National Historic Site of Canada
Enter a doorway to the past. At Port-Royal, intriguing stories about an early French settlement, and the brave explorers that lived and dreamed here await you...
Welcome to the Habitation!
© Parks Canada
First, some orientation...As you arrive at the site, you will notice that the parking lot is in the forefront, washrooms are in the brick building adjacent to the parking lot, the picnic area is to the left, and the Habitation is about 150 metres (500 feet) west of the parking area.
Follow the crushed stone pathway to the right of the washrooms. As you walk through the trees, imagine the forest that would have stood here in the early 17th century.
The monument that honours Membertou © Parks Canada/A. Rierden
Near the beginning of the crushed stone path, stands the monument honouring Membertou, one of the great Mi’kmaq chiefs. Membertou was chief of the Port-Royal area at the time the French built the original Habitation. Along with his people, he helped the French adapt and survive in Acadia. The monument was erected in 1985 to mark the 375th anniversary of the baptism of Membertou and his family into the Catholic faith in 1610.
The large wooden cross you see to the left of the pathway marks the existence, and one of the possible locations, of the burial ground at the Port-Royal Habitation. Records show that Chief Membertou was buried in the Port-Royal cemetery. Now on to the Habitation.
The coats of arms
© Parks Canada/C. Reardon
At the entrance, you’ll find the painted standard overhead bearing the coat of arms of Henri IV, King of France when the Habitation was built in 1605. The coats of arms of the two governors, Sieur de Mons and Sieur de Poutrincourt, are also above the doorway.
© Parks Canada
Once inside the interior courtyard, you’ll see a series of self-contained working and living areas with a well in the centre. The steep pitched roofs are typical of the Norman architecture of the period. The large fieldstone chimneys draw the smoke from the fireplaces.
Window with Bull's eye glass © Parks Canada/S. MacKenzie
Inside the Gentlemen’s Dwelling, you’ll find paintings by noted Canadian artist and historian Dr. Charles W. Jeffreys, depicting life at the Port-Royal Habitation. The room contains an odd-shaped pane of glass in the window. It almost looks like the bottom of a modern pop bottle. This “bull’s eye glass” is the centrepiece of a sheet of spun glass, and it was too valuable to be wasted in those days. Today such glass is prized. A copy of Champlain’s picture plan and map on the wall situates the site and its appearance.
The Forge © Parks Canada/A. Rierden
The blacksmith fabricated the hardware needed to build and keep up the Habitation. If need be, he could fabricate goods for trade with the Mi’kmaq. He contributed directly to the financial well-being of the settlement and was paid handsomely. The large bellows provided a source of oxygen to keep the fire going in the forge. Many of the tools displayed in this room date back to the early 17th century. Glass being expensive, many of the working areas had shaved animal skins treated with oil for window panes. A gravel floor safeguards against sparks starting a fire on the floor. The foot-powered grindstone in the corner was used to sharpen tools. When the Habitation was occupied in the 1600s, metal trade goods and hardware for the buildings were manufactured here using iron brought from France.
The Kitchen © Parks Canada/A. Rierden
Imagine yourself by the fireplace cooking a roast of moose on the spit. Here you’ll find “en colombage” wall construction and a large hearth where the settlers prepared meals. Have you heard about the “Order of Good Cheer”? Let’s go to the Common Room and learn more about it.