In the late 1700s, Montreal prohibited the construction of wooden buildings inside the city’s fortified perimeter. This resulted in the poorest inhabitants being forced to sell their land and move to the “suburbs”. The growth of these out-lying areas, and the demolition of the original city walls, merged the city and its suburbs into one big Montreal – a modern city enjoying its own port, military esplanade, vibrant market (that would later be turned into Place Jacques-Cartier), historical monuments, impressive public buialdings (such as the monument to Admiral Nelson), new courthouse, and the renowned Bonsecours Market.
The early 1800s were heady times for ambitious entrepreneurs. One such one was Joseph Moreau who built a four-story building close to the bustling port in 1889 – the Hotel Le Relais, which eventually became the Hotel Champ de Mars, its present name.
In 1911, Moreau transferred the hotel to two of his children, who immediately rented the hotel to Napoleon Geoffroy. It quickly became a favorite hangout for port workmen and randy sailors anxious for a strong drink and some friendly company.
Later, in 1920, Le Relais operated by Ernest Henry Girard. Along with his brother, he would eventually purchase it in 1960, keeping its original name as Hotel Le Relais.
Until the late 1990s, Le Relais had several owners under many different names. But, in 2000, it was given a new lease on life: Substantial renovations ensured guests would enjoy modern functionality yet still be able to savour its rich history and old world charm. It was also given a new name – L’Hotel Champ-de-Mars.
The Hotel Champ-de-Mars is strategically located at the eastern-most entrance to the Old Port of Montreal. Its address is 756 Berri Street – ‘Berri’ is said to be from Simon Després, who was known as ‘Le Berry’, a wealthy landowner, killed by Iroquois in 1663.
Since 2003, L’Hotel Champ-de-Mars has been under the same ownership and management and has benefitted by many renovations and minor changes over the years. It has always stayed true to its tradition of good service while maintaining its special place in the history of Old Montreal.