The Labelle-Desrosiers House
163-167 Promenade du Portage
Before the Great Fire of 1900, there were three houses on this lot, including one that the notary François-Albert Labelle had bought in 1896. On April 12, 1901, he purchased the entire lot and built a beautiful home with an annex for his office. The design, by architect R.-A. Brassard, was an urban adaptation of the neo-Queen Anne style. Later renovations, made without respecting the architecture of the house, have made it unrecognizable.
F.-Albert Labelle (as he signed his name) was born at Saint-Placide, in Deux-Montagnes County. He moved to Hull in 1894, after studying in Rigaud. On September 9, 1895, in Aylmer, he married Augustine, the daughter of Judge Joseph-Timoléon Saint-Julien and Marie-Louise Papineau, a relative of the famous Louis-Joseph Papineau, according to the journalist Ernest Cinq-Mars. Many of their 14 children died young, including René, on June 25, 1911, at the age of 9, and M.-Hélène, on January 6, 1913, at the age of two and a half. Eleven months later, his wife died in turn at the age of 40. His son André was killed in a railway accident between Quebec City and Hull. Louis, Paul, Avila, Marie Aimée and Alberte would survive him. On October 1919, Labelle remarried Alexina Éthier, daughter of Dr. Calixte Éthier and Aglaé Contant.
Whoever has worked on legal files from the first quarter of the twentieth century in Hull knows that Labelle was the notary in almost all the contracts. His records include 53,631 acts, certainly one of the most important documentary sources in the Outaouais region.
Labelle was also a businessman involved in numerous property transactions, both moveable and realty. Upon his death, besides his house and his chalet, he left nine properties and part of Kettle Island, in the Ottawa River. He was on the board of directors of numerous organizations and companies, including the National Alliance, the Argonaut Gold Mine (one of the richest on the continent), the Fuel Lubrication Co., and H. Dupuis Limitée. Around 1930, he left his notarial practice and became acting chief commissioner of the Board of Railway Commissioners for Canada.
Labelle was involved in municipal and federal politics. He was Alderman for District 4 from May 1902 until January 22, 1903, and then for District 3 from January 1904 to January 1906. He ran for mayor in 1905 and in 1906, but was defeated by Stanislas Aubry. He had run in the 1904 federal general election against Wilfrid Laurier who, having taken Wright County by 1,206 votes, abandoned that seat on January 18, 1905 to retain his seat in Quebec City.
Labelle died in his chalet on Blue Sea Lake on July 26, 1933. Several months after the death of her husband, Alexina left the family, selling them the inheritance received as payment of a debt. In 1930, there were nine people living in the house. These included Labelle's children, Louis and Avila, as well as Marie Aimée and her husband, the notary Henri Desrosiers. Alberte Labelle and her husband, Rosario Gaudry, lived in Montreal. In 1940, the two sisters became the owners of the family home after purchasing their brothers' shares.
Henri Desrosiers, the son of the notary François-Xavier Desrosiers and Edwidge Reid, was born in 1893 in Bedford, in Missisquoi County, Quebec. He articled in the office of F.-A. Labelle, in 1919, and married Labelle's daughter, Marie Aimée, on May 11, 1921. His father-in-law, who appreciated him as both a family member and a colleague, rewarded his dedication by leaving him his notarial records, as well as those of two other notaries, Paul-Thomas Desjardins and Henri Desjardins, which had been left with him. By the time of his death, on December 31, 1950, Desrosiers had drafted 40,527 acts. Like Labelle, he was involved in various organizations. He was Grand Chancellor of the Ordre de Jacques Cartier (Order of Jacques Cartier). His son, Pierre, who was born on September 28, 1924 and died in 2004, as well as his grandson, Philippe, followed in the family's clerical tradition.
The youngest child of the Labelle family, Avila, was also a well-known citizen of Hull. He was born on August 6, 1911, in the Aylmer presbytery, where his uncle was a priest. After studying at the College Saint-Alexandre in Rigaud and at Laval University, he entered the bar in 1936 and opened his office on the family premises. He was a Crown attorney in Hull and legal counsel at the Foreign Exchange Control Board, in Ottawa, and then returned to his former position. He was a member of the Rotary Club, the Knights of Columbus and the Youth Chamber of Commerce, and a sponsor of the Théâtre lyrique de Hull (Hull Lyric Theatre). "The artists have lost a great friend", wrote columnist Edgar Demers after his death. He was named a judge of the District Court (Provincial Court) on January 9, 1959, and then co-ordinating judge of the Provincial Court for the districts of Hull, Pontiac and Labelle in 1978. He served there until 1981 and was then appointed to the Federal Tax Court in October 1983. He was a man known for his generosity and sense of humour. He died in March 1998.
The prominent personalities who worked from the Labelle-Desrosiers office indicate the importance of these two notaries in the Outaouais community.