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Gatineau (as of 2006[update] census population 242,124)[2] is a city in western Quebec, Canada, the fourth largest by population in the province (after Montreal, Quebec City and Laval). It is paired with Ottawa, the capital of Canada. It is situated on the northern bank of the Ottawa River, immediately across from Ottawa, Ontario, and is located within Canada's National Capital Region. Ottawa and Gatineau comprise a single Census Metropolitan Area.

Gatineau is a former municipality in the Province of Quebec and the location of the oldest non-native settlement in the National Capital Region. It was founded on the north shore of the Ottawa River in 1800 by Philemon Wright at the portage around the Chaudière Falls just upstream (or west) from where the Gatineau and Rideau Rivers flow into the Ottawa. Wright brought his family, five other families and twenty-five labourers[3] and a plan to establish an agriculturally based community to what was a mosquito-infested wilderness. But soon after, Wright and his family took advantage of the large lumber stands and became involved in the timber trade. The original settlement was called Wrightstown, later it became Hull and in 2002, after amalgamation, the City of Gatineau.

In 1820, before immigrants from Great Britain arrived in great numbers, Hull Township had a population of 707, including 365 men, 113 women, and 229 children. Note the discrepancy in the number of men and women, owing to the male work of the timber trade. In 1824, there were 106 families and 803 persons. During the rest of the 1820s, the population of Hull doubled, owing to the arrival of Ulster Protestants. By 1851, the population of the County of Ottawa was 11,104, of which 2,811 lived in Hull Township. By comparison, Bytown had a population of 7, 760 in 1851. By 1861, Ottawa County now had a population of 15,671, of which 3,711 lived in Hull Township. The gradual move to the Township by French Canadians continued over the years, with the French Canadians growing from 10% of the population in 1850, to 50% in 1870, and 90% in 1920.[4]

The Gatineau River, like the Ottawa River, was very much the preserve of the draveurs, people who would use the river to transport logs from lumber camps until they arrived downriver. (The Gatineau River flows south into the Ottawa River which flows east to the St Lawrence River near Montreal.) The log-filled Ottawa River, as viewed from Hull, appeared on the back of the Canadian one-dollar bill until it was replaced by a dollar coin (the "loonie") in 1987, and the very last of the dwindling activity of the draveurs on these rivers ended a few years later.

Ottawa was founded later, as the terminus of the Rideau Canal built under the command of Col. John By as part of fortifications and defences constructed after the War of 1812. Originally named Bytown, Ottawa did not become the Canadian capital until the mid-19th century after the original parliament in Montreal was torched by a rioting mob of English-speaking citizens on April 25, 1849. Its greater distance from the American border also left the new parliament less vulnerable to foreign attack.

Nothing remains of the original 1800 settlement; the downtown Vieux-Hull sector was destroyed by a terrible fire in 1900 which also destroyed the original pont des Chaudières (Chaudière Bridge), a road bridge which has since been rebuilt to join Ottawa to Hull at Victoria Island.

Two important tourist attractions located in Gatineau are the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Casino du Lac Leamy. In August, the Casino hosts an international fireworks competition which opposes four different countries with the winner being awarded a Prix Zeus prize for the best overall show (based on several criteria) and can return in the following year. At the beginning of September, on Labour Day weekend, Gatineau hosts an annual hot air balloon festival which fills the skies with colourful gas-fired passenger balloons.

There are many parks. Some of them are well gardened playgrounds or resting spaces while others, like Lac Beauchamp Park, are relatively wild green areas which often merge with the woods and fields of the surrounding municipalities. Streams of all sizes run through these natural expanses. Most of the city is on level ground but the Northern and Eastern parts lie on the beginnings of the foothills of the massive Canadian Shield, or Laurentian mountains. These are the "Gatineau Hills", and are visible in the background of the companion picture. One of Gatineau's urban parks, Jacques Cartier Park, is used by the National Capital Commission during the popular festival, Winterlude.

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