Symmes Hotel National Historic Site of Canada
(© Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency, 1991.)
1 Front Street, Aylmer sector, Gatineau, Quebec
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1831 to 1831
1831 to 1973
Event, Person, Organization:
Auberge Symmes Cultural Centre
Research Report Number:
1974-E May, 1976-001B
Existing plaque: 1 Front Street, Gatineau, Quebec
This inn was built in 1831 for Charles Symmes, founder of the town of Aylmer. For many years it was strategically located on the route from Hull to Lake Temiscaming. Travellers stopped here at the inn before crossing to the head of Lake Deschenes by steamboat in summer, or sleigh in winter, and continuing to the trading posts of northwestern Quebec. The outstanding features of this stone building are the long galleries on each side, elegant bell-cast roof and double chimneys. The building was restored between 1978 and 1981.
Description of Historic Place
Symmes Hotel National Historic Site of Canada is a two-and-a-half-storey early 19th century stone inn located at the juncture of Aylmer's (now Gatineau) main street in Québec, and the north shore of the Ottawa River. This charming building has long galleries on each side, an elegant bell-cast roof, and double chimneys. It now serves as a cultural centre for the local community. The designation refers to the building on its legal property.
Symmes Hotel was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1976 because for many years, this hotel occupied a privileged location on the route leading from Hull (now Gatineau) to Lake Temiscamingue.
Symmes Hotel was built in 1831 for Charles Symmes, founder of the town of Aylmer. For many years travellers stopped at the inn, known then as the Aylmer Hotel, before crossing to the head of Lake Deschenes by steamboat in summer, or by sleigh in winter, and continuing on to the trading posts of northwestern Québec. In 1973 the Western Québec Development Society (Societé d’aménagement de l’Outaouais) salvaged the building from ruin and restored it.
The heritage value of Symmes Hotel National Historic Site of Canada resides in its historic associations with its role as an inn and stopping place on a busy early transportation route. Value lies in its form and special features, its materials and composition, its site and setting.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1976, June 1983.
Key features contributing to the heritage character of this site include: its location beside the historic Aylmer Turnpike and the Ottawa River; the two-and-a-half-storey massing of the main building under a medium pitched roof with bell-cast eaves cut by gables and two tall double chimneys, and the one-and-a-half-storey massing of the north wing under a similarly pitched roof; the five bay façades of the main block; its full-length galleries on each long side with a split staircase leading to the piano nobile; the vernacular Georgian details of the main block, notably the elliptical overlight on the the main entry with fan tracery including swag muntins, a six-panel door with ovolo moulding, detailed eave cornices; the coursed squared hammerwork masonry walls of the main block, the rubblestone walls of the north addition, and the wood details of both structures, including the more refined details described above and the simple bead and fillet moulds of the door and window casings; the high quality of craftsmanship evident in the detailing and the masonry work of the main block with its pick-dressed quoins and surrounds and bush-hammered details; the solid wall construction; its continuing function as a public space; surviving evidence of its early interior layout, spatial volumes, and their evolution over time; the integrity of any remaining early interior furnishings and fittings including their materials, craftsmanship and finishes; viewscapes from the inn to Lake Deschenes.