Ministry archaeologists found remnants of five buildings directly underneath the Turcot Interchange, on St-Rémi Street north of St-Jacques Street.  (Submitted by Guy Giasson)

A historian with the Saint-Henri Historical society says he wants the City of Montreal to do more to preserve and showcase newfound artifacts that date back to the 18th century. 

"I'm sad because what was announced is that everything will be extracted and [placed] in other places. Nothing will be left on the site," said Guy Giasson, historian and president of the Saint-Henri Historical Society. 

The artifacts found this summer are remnants of the Saint-Henri-des-Tanneries village. The village was founded in 1670 and populated by various leather merchants, such as tanners and shoe-makers. 

Transport Ministry archaeologists found remnants of five buildings underneath the Turcot Interchange, on St-Rémi Street north of St-Jacques Street. 

One building is part of a tannery dating back to the 18th century. 

The artifacts are remnants of the Saint-Henri-des-Tanneries village. (Saint-Henri Historical Society)

Two are part of 19th century houses.The two other buildings are not yet dated. 

Transport Ministry archaeologists are digging and cataloguing traces of the village, and the artifacts will eventually be handed over to the City of Montreal. 

It's not the first time remnants of the tannery village have been found; in 2015, around 130,000 items were dug up near the same site, just south of St-Jacques. 

"This time it was a very small area compared to what they found in 2015," Giasson said. 

He and the historical society say they've asked the city from the beginning to leave everything that was found in its place.

Giasson hopes that one day in the future, an underground museum can be erected on the site itself to display the buildings and artifacts.

The city organized a temporary exhibition at the Saint-Henri Library last fall to display some of the artifacts from the 2015 excavation. About 80 artifacts were exhibited, including dishware and leather shoes. 

In the mid-19th century, Saint-Henri became the second bedrock of industrial leather production in Canada. (Saint-Henri Historical Society)

"For me it's only a drop in the 130,000 specific items they found," Giasson said. 

Giasson says the artifacts should remain in Saint-Henri, where they were found. 

"It's not the property of the Transport Ministry; it's not the property of the City of Montreal; it's the property of Saint-Henri," he said, "of the people who lived there before."

He's hoping the artifacts will be brought to the historical society, which he is confident can preserve them in the best way possible.

Giasson says he's awaiting an answer from the city. 

The city says it's considering various ways to display the new artifacts.

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