Gatineau Mills
Mo Laidlaw
Where in the new city of Gatineau would you expect to find a heritage area where even the trees are protected? On June 5, 2005, as part of the 40th congress of the Fédération des sociétés d’histoire du Québec (FSHQ), Michel Prévost, president of the Société d’histoire de l’Outaouais, and Richard Bégin, president of the Musée de l’Auberge Symmes in Aylmer and the newly elected president of FSHQ, led a tour of this heritage area, Gatineau Mills, immediately to the east of the huge Bowater plant.
The paper mill
In 1925 the municipality of Templeton-Ouest reached an agreement with Canadian International Paper Company (CIP) to build a paper mill. Construction began in 1926 and was completed the following year. At first the CIP mill specialized in pulp for paper; later plywood and cardboard were added. One of the largest pulp and paper mills in Canada, it gave its name to a new residential area - Gatineau Mills. In 1933 the name of the sector was officially proclaimed as the municipality of the Village of Gatineau.
A planned community
Gatineau Mills was built as a company town, with separate areas for workers and management, and following the town-planning ideas of Ebenezer Howard. Howard originated a movement in 1898 in England, to create ideal “garden cities” where the advantages of living in town or in the country would be combined. Architects inspired by the movement separated vehicle traffic and pedestrians. Using lanes at the back of the houses gave controlled access to vehicles while large front yards, planted with trees encouraged pedestrians.
At Gatineau Mills the residential architecture used the Arts and Crafts style with local materials and building styles. Today the Poplar/James-Murray area is a striking example of pleasing urban landscape, a bit like a small-scale Island Park Drive (in Ottawa) without the traffic. Supervisors and management of the factory, mostly anglophones from New England lived here.
From 1927 the surrounding area underwent a major change as francophone mill workers increased in numbers. Several francophone and Catholic institutions moved in, notably the Soeurs Grises de la Croix, the Saint-Jean-Vianney school board and the Frères de l’Instruction chrétienne. The parish of Saint-Jean-Marie-Vianney was created in 1928. Later, when the mill expanded, the smaller houses of the workers’ area of the planned community were demolished.
Heritage site
After the company sold the houses at Gatineau Mills, local residents asked the city of Gatineau to make the whole area including the trees a heritage site. There is an interpretive plaque in French on Poplar road, showing an original plan and an aerial photograph taken in 1926 before the trees were planted. Other roads on the plan are Park Avenue and Maple Road, renamed in 2003, and rue Vianney. Park Avenue is now rue James-Murray, named after the mill manager whose house (the biggest) is still there. Maple is now rue Jean-René-Monette. On rue Main there is another historical plaque near the original administration building of the paper mill.


A view along rue Poplar

A typical house on rue Poplar