The Théâtre de l'Île
2 Wellington Street
Brewery Creek and its water were formerly private property, divided between the two Wright heirs. In 1872, E. B. Eddy bought a share from one of them, and the island on which the theatre now stands belonged to him when the City of Hull decided to build an aqueduct there. For several years, five water porters transported drinking water from street to street in a large barrel on a cart, and filled the citizens' water barrels or kegs. After 1875, they drew some of the water above the Chaudière Falls. There was some concern regarding the safety and adequacy of the drinking water supply for a growing population, from sources polluted by industrialization.
Despite these concerns, the devastating fires in Hull in 1885 were the main motivating force behind the decision to build an aqueduct. After the fire of 1886 destroyed the city centre, Eddy gave the city the island in Brewery Creek, at the end Wellington Street, for the construction of the aqueduct. Mr. Sutee, an engineer from Ottawa, drew up the plans; George Millen, the Eddy engineer, installed the turbines, two steam pumps and the reservoirs; Télesphore Séguin lay the 12.7-cm pipes under the streets; and Mr. Laverdure extended the service up to area where houses were built. After the fire of 1888, the width of the conduits was doubled and two pumps were added. In 1896, the pumps of the E. B. Eddy factory were connected to the aqueduct so that service could be maintained in the case of extraordinary demand. These precautions, however, proved useless against the Great Fire of April 1900.
In 1896, the water porters drew 15,295 barrels of water from the public cistern, because the houses were not yet connected to the aqueduct system. When the aqueduct pipes were installed, ceramic sewer pipes were laid 15 centimetres below them. However, it appears that some of these sewer pipes drained only the streets, because in 1891, during the construction of the law court, some taxpayers in the neighbourhood asked that the sewer lines be connected to every house.
The water pumped by this aqueduct had already proved insufficient for a rapidly growing city. In 1897, the fire prevention committee, aware of the inadequacy of the aqueduct, suggested that more powerful electrical pumps be installed at the Brewery Creek falls. The Great Fire of April 1900 preceded this project, and the original aqueduct was not able to save the city, despite the courage of the city employees. Three of them, François Bélanger, Paul Miron and Isaïe Trudel, remained at their posts to maintain the water pressure in the hydrants, even while two of them saw their own families battling the fire.
This aqueduct was used after the opening of the water tower in 1905. Ten years later, Honoré Dumontier, a smith who had his shop on the nearby bank, occupied the building. In 1928, Hull's civil engineers used it for storage. In the 1940s, the Hull coroner had his office and his laboratory there. After 1950, the Hull branch of the Canadian Legion held its meetings there. Finally, a discotheque preceded the Théâtre de l'Île.
On January 11, 1974, the City of Hull officially inaugurated the Théâtre de l'Île with the aim of providing a meeting place and a centre for the city's theatrical community. A month later, on February 19, a fire destroyed the interior of the building. The general committee of the City Council and the National Capital Commission immediately approved the reconstruction of the theatre, which was re-inaugurated on June 24, 1976.
This is the only theatre in Quebec belonging to a city. It supports a troupe completely dedicated to the service of the community and offers theatre lovers an opportunity to learn and perform. Gilles Provost, artistic director since 1976, has worked in theatre since 1956, having written or contributed to hundreds of productions in the region. Every season, the Théâtre de l'Île puts on more than 225 performances. Its theatre school has enabled more than 70 people to become members of the Union des Artistes (Actors' Union). Today, the Théâtre de l'Île and its garden have become a cultural landmark in the city of Gatineau.