The French set up a fort at the fork of the Richelieu and St. Lawrence rivers, the site of today's city of Sorel-Tracy.
The establishment of a permanent settlement is a success. The toponomy reminds us of two people linked to the origin of the settlement, Pierre De Saurel, the founder of the 1665 fort, and Alexandre de Prouville de Tracy, the military commander who ordered the fort to be built.
The village that arose from the fort maintained the French character to the end of the 18th century.
From 1787 to 1860
Loyalists and some German soldiers who served the British Crown mixed with the local population. Sorel was even called William-Henry!
The arrival of this minority, which included several merchants, allowed the region, which had been almost uniquely agricultural at that point, to industrialize. This is how the small old borough became a regional centre where various industries and businesses associated with names like Sheppard, Beauchemin, Simard and Wilkie established themselves over the years.
Sorel-Tracy still has some artefacts that are reminiscent of the era where various cultures came together and mark the location of the city's industrial expansion:
- Christ Church
- carré Royal
- Maison des Gouverneurs
- old American consulate
- old Molson bank
Maison des Gouverneurs
In 1781, General Frédérick Haldimand acquired the seigneury of Sorel as crown property. He had barracks and a house built on the property. The first residents of Maison des Gouverneurs were Baron and Baroness von Riedesel.
To carry on a tradition from her country that involved decorating a fir tree for Christmas, Baroness von Riedesel started something unique in North America. In fact, since 1781, nearly all North Americans decorate a tree to celebrate Christmas.
The Baroness, who many affectionately called Lady Fritz, planted 200 fruit trees and grew vegetables on a large portion of land that she had turned into a garden. "Everything grew beautifully and every night, we would go into the garden and pick 150 to 200 cucumbers that I pickled. This method for preparing them was not known to Canadians and I took advantage of this and gave them as gifts
The house in question is located on the banks of the Richelieu River, on chemin des Patriotes. But it was not always called the Maison des Gouverneurs. It was also called La Maison du Duc de Kent because the father of Queen Victoria, Duke Kent, used it as a summer residence.
The Maison des Gouverneurs is the most important historic monument in the city of Sorel-Tracy. In 1926, it was turned into a museum and was opened to the public in 1933. The museum has a rich collection of prints and documents. It contains nearly 1,500 pieces, documents and engravings that refer not only to the history of Sorel, but also to that of the entire province. However, in 1957, Mr. Ferron decided to sell the contents of the museum to cover an operating deficit.
In 1959, the municipal council of Sorel, with the approval of the Commission des sites et monuments historiques du Québec, restored the building and officially inaugurated Maison des Gouverneurs the same year. Today, Maison des Gouverneurs houses the tourist information office for the Sorel-Tracy region and an exhibition centre.
Parc du carré Royal
In 1785, Major John French, a military engineer, drew up the plans for the park in the shape of the Union Jack (the English flag). Then, the park was only used for military purposes.
In 1801, trees were planted at the request of Sorel residents and in 1858; the officers fenced in the park and placed turnstiles at the entrances to prevent cattle from entering. In 1868, it was opened to the public and in1869, the first band stand was set up.
The first Sorel band concert took place in 1878. In 1940, a new band stand was built and benches and street lamps were installed. Finally, on March 24, 1961, the carré Royal was classified as a Québec historic site.
Today, the carré Royal is a fresh oasis at the entrance of the business sector where various activities take place. In winter, the park is transformed into a skating rink. The city of Sorel-Tracy also lights up the many trees in this magnificent park which is the envy of all visitors and makes Sorel residents proud.
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