19th century duck-themed fountain donated to Montreal now lies stagnant in Sud-Ouest borough

·3 min read
The fountain adorned with ducks is expected to remain dormant until next summer after a storm in June caused permanent damage to its mechanical chamber.   (Kwabena Oduro/CBC - image credit)
The fountain adorned with ducks is expected to remain dormant until next summer after a storm in June caused permanent damage to its mechanical chamber. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC - image credit)
Kwabena Oduro/CBC
Kwabena Oduro/CBC

Stroll through Saint-Paul park in Montreal's Sud-Ouest borough and you'll come across what is supposed to be its centrepiece: a 19th century cast-iron fountain that travelled from France and features ducks. Lots of ducks.

Just don't expect any water to spout from those beaks. The fountain has been shut down since a storm on June 17 damaged its internal workings.

Knowing the long journey it took to get to Montreal and all the years it took to restore, Astrid Abelé says it's hard to see the fountain that's been in her family since the 1800s in such a destitute state.

"It's a shame," Abelé said. "It's a beautiful beautiful thing and it has come from so far away."

While the borough blames the storm for the outage,  Abelé says the fontaine has been in and out of operation since its inauguration in 2019.

"It seems very lonely," Abelé. "The whole neighbourhood is waiting for the fountain to come back. That's why I've been hearing."

The fountain, designed by her great-great-grandfather, Jean-Marie Alphonse Brémont, was brought over from her family's farm in eastern France when her father, Xavier Abelé, immigrated to Montreal in 1976. He donated it to the city in 2008.

Kwabena Oduro/CBC
Kwabena Oduro/CBC

The cast-iron structure, which weighs nearly 800 kilograms, had to be dismantled to make the voyage. The city spent years restoring it, then announced in 2017 that it was donating it to the Sud-Ouest borough as part of Montreal's 375th anniversary celebrations. The actual unveiling happened in 2019.

"It was beautiful, I mean the water was flowing and it was absolutely beautiful," Abelé said. "It had something very poetic to me. The water, it just adds something magical to the whole environment."

Her late father wasn't around to see it come back to life but her mother was able to attend the ceremony before her passing.

Out until 2023

Some parts of the fountain need to be replaced and repaired, and because of the complexity involved it might only be functional next summer, a spokesperson for the borough said.

Kwabena Oduro/CBC
Kwabena Oduro/CBC

"It's kind of upsetting that it has been working on and off," said Christina Michalsky, a resident in the area. "It is really nice to see it when it is on."

Water would usually spurt out of the ducks' beaks, and at night it would light up the park.

"It is always nice to come at night when it's lit up, and it just looks really beautiful in the park and bounces off the trees."

René-Pierre Beaudry just moved to the area and was by the fountain on Friday taking photos of the ducks.

"I saw the signs and I thought that it would be a momentary lapse and that it would get fixed pretty soon but talking to the neighbours I see it has been inactive all summer," he said.

Photography gives him the chance to appreciate the beauty that's all around him — even if it's muted.

"The fountain adds this sound, this movement. I'd be really nice," Beaudry said. "Until it's functional it doesn't really have its full value."

Denis-Carl Robidoux/Centre d'histoire de Montréal
Denis-Carl Robidoux/Centre d'histoire de Montréal