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Waterways served as the primary transportation arteries in 17th-century New France. The St. Lawrence River was the natural route for penetrating deeper into the continent, but peril awaited adventurous travellers not far from here.

Formidable rapids located about six kilometres to the east presented an insurmountable obstacle. The turbulent swells forced voyageurs headed for the Great Lakes region to load and launch their canoes in Lachine. On the return trip, they halted there to unload their cargo of pelts, which was then carted over dirt roads to Ville-Marie (Montréal).

Between 1669 and 1671, the merchants Jacques LeBer and Charles LeMoyne erected a stone building at this stopping place to house their fur trading business. Each of the subsequent occupants of Maison LeBer-LeMoyne altered it to fit the pursuit of their ambitions and dreams.

Beaver pelt

Compliments of Fourrures Pageau, Lachine

Birch bark canoe

Handmade. Inside, a wooden frame supports the sheathing of thin strips of wood laid down length- wise. The five thwarts (crosspieces) are sewn with split roots to the gunwales, which are shaped from three narrow lengths of wood nailed together. The exterior is entirely covered in birch bark, and the joints are sealed with spruce gum. Current research indicates that this canoe was made in the 1950s by the Paul family, members of the Malecite nation.

Bark canoes were of vital importance in territorial exploration and the fur trade. A First Nations invention, these craft were at once lightweight, which facilitated portaging, and resistant, since they could carry up to 1,000 pounds of furs and merchandise.

Restored by Aaron York

Purchase RG-1998-055