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The origins of the Butte à Mathieu

In 1959, Gilles Mathieu saw his project of a café-theatre become a reality. Friends from Val-David began to meet there to discuss, play music and have fun. He rented the old chicken coop for $25 a month. On November 28, after having furnished and decorated it, the café opened its doors. Its beginnings were modest: a wood stove for heating, a kitchen with no running water, a frugal menu for anyone starving and no entrance fee. A hat was passed around for whoever was providing the entertainment. A toilet was available at the nearby Val-David train station and Gilles drew water from the well at his parents’ house.

Black and white photo of half a dozen customers sitting in the first Butte building. A candle stuck in the neck of a Chianti bottle sits on a coffee table. The beams are exposed.

The first Butte


In spite of all the difficulties, success was immediate. The first artists to frequent the café were mostly promising young talents. After a show, because they couldn’t go home in the middle of the night, friends and spectators sometimes slept on cushions at the Butte. Gilles Mathieu recalls:

Black and white photo of Jean-Pierre Ferland singing, in a jacket and tie.

Jean-Pierre Ferland

“It was a warm and intimate scene, as much for the audience as the artist, who sat in a corner, guitar in hand, as if in his own living room, without a sound system. He would play his songs without pretense, heartily spitting out his lungs, all the while dreaming of a career.”





Black and white photo of two men and a woman playing chess on a table at La Butte surrounded by several other people.

Chess game, cigarettes, candle in a bottle of Chianti and coffees