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The Butte on the top of the hill

During 1960, Gilles Mathieu suffered a few setbacks. He lost his job in Montreal because of his association with artists known to be “disreputable” and he had grown a beard. Under the pressure of gossip, the owner of the old chicken coop at the bottom of the butte refused to renew his lease. But that wasn’t going to stop him! He was now free to continue elsewhere!

Black and white photo of Gilles Mathieu climbing a pole and installing a La Butte sign.

Gilles Mathieu installs his sign


In the summer, he moved the café-theatre to the top of the butte, in the old door and window factory owned by his father. Larger and better equipped, this location allowed him to pursue his grand idea. He could present new talents and showcase emerging Québec culture by participating in its emancipation.

One of the two mezzanines at La Butte with low tables covered in checkered tablecloths, each with their candle stuck in a Chianti bottle and cushions on the floor.

One of the two mezzanines


A friend suggested calling the place simply La Butte, but it soon became known as La Butte à Mathieu. In addition to presenting singer-songwriters, Gilles Mathieu invited artists to exhibit their first works or make their debut there: painters, enamellers, sculptors, poets, mimes, actors, comedians and jazz musicians were all welcome. The club opened from Friday through to Sunday evenings and some 75 people could attend the various shows and exhibitions for free.

The place was well kept, but the bearded men and the girls in shorts who frequented it, tended to disturb, frighten and even scandalize.

Colour photo of La Butte in winter. Wooden walls and large pane windows are predominant. An old, yellow, 1930s Ford truck is parked at the entrance.

The main buildings