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"Le cercle des villégiateurs" by Marc Walter

Vegetation and pigmented concrete

Chelsea – a vacation destination on the Gatineau River


Since the 1890s, Chelsea has been something of a paradise and favourite destination for holidaymakers. Accessible by train until the early 1960s, it attracted Ottawa residents looking to escape the heat and humidity of the city. In the early 1900s, impressive residences were built on the shores of Meech Lake, Harrington Lake, and Kingsmere Lake, including those of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and the millionaire and inventor Thomas ‘Carbide’ Willson. Swimming and boating continue to be popular activities.


Cottages were also built on the former forest concessions of the hills and shores of the Gatineau River. The owners lived simple lives, without running water or telephones. Chelsea Island had some 30 residences that were once inhabited by the workers of Gilmour’s Mills, and then became a place for families to vacation. Popular pastimes were tennis and lawn bowling on the grounds of the community centre.


Beginning in 1926, the construction of three dams on the Gatineau River resulted in flooding, which affected the islands and riverbank. Many vacationers were forced to move their cottages inland. Logging on the Gatineau River continued to be part of the landscape of holidaymakers until 1993, when the practice was discontinued.


"Le cercle des villégiateurs", 2017, by Marc Walter

This work emphasizes the importance of cottage living in the history of Chelsea and invites viewers to immerse themselves in its past – even live it. The cottages scattered throughout the region are reminiscent of the vernacular structure of the chalet, the memory of the now partially submerged Chelsea Island, and the importance of lakes and water in the activities of vacationers.


Marc Walter is a Franco-Canadian artist who lives in the Outaouais region and is known for his land art works. Through onsite intervention, he invites the viewer to take a fresh look at their surrounding environment. The artist hopes to stimulate a social and personal dialogue between the work and the visitor. Marc Walter has produced numerous installations in Canada and abroad, favouring the creation of collaborative monumental sculptures.

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