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Chez Henri
179 Promenade du Portage

Chez Henri

The structure that preceded the current building burned down in the Great Fire of April 26, 1900. Dr. Louis Duhamel, Representative for Ottawa County from 1875 to 1886 and Protonotary at the Registry Office from 1886 until his death in 1915, had lived there since 1882. When the Registry Office was moved into his house in 1888, he put up the sign in French, which was a first. The first two floors of the current building were built in 1901 for Duhamel and his wife, Exilda Lapierre dite Mazurette, and their two children, Oscar and Rachel. The boy became ill and predeceased his father, who left the property to his daughter.

Louis de Gonzague Raby, named protonotary in 1916, bought Rachel Duhamel's house in February 1917. That September, he married Alexina Bourque, daughter of the contractor Joseph Bourque. Two years later, they moved from the house on Main Street, which would become law offices. Jean Lacroix and J.-Adélard Tessier acquired the property in 1922 but never lived there. In 1924, Tessier transferred his interests to Mary Pichard, a grocer.

In October 1928, the house was purchased by Henry Burger, an internationally renowned chef who had studied with the great chefs Escoffier and Ballard. Burger was born in Switzerland in 1879 and immigrated to New York in 1895. In 1910, he moved to Montreal, and then to Ottawa, where he worked at the Chateau Laurier. He opened his first restaurant on 127 Main Street in Hull in 1922. His charm and talent attracted a prominent clientele. Burger went into partnership with several businessmen and founded Chez Henri Limited on May 2, 1929. He became president of the company.

Chez Henri opened its doors in 1929, in a specific social context. Investors sought to establish hotels in Hull, because, with the exception of Quebec, prohibition was in effect across North America (1919-1933) ? especially in Ontario where a Temperance Act had been passed in 1916. Quebec law required these establishments to have at least 20 rooms in order to be granted a liquor license. Beautiful homes, like that of E. B. Eddy, were enlarged to meet this requirement. In the fall of 1930, the Chez Henri Company hired the architects Richard and Abra and the contractor Théodore Lambert, who was also the Mayor of Hull, to transform the house, adding another storey and a roof in "Renaissance castle" style. The luxurious interior had a very Parisian atmosphere. Using the latest technology, telephones were installed in all 32 rooms; and the dining room, the Salon d'Or, had an excellent reputation. Diners were expected to wear formal attire. The Chez Henri Hotel and Café offered business lunches and fine French cuisine.

The depression bankrupted the company. Burger left the hotel in 1932, and opened a new restaurant on Laval Street, the Café Henry Burger. He died in Hull in November 1936, at the age of 59.

A new company, Hôtels Chez Henri Ltd., obtained his business patent on February 16, 1933 and, on March 25, bought the hotel from the trustees of the former company. The new company had several shareholders, which sometimes produced confusion as to the identity of the hotel's owner. Some of the shareholders pushed themselves to the forefront. In 1935, one of the partners Frederick G. Johnston, who had been a lieutenant colonel in the First World War, was known as the owner. He hired a flamboyant manager, Charles Swan, who organized shows and dances at the hotel in order to attract clientele from Ontario

The most famous of the owners was undoubtedly James Patrick Maloney (1894-1983), who also owned Standish Hall. He became a partner in Hôtels Chez Henri and acquired Johnston's shares in December 1943. Maloney was a master at real estate deals. He would borrow, sell and transfer, but he kept this property until he died. On December 30, 1982, the company sold the building to Hôtel Standish Hall Inc., which belonged to Maloney. He died on April 10 of the following year, in his penthouse apartment in the hotel.

For many years, the hotel attracted a specific clientele, the judges and lawyers of the law court across the street, as well as others with a less than glowing reputation. In 1984, Denis Cayer and Walter Grego bought the building, claiming that they wanted to restore it to its former glory. This was unfortunately not the case, and the interior was demolished. The building was finally closed in the 1990s because of the unsavoury characters it attracted. The City of Gatineau declared it a historic monument in January 2003.