Roadwork unearths remnants of 1800s Montreal zoo operate by the ‘Canadian Barnum’ – Montreal

Extensive prior to the Plateau-Mont-Royal became just one of Montreal’s trendiest neighbourhoods, the spot was residence to a 19th-century botanical backyard garden and zoo where Montrealers marvelled at the sight of hippopotamuses, acrobatic circus acts and a reside whale in a tank.

This piece of historical past has resurfaced in modern months thanks to an archeological dig that unearthed what is thought to be portion of a fountain marking the former site’s entrance.

Jonathan Choronzey, an archeologist with the company Ethnoscop, explained the fountain was identified all through roadwork having area on Pine Avenue.

“I really do not know if there’s a vacationer attraction today that would compare,” Choronzey claimed in a cell phone job interview. “It was as substantially English as French, abundant and lousy who could go there to admire the unique animals and the shows.”

Historic records recommend the fountain base was component of 1 of the city’s initial botanical gardens, which was founded by Joseph-Edouard Guilbault in the 19th century.

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Choronzey claimed Guilbault was originally a horticulturalist who moved his backyard garden various situations in advance of landing around what is now Pine Avenue, all-around 1860. At the time, the place was nevertheless largely rural, which gave him plenty of room to expand and involve an exotic animal menagerie and house to host travelling circuses.

Justin Ber, a board member of the historic society for the Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood, explained Guilbault started off out providing unique vegetation to the wealthy but before long branched out to other sorts of leisure.

A poster from 1862 marketed the arrival of the Hippozoonomadon circus, showcasing the “largest elephants the planet,” a hippopotamus, as nicely as horse riding and comedy demonstrates.

The Montreal Herald, meanwhile, offered a glowing account of a tightrope walker named Farini, whose substantial-traveling antics were being so daring that “not a couple of those who silently viewed him appeared awe struck at his temerity,” the reporter wrote in 1864.

Newspaper accounts from the day proposed the entrepreneurial Guilbault even employed an individual to seize a white whale  –likely a beluga– which he planned to transportation to the zoo web-site in a tank by teach.

Jardin Guilbault ad. BanQ.


“The monster is, we are told, as huge as any just one has ever attempted to transfer from a single place to one more,” go through a Montreal Herald short article from May possibly 1863. The 19-foot animal was “larger than the one exhibited by Barnum, and by which he understood such immense profit,” the write-up continued, in reference to P.T. Barnum, founder of the American travelling clearly show Barnum & Bailey Circus.

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The yard on the outskirts of the town incorporated environmentally friendly area in the summer season, an indoor skating rink in the winter season and the travelling circuses. Other historical resources reference a circus university, as well as picnics, balls and theatre exhibits.

“Remember, we’re well just before the creation of cinema, ahead of the invention of radio, so individuals for amusement need to have matters that take place in actual daily life,” Ber claimed.

Bernard Vallee, a historic tour tutorial who has studied the gardens, explained Guilbault as a “Canadian Barnum” who comprehended people’s want to escape their rough life.

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“There was a visionary aspect to this entrepreneur who saw that citizens in a growing city have to have hobbies, need to have nature and, as neighbourhoods develop and a specified city misery exists, they require an escape,” he explained.

Choronzey reported that so much, the fountain is the only merchandise that has been brought up in the course of the dig that can be definitively linked to Guilbault Gardens.

Other than a close by public square named following the founder, which options diving pink hippopotamus sculptures, there is minimal trace of what was at the time one of the city’s initially good amusement parks.

On the other hand, Choronzey mentioned the dig has also brought up items usual of Victorian lifestyle, such as dishware, house foundations and old latrines. He mentioned there is however a lot to discover less than Montreal’s streets, which include traces of historic Indigenous inhabitation, the French routine or Victorian existence –depending on the area.

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“There are constantly rather a several surprises concealed under our ft,” he reported.

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Quebec archeological dig

Quebec archeological dig – Aug 5, 2016

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