Significantly encapsulating the — continuing — history of the Pontiac region
In Mansfield-et-Pontefract, in the Municipalité régionale de comté de Pontiac / Pontiac Regional County Municipality, within Quebec's Outaouais region, is Maison Bryson / Bryson House (1), a 19th century heritage property. Its name recalls a prominent, local lumber merchant named George Bryson (2), a significant player in the opening up of the Pontiac region to commercial forestry exploitation. Born in 1813, his life span had seen immense changes and developments in the region by the time of his death in 1900, with his own business activities in Pontiac having commenced as early as 1835. Thus, in both pre- and post-Confederation times George Bryson was seen as somewhat of a local pillar of society.
The structure, executed in wood, dates from 1854 (3). Features include a conspicuous, centrally placed turret with surrounding balcony and a wide veranda. Its style effuses a strongly symmetrical, Georgian aura; its main entrance recalls typically doorways seen to profusion elsewhere in the former British Empire such as at Dublin, Ireland.
In its time, Maison Bryson / Bryson House, now a local history museum, served other functions as well as residential, such as a Presbyterian meeting place between 1864 and 1884.
In Quebec, Maison Bryson / Bryson House has been recognized as a heritage building since 1980.
In 1995 Quebec narrowly missed Independence after a heated referendum, in which the hesitations of Outaouais region proved pivotal. George Bryson lived through the era of the Patriotes. One wonders whether Maison Bryson / Bryson House would, in the event of a strong, republican current present in Quebec coming to fruition, become something of an administrative symbol of the local authority of such a republic: examples abound at similar buildings in countries such as the Republic of Ireland, with an architectural heritage reaching back to its British past (4).
Maison Bryson / Bryson House is at Route 148, Mansfield-et-Pontefract, Quebec, J0X.
January 19, 2021
(1) See also (in French) : https://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=4248
(2) Other roles which George Bryson fulfilled at various times were that of local mayor and postmaster. He was briefly elected to the Assemblée législative du Québec; he also served as a juge de paix / justice of the peace and in a senior administrative role in the Pontiac region.
(3) The complex includes offices dating from 1845.
(4) In a broader, Anglophone context also, something of the resonance of Thomas Keneally's Memoirs from a Young Republic, Heinemann, 1993 — from the Australian author of Shindler's List — comes to mind.
Also worth seeing
Also in Mansfield-et-Pontefract is, a short distance from Maison Bryson / Bryson House is a covered bridge, dating from 1898, known as the Pont-Marchand / Marchand Bridge; a waterfall known as the Chutes Coulonge is located in the municipality.
Fort-Coulonge (distance: c. 3.6 kilometres) has a skyline dominated by the tower of the Église Saint-Pierre; Spruceholme is a noted 19th century heritage property.
In Gatineau (distance: c. 117.1 kilometres), the Musée canadien des civilisations / Canadian Museum of Civilization is Canada's most visited museum. Gatineau's Masion du citoyen / Citizen's House has a noted art gallery and the Hall des nations / Hall of the Nations containing valuable cultural artifacts from around the world. Parc de la Gatineau / Gatineau Park has exceptional recreational and scenic possibilities.
In Ottawa (distance: c. 119 kilometres) possesses cultural treasures, structures of architectural excellence and noted museums which are too numerous to mention properly here; but a few of these include Parliament Hill, Rideau Hall, the Chateau Laurier, Laurier House, the Rideau Canal, and the Bank of Canada's Currency Museum.
How to get there: Air Canada flies from various North American destinations to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport / Aéroport international Macdonald-Cartier d'Ottawa (distance from Mansfield-et-Pontefract, Quebec: 129.8 kilometres), where car rental is available. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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