Roadworks excavate remains of 1800s Montreal Zoo run by ‘Burnum of Canada’


Long before Plateau Mont-Royal became one of Montreal’s trendiest neighborhoods, the area was home to 19th-century botanical gardens and zoos, where Montrealers enjoyed hippos, acrobatic circus performances and live whales in tanks. I was amazed at the appearance of

Part of this history has resurfaced in recent weeks thanks to archaeological excavations that unearthed what is believed to be part of a fountain marking the entrance to the former site.

Ethnoscope archaeologist Jonathan Choronzey said the fountain was discovered in road construction Held on Pine Avenue.

“I don’t know if there are any tourist attractions today that can compare,” Choronzey said in a telephone interview. He was as British as a man.”

Historical records suggest that the fountain was one of the city’s first botanical gardens, founded by Joseph-Édouard Guilbeau in the 19th century.

According to Choronzey, Guilbault was originally a gardener and moved the garden several times before landing near present-day Pine Avenue around 1860. Space for holding a traveling circus.

Gilbert started by selling exotic plants to the rich, but soon branched out into other forms of entertainment, according to Justin Barr, director of the Historical Society of the Plateau Mont-Royal district.

An 1862 poster advertised the arrival of the Hippopotamus, “the world’s largest elephant,” as well as the Kavazoonomadon Circus, which featured horseback riding and comedy shows.

Meanwhile, the Montreal Herald ran a glowing article about a tightrope walker named Farini. His high-flying antics were so daring, a reporter wrote in 1864, that “many who watched him quietly seemed to be in awe of his brutality.” ing.

According to a newspaper article of the day, entrepreneur Gilbourt has even hired someone to capture the likely beluga whale, which he plans to put in a tank and transport by train to the zoo grounds. was.

An article in the Montreal Herald of May 1863 stated, “This monster is said to be as large as any man who has ever tried to move from one place to another has ever attempted.” It is written. And with it he realized huge profits,” the article continued, referring to PT Barnum, the founder of the American travel show Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Gardens on the outskirts of the city included green spaces in the summer, an indoor skating rink and a traveling circus in the winter. Other historical sources mention circus schools, picnics, balls, and theatrical shows.

“Remember, we live long before movies and radio were invented, so entertainment-seekers need real life happenings. says Ber.

Bernard Vallée, a historic tour guide who studied the gardens, described Guilbeau as “the Barnum of Canada” and understood the need for people to escape the hardships of life.

“There was a visionary side to this entrepreneur. Citizens of a growing city needed hobbies, they needed nature, and as neighborhoods developed and certain urban misery existed, they I realized I needed an escape,” he said.

So far, it’s the only item that was brought out during the excavation, which may be clearly linked to the Guilbault Gardens, Choronzey said.

A nearby public square named after its founder is adorned with a sculpture of a diving pink hippopotamus, but little remains of what was once one of the city’s first large amusement parks .

But the excavations also uncovered items typical of Victorian life, such as tableware, house foundations and old toilets, Choronzey said. He said there is still much to discover beneath the streets of Montreal, including ancient Indigenous settlements, the French regime, or traces of Victorian life, depending on the area.

“There are always quite a few surprises hidden under our feet,” he said.

Morgan Raleigh

canadian press