Centre d’histoire de Montréal

Montreal, Canada | C.1983

Photo Credit: Anthony Proulx

Housed in a former fire station, the Centre d’histoire de Montréal was a museum dedicated to the history of Montreal and its inhabitants. Established in 1983, the Centre was created in part to drive both the cultural development and rehabilitation of Montreal’s historic district. Fast forward 40 years later, the impactful museum is rehabbing itself too. 

Originally built in 1904, the Centre’s building – formerly known as Montreal’s Central Fire Station – was designed by architects Joseph Perrault and Simon Lesage. Inspired by several architectural styles, Perrault and Lesage infused Flemish character into the design. The facade consists of buff sandstone, red brick, a mansard roof, and a square tower. The station operated until 1972.

Around the same time, the City of Montreal and the Quebec Ministry of Cultural Affairs were working on a plan to revive the city’s historic district involving archeological excavations, revitalizing abandoned industrial areas, and later on, the Centre. By 1983, the Centre had been established and soon moved into the former fire station, showcasing over 4,000 artifacts unique to Montreal.

In the late 2010s, it was announced that this humble museum of Montreal history would be reorganized and moved into a new space on the corner of St. Laurent and Sainte Catherine while the old firehouse would seek a new tenant. Given a new name,  MEM—Montrealer’s Memory Centre, the museum is opened in 2023 with the intention to build a collection of personal histories and stories of the city’s diverse array of citizens. Now housing public spaces for civic discussion and various exhibitions on “Montreality,” it’s a museum that has grown with the city it has and will continue to meticulously archive, trading static artifacts for the dynamic city-dwellers themselves. 

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