Birthplace of Montreal

National historic and archaeological site

Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex
© Caroline Bergeron

Designated a national archaeological and historic site, Pointe-à-Callière presents centuries of history from the settlements of our Indigenous People to the present day. Located on a spot occupied by humans for more than a thousand years and on the very site where Montréal was founded, the Museum is home to some remarkable architectural ruins that are showcased on site.

Inextricably connected to its site, the Museum owes its development to important archaeological discoveries made in Old Montréal in the eighties. Inaugurated in 1992 as part of the 350th Anniversary celebrations of the City of Montréal, Pointe-à-Callière is the only substantial archaeological museum in Canada. It is also the largest and most visited history museum in Montréal.

In addition to the permanent exhibitions – Where Montréal was Born, Archaeo-Adventure and Pirates or Privateers? – The Museum also presents Yours Truly, Montréal, an avant-garde multimedia extravaganza on the history of the city. Every year, the Museum also holds three national and international temporary exhibitions as well as a full and constantly changing program of cultural activities for young people and families. In addition, the Museum is home as well to a gift shop and restaurant, L’Arrivage. A must see for anyone who visits or lives in Montréal!

A site of great historical importance

On May 17, 1992, Pointe-à-Callière opened to the public on the very spot where the Mass marking the founding of Montréal had been celebrated 350 years earlier, before Sieur de Maisonneuve, Jeanne Mance and their entourage came together on a point of land between the St. Lawrence and a small river that flowed into it.

Until the inauguration of the Museum, only geographers knew about the existence of this point, named in honour of Louis Hector de Callière, third governor of Montréal who had established residence there in 1695. Today, the point has become part of the shoreline of the Island of Montréal, but its name is better known than ever, thanks to the Museum.

A national historical and archaeological site

On May 17, 1998, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada recognized that the Museum is located on “the site where Montréal was born” and that Pointe-à-Callière was an historical site of national importance. This homage also recognized the restoration and improvements made by the Museum. In 1999, the Ministère de la Culture et des communications du Québec officially designated Pointe-à-Callière a national historic and archaeological site. Both these honours are formal recognition of the heritage value of the sites and the Museum.

To find out more about the commemorative plaques awarded to Pointe-à-Callière, please consult Commemorate plagues (in french).

The Museum’s mission is to bring visitors to know and appreciate the Montréal of yesterday and today through outreach, education, conservation and research activities revolving around Montréal’s archaeological and historical heritage, and to build links with regional, national and international networks in these fields, for the benefit of our visitors.

Pavilions and structures

Pointe-à-Callière consists of seven pavilions and structures: the Éperon Building, the archaeological crypt, the Old Custom House, Mariners’ House, the Youville Pumping Station and, as of 2017, Fort Ville-Marie and the First Collector Sewer.

Inaugurated in 1992, the Éperon Building is an inspiring architectural statement, Rising as it does on the foundations of the prestigious 19th century Royal Insurance Company building, the Éperon repeats the triangular contours of its predecessor and features a tower overlooking the Port of Montréal. The building’s foundations are also overlaying even older vestiges of the city including Montréal’s first Catholic cemetery. The building 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.

A portion of the First Sewer Collector in Canada will be restored beginning in 2017 and will become the main artery of the Cité d’archéologie et d’histoire de Montréal by creating an underground network connecting a unique series of architectural and cultural sites. Once completed, the sewer collector that made it possible to take the Little Saint-Pierre River underground in 1832 will become accessible to visitors over a length of 375 metres and will offer a truly dramatic and memorable experience in the bowels of the earth of our city of old. The Museum will open 100 metres of the collector and make it accessible to the public when it is inaugurated on Montreal’s 375th birthday on May 17, 2017.

On this site Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve and Jeanne Mance founded Ville-Marie in 1642 and Governor Louis-Hector de Callière built his residence in 1695. The site was not discovered until Pointe-à-Callière acquired a property dating from the 19th Century and located in proximity to the Museum’s main building in January 2000. The work accomplished on the site by the Pointe-à-Callière Archaeological Field School in partnership with the Université de Montréal from 2002 to 2014 resulted in discovery of the ruins of Fort Ville-Marie and the Callière's Residence that have in turn allowed a more complete understanding of the period in which the city was founded. The Museum will make the site available to the general public thanks to the opening of a pavilion on Place D’Youville in Old Montréal to be inaugurated on May 17, 2017 to coincide with the 375th anniversary of Montréal. Major partner: Québecor.

In the course of archaeological and historical research, were also uncovered fascinating artefacts relating to daily Amerindian and Montréal life, beginning in the 14th Century. The location was also where Montréal’s first marketplace was established in 1676. The archaeological crypt, located in the Museum, beneath Place Royale, features the work of masons and tradesmen over the centuries. The archaeological remains and artifacts in the crypt are part of the permanent exhibition Where Montréal Was Born.

Designed by architect John Ostell, this building dates back to 1837 housed Montréal’s customs house. The building constitutes one of the first architectural elements indicated the British presence in the city. Expanded in 1891, the customs house today is home to the permanent family and school group exhibit Pirates or Privateers? A lunchroom recreates the look of a New France inn of the times, and the Saputo Lunch Space can accommodate school groups and exhibitions. Major partner: J. Armand Bombardier Foundation.

Built in 1953 and inaugurated March 6, 2013 as part of the Pointe à Callière expansion, Mariners’ House can accommodate large temporary exhibits and cultural events. The four-storey building at 165 place d’Youville features large exhibition spaces available for rent, including the spectacular Espace 360° Montréal on the roof of the pavilion. The Museum gift shop is also located here as well as new space for the Foundation, a salon reserved for members and the Archaeo-Adventure simulated archaeological dig for young people and families. Major partner: National Bank.

Constructed in 1915, the Youville Pumping Station is Montréal’s first electric-powered wastewater pumping station. Located at 173 place d’Youville, the building was open to the public in 1998. The neo-classical style, classic Scottish brick facade is home today to an industrial-heritage interpretation centre for school or private groups and can also accommodate private events. Here is also located the Museum documentation centre. Major partner: Hydro-Québec.

Fort Ville-Marie: target 2017

Fort Ville-Marie: target 2017

Building on the Past