The forgotten theater of Repentigny

An important part of the city of Repentigny’s history is hidden behind the imposing concrete pillars in one of its popular parks on the St. Lawrence River, but their presence there is still a mystery to many.

Truth be told, these pillars are the remains of the Center d’art de Repentigny, which opened in the early 1960s when Quebec was experiencing its quiet revolution and Repentigny, then very rural, was experiencing a cultural boom.

“It was the meeting place in Repentigny, there wasn’t much else, it was very rural,” tells us Caroline Deschamps, who was 17 at the time and recalled the occasional wolves roaming his neighborhood.

The place also functioned as a singing bar, on Fridays young people could also go there, as no alcohol was served there.

“There was no alcohol but a friend brought alcohol and that’s where I had my first drink,” for her part, Ms Deschamps’ childhood friend Nicole David Copley, who was 16 at the time, told us. I came home sick, my mother really wasn’t happy.


An important part of the city of Repentigny's history is hidden behind the imposing concrete pillars in one of its popular parks on the St. Lawrence River, but their presence there is still a mystery to many.  In fact, these columns are the remains of the Center d'art de Repentigny, which opened in the early 1960s.In this summer 2022 photo: the concrete pillars of the Saint-Laurent park, remains of the Center Art Museum in Repentigny burned down on July 26, 1967.

COURTLY PHOTOGRAPHED / Repentigny History Workshop

great artists

But the Art Center radiated well beyond the Montreal suburbs in which it was located. Pierre Lalonde hosted the summer of “Youth Today”, a flagship program of the time. And Félix Leclerc is on the list of artists who have performed there.

Ms Deschamps recalls a rather comical anecdote about an artist who almost took the stage at the Center d’art one evening in the 1960s.

“Tex Lecor was performing at the theater one night, but he’d been staying at a bar and never came,” she recalls. We got the tickets refunded.

end of celebrations

But this cultural experience of repentance lasted only a few years, from 1963, the year the site was inaugurated, to 1967, the year it disappeared due to a tragic fire.

This July 26, 1967 fire killed two young police firefighters and a theater worker.

“It was the theater of all agglomerations and it is certain that this drama caused a stir,” declared François Longpré, President of the Atelier d’histoire de Repentigny.

Two police firefighters, Yves Saint-Germain, 22, and Roger Saint-Jean, 25, died trying to rescue the theater’s caretaker, Napoléon Sainte-Marie, 68, from the blaze.

“I went to Yves Saint-Germain’s funeral, his younger brother was a friend of mine,” recalls Mrs. David Copley, who also knew the other police officer.

Caroline Deschamps also knew the two men who died on duty.

“I remember the drama, it made a big impression on me, I still remember the date,” Ms Deschamps, who is now 72, told us. It made me sad, at this age we are very suggestible.

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