Museum complex


Like an archaeological dig, the route visitors take when exploring Pointe-à-Callière is both vertical and horizontal, lined with traces of past centuries. The Museum consists of six buildings and structures: the Éperon, Place Royale and the archaeological crypt, the Ancienne-Douane, the Youville Pumping Station, the Archaeological Field School and the Mariners' House.

1. Éperon Building

Marking the entrance to the Museum, the Éperon building is an inspiring piece of architecture, rising from the foundations of its predecessor – the Royal Insurance Company building. Like that earlier edifice, the Éperon is triangular in shape and boasts a tower that looks out over the Port of Montréal. It houses the reception desk, the Hydro-Québec multimedia theatre, a temporary exhibition hall, a restaurant and, in the basement, part of the permanent exhibition Where Montréal Was Born.

2. Place Royale and the archaeological crypt

Outside, between the Éperon and Ancienne-Douane buildings, lies Place Royale. Archaeological digs and historical research tell us a great deal about the daily life of Natives and the first Montrealers, many years ago. The archaeological crypt lies beneath Place Royale and links the Éperon, the Ancienne-Douane buildings underground and most recently, the Mariners' House. The archaeological remains and artifacts in the crypt are part of the permanent exhibition Where Montréal Was Born.

3. Ancienne-Douane Building

This building, designed by architect John Ostell, dates back to 1836–1837 and originally housed Montréal’s first Custom House (its name means “the Old Custom House”). It was expanded in 1881 and will be home at the end of Fall 2013 to the permanent exhibition Pirates or Privateers?

4. Mariners' House – National Bank Building

The Mariners' House at 165 Place d’Youville, has just recently undergone a great rehabilitation. As part of Pointe-à-Callière's expansion plans, this building was inaugurated on March 6. 2013. It is now hosting new exhibition rooms, the Museum Shop, new room rentals facility, and the Pointe-à-Callière's Foundation's offices, including a new meating place for Members of the Museum.

5. Youville Pumping Station

The Youville Pumping Station, at 173 Place d’Youville (just across the street from the Éperon building), was Montréal’s first electrically operated wastewater pumping station. With its Victorian façade and lovely Scottish brick, it represented a great step forward in the city’s technological and civic development in the early 20th century.

6. Fort Ville-Marie

In January 2000, Pointe-à-Callière acquired the property at 214 Place d’Youville, near the Éperon building. The building dates from the 19th century and was erected in part on Montréal’s birthplace. Since 2002 this has been the home of Pointe-à-Callière’s Archaeological Field School. The Museum’s research there has turned up traces of Callière’s Residence and Fort Ville-Marie. The Museum will be making it possible to access the exact location of Montréal’s birth with the construction of an all-new building at 214 Place D’Youville. This new building will be inaugurated on May 17, 2017, on the date of the 375th anniversary of the city’s founding.


Building today, on yesterday, for tomorrow

The Éperon Building

By “memory” we mean all the work that allows us to preserve recollections of the past, that collective ability to recall the events that marked the founding of Montréal. To respect this memory, the architects took pains to fit the Éperon building into its existing architectural surroundings. The building is a splendid example of integration with its older neighbours; its contemporary architecture respects the proportions of the Royal Insurance Company building that previously stood on this site.

The Éperon building is an extension of all the façades along Rue de la Commune. It conforms with the historic quarter, matching the roof lines and the proportions of walls and openings. Its transparency actually enhances the heritage buildings surrounding it.

The tower of the building, with its characteristic and easily identifiable structure, becomes the central element of the Museum complex.

“The challenge was to build, and preserve at the same time. It was both inhibiting and stimulating,” recounts architect Dan S. Hanganu.

The focal point of the Museum is a contemporary building. This masonry structure was built on top of the underground remains, and the new elements are clearly identified. The Éperon building is supported on a complex system of piles penetrating right down to the bedrock. Its foundations are designed both to preserve the archaeological remains and to allow further exploration in future.

In various locations, openings in its walls give visitors a glimpse of the old foundations on which the new building was constructed. The Éperon building shows how the past and present can co-exist in harmony.

The Mariners' House – National Bank Building

The Mariners’ House located on Place d’Youville, was refurbished by Dan S. Hanganu and Provencher Roy + Associés architectes, the same consortium that designed the Éperon building – the Museum’s main building – and the archaeological crypt beneath Place Royale.

The architects decided to make Pointe-à-Callière fifth building a contemporary, urban structure that blends seamlessly with the Museum’s Éperon, built in 1992.

The façade on Place d’Youville has a two-storey glass curtain wall that brings in huge amounts of natural light and gives the building a sense of transparency, inviting visitors to explore the new space.

The foyer, opening onto a monumental staircase, boasts an original work of art by Montréal artist Nicolas Baier and a multimedia installation designed by Montréal’s own Moment Factory. The many windows on levels 3 and 4 of the building offer fabulous views of the Old Port, the St. Lawrence River and Old Montréal.  

The architects designed this new building to be accessible by day, visible by night and pleasant to visit year-round.

The Ancienne-Douane building

The architects, LeMoyne Lapointe Magne, treated the Ancienne-Douane building like a monument. They managed to conserve its outside walls and its doors and windows, confining all changes to the interior.

The Ancienne-Douane building sits next to the foundations of bygone buildings and the remains of the first fortifications of Montréal. The building was almost square when it was first erected in 1836 by architect John Ostell. In 1881, as can be seen in the basement, it was expanded, the façade being moved several metres forward to de la Commune.

Aside from its Palladian style, the true interest of this old building lies in the textures, finishes, patinas and construction details that today’s architects have integrated into the new structure.

They breathed new life into this treasure and made it still more attractive, renovating in keeping with the tone of the original building.

Here the architects have employed transparency: keeping and exposing the existing framework. All the complex modern heating, ventilation, electricity, humidity control and fire prevention systems are discreetly integrated and hidden away in the attic.

In renovating the building, the architects managed to respect its character and adapt it to the needs of this modern museum.

From : Pointe-à-Callière, Experience the past! / [Editor, Marc Boudreau ; Contributors, Nicole M. Boisvert... et al.]. pp. 30-35

Architects and awards

Senior architect, Éperon and archaeological crypt : Dan S. Hanganu / Provencher Roy, architects

Consulting architect, Ancienne-Douane : Lemoyne Lapointe Magne, architects and urban planners

  • Governor General's Medal for Architecture, to Dan S. Hanganu and Provencher Roy, architects, for the architectural quality of the Museum; the medal was presented to Pointe-à-Callière, 1994
  • Grand Prize from the Ordre des architectes du Québec, to Dan S. Hanganu and Provencher Roy, architects, for the Éperon building and the archaeological crypt, 1993
  • Orange Award from Sauvons Montreal, for the architecture of the Éperon building and its integration into the urban environment, 1992
  • Certificate of Excellence from Event Graphic Design,for the Ancienne-Douane building, in the Environmental Design category, 1992

Fact Sheet

Name Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History

Visual Image

References are geographic (point, uneven shoreline), architectural (triangular footprint of the Éperon building, tower and elevator) and museological (stratigraphy, vertical dimension)

Official Opening
May 17, 1992 (to mark the 350th anniversary of the founding of Montreal).

Average number of visitors
More than 400,000, of all ages, from all over

Total area
14 417 m2 (exhibition space : 6 720 m2)

Theme Montréal, a crossroads of cultures and trade

Exhibitions 4 permanent and 3 temporary each year

Project owner
Ville de Montréal

Master contractor
Société immobilière du patrimoine architectural de Montréal (SIMPA)

Partners Communications Canada
Federal Office of Regional Development (Québec)
Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec
City of Montréal

Project management
Director: Francine Lelièvre, Processus inc.
Project manager, architecture: Yves Roy
Project Manager, research/museology: Sylvie Dufresne

Senior architect
Dan S. Hanganu/Provencher Roy

Consulting architect
Lemoyne Lapointe Magne Architectes et Urbanistes (Ancienne-Douane)

Structural and civil engineers
Nicolet Chartrand Knoll ltée

Mechanical and electrical engineers
Liboiron Roy Caron & Associés inc.

Contractors Construction Fitzpatrick Canada ltée
Construction Canvar
Les entreprises Véral inc.
Les fondations Géodex inc.

Historical research
Raymond Montpetit, co-ordinator
Paul-André Linteau, historian
Jean-Claude Marsan, architect and urban planner
Jacques Mathieu, historian
and their teams

Archaeological research and dig sites Ville de Montréal
Old Port of Montréal Corporation
Groupe de recherche en histoire du Québec
Antiquarian and Numismatic Society of Montréal

Funding Project cost :
Government of Canada (Communications Canada and Federal Office of Regional Development – Quebec): $12,000,000
Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec : $9,000,000
City of Montréal : $6,500,000

Mariners' House – National Bank Building
Technical data