In 1705 Claude de Ramezay, the then Governer of Montreal acquired a large estate to build a home. An important figure in New France, de Ramezay commissioned architect and mason, Pierre Couturier to design and build his new home.
The Chateau was built of field stone with three storeys, including a vaulted cellar and attic. Built on a large piece of land the Chateau was surrounded by a garden divided into three equal parts. The garden had an orchard, an ornamental garden and a kitchen garden. The entire garden was surrounded by aromatic and medicinal herbs. A fountain was the centrepiece of the garden.
Following the death of Claude de Ramezay in 1724 his widow leased the property to the government. The house remained in the de Ramezay family until 1745 when it was purchased by Compagnie des Indes Occidentales, a French trading company. Major expansions of the building were undertaken by the Compaigne des Indes Occidentales.
In 1775 the Chateau Ramezay was used by the Continental Army as its headquarters when it seized Montreal. The Continental Army had been created to coordinate the military efforts of the thirteen colonies who were in a revolt against Great Britain. While trying to raise troops to fight with the Americans in the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin stayed at the Chateau in 1776.
Following the British conquest of New France the Chateau Ramezay was again used as the Governor’s residence, this time for the British Governer. In 1878 the building was used to house the Universite de Montreals first Faculty of Medicine.
By 1893 the Quebec Government no longer required the building and it was abandoned. The Chateau Ramezay was rescued from demolition by The Antiquarian and Numismatic Society of Montreal. By 1894 the Society had converted the Chateau into an historical museum and portrait gallery. The Museum and gallery officially opened on May 1st 1895. In 1895 Sir Andrew Taylor, architect and councillor, was commissioned to design alterations to the Chateau. In 1902 to 1904 decorative turrets were added to the building.
The Chateau Ramezay underwent further renovations inside and outside the building between 1997 and 2002, including restorations of the Governor’s Garden. Today the Chateau houses over 30000 objects donated by private citizens of Montreal. The collection includes manuscripts, printed materials, numismatic items, ethnological items, artworks, furniture and prints.
Apart from also housing the first public library in Montreal, the Chateau was the first building to be classified as an historic monument in Montreal in 1929. In 1949 the Chateau Ramezay was recognised as a National Historic Site of Canada and in 2003 it earned the National Award of Excellence from the Landscape Architects of Canada.
The Château Ramezay has been the site of much paranormal phenomenon. Visitors and staff at the Chateau have reported hearing whispers and unexplained footsteps. Staff have found exhibits changed, books knocked from shelves and have smelt sulphur. Some believe that the Château Ramezay is haunted by Anna O’Dowd, a live-in caretaker who died in the Château in 1985.
The Chateau Ramezay is a charming building and represents a portal to Montreal’s past.