A 100 sq. mile, 65,000 acre wilderness domain is granted by the King of France to Francois de Laval, Bishop of New France.
In 1801, the land was transferred from the Catholic Church to Québec’s prominent Papineau family, whose figurehead was Joseph Papineau a notary and politician. In 1817, he sold the land to his oldest son, Louis-Joseph Papineau, a famous Quebec politician. The grand Manor House was built and it still stands on the Montebello property today as a historic monument.
Mr. Harold Saddlemire, a Swiss-American businessman from Maine USA acquired the land and founded the Seigniory Club in 1929. He was inspired by a château in the Swiss Alps and envisaged a private wilderness retreat that he dubbed “Lucerne-in Quebec.” The exclusive club grew to 1350 members despite strict selection and high membership fees. The elite membership included reputed Canadian and American businessmen and politicians such as former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, and foreign dignitaries such as Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco. At the time, the presidents of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the National Bank of Canada, the Bank of Montreal, the Royal Bank of Canada and the Premier of Québec, were all club directors. The word seigniory comes from the French and defines the traditional land grant system.
In February of 1930 the site where Fairmont Le Château Montebello now stands was a clearing in the woods. Just four months later, the massive cedar Château was complete: a building feat which captured wide attention, inspiring newspaper features across North America and attracting crowds of onlookers. A Finnish master-builder named Victor Nymark supervised the construction and woodworking teams, who worked in overlapping shifts around the clock, using electric lighting at night. Skilled craftsmen used 10,000 red-cedar logs to build the resort’s three main buildings, all cut and set by hand.
In 1932, Herman “Jackrabbit” Smith-Johannsen assisted in the training of Canada’s Olympic Team. He laid out a 50 km cross country ski course for the Seigniory Club in the property now known as Kenauk Nature and he designed and built a ski jump on the 250-foot Seigniory Club Hill, that was just a bit higher than the one at Lake Placid, New York.
In the 1970’s Kenauk Nature (called Commandant Properties at the time) and Le Chateau Montebello opened their doors to the public for the first time. They swiftly became known as one of the prime luxury resorts in Québec and throughout Eastern Canada.
Together Kenauk Nature and Le Chateau Montebello have welcomed politicians, dignitaries and movie stars including:
Kenauk Nature is proud to be a partner with the Nature Conservancy of Canada whose reputation for protecting wild places is outstanding.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation’s leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Over the next few years, it will be exploring the variety of habitats found on the property to inventory the wide array of plants, birds and animals that reside here. We are excited at the prospect of learning more about the rare species that call Kenauk Nature their home and our guides look forward to the opportunity of sharing this information with our guests.