Our history, our museum

Our history, our museum

Learn about our origins, our rich heritage and the inspiring lives of Dorimène and Alphonse Desjardins.

Discover the birthplace of cooperation in this 15-minute virtual tour - This link will open in a new window. and learn about the origins of the very first cooperative group in North America. This video visit will offer you an in-depth look at the lives of Alphonse and Dorimène Desjardins, founders of Desjardins Group. Delve into their history, and witness it as though you were there.

The history of Desjardins Group is thoroughly intertwined with that of modern Quebec. For over 100 years now, the development of the Desjardins network and the diversification of its activities paralleled the social and economic boom of the province. Desjardins, one of the biggest financial groups in Canada today, has always been true to the philosophy of its founder: to contribute to the well-being of individuals and communities.

Alphonse Desjardins, founder of caisses populaires, was born on November 4, 1854, in Lévis. Over the course of his lifetime he was in the military, a journalist, editor of Legislative Assembly of Québec proceedings and French stenographer at the House of Commons in Ottawa. Building on his personal experience in the area of association and local development in Lévis, he began seeking a financial solution to the socio-economic problems of his fellow citizens.

By championed the idea of cooperation to curb usury1, improve conditions for the working class and contribute to the economic development of French Canadians. After much research, he founded the first caisse populaire in Lévis on December 6, 1900.

He died on October 31, 1920, after personally helping found 163 caisses populaires in Quebec, 18 in Ontario and at least 9 in the United States, not to mention a few credit unions.

Learn more - Alphonse Desjardins (1854-1920)

1. The practice of lending money at unreasonably high interest rates

Alphonse Desjardins in 1913 Alphonse Desjardins in 1913 (A.G. Pittaway, FCDQ)

Dorimène Desjardins was born on September 17, 1858, in Sorel. She married Alphonse Desjardins on September 2, 1879, in Sorel, and their union yielded 10 children. Like many women of her time, she lived in her husband's shadow. But each time the opportunity arose, she played an important role in the promotion of caisses populaires.

Between 1903 and 1906, in particular, she managed without title or salary the Caisse populaire de Lévis. After her husband's death in 1920, many called upon her to interpret his thoughts. This led Dorimène to acquire great moral authority, particularly with officers of Quebec City area caisses who consulted her on verification practices and the idea of a central caisse.

She died on June 14, 1932, in Lévis. She can in many ways be considered the co-founder of Desjardins caisses populaires.

Learn more - Dorimène Desjardins (1858-1932)

Dorimène Desjardins in 1913 Dorimène Desjardins in 1913 (A.G. Pittaway, FCDQ)

View an illustrated timeline of the historical milestones of the pioneers of the cooperative financial group, from its onset to today:

  • Before the caisses (1844-1900)
  • First steps (1900-1920)
  • Consolidation and growth (1920-1944)
  • Gaining strength (1944-1971)
  • Innovation, growth and change (1971-2000)
  • Renewal and expansion (2000-today)

Learn more - Timeline

The founder of Desjardins Group, Alphonse Desjardins was the figurehead of the fledgling caisse network until his death in 1920. He held no official title other than president of the very first caisse.

The presidents who followed left their mark on the history of Desjardins Group. Each worked in a different context with his or her own skills and experience.

Learn more - Desjardins Group presidents

Desjardins Group's logo has evolved throughout its history, all the while retaining some basic elements. In addition to official logos, Canada's leading financial cooperative has used a variety of images to represent the brand.

Learn more - Logos

The history of Desjardins Group is a broad subject. If you'd like to know more, here is some suggested reading. You can also read an original text composed by Alphonse Desjardins.

You can direct questions about Alphonse and Dorimène Desjardins, the history of Desjardins caisses and Desjardins Group to Alphonse Desjardins Historical Society, which offers historical consultation services.

Learn more - Works and articles

Desjardins Group officers created Alphonse Desjardins Historical Society in 1979. Its mission is "to safeguard and promote the history and heritage of the Desjardins Group and its founder, for the benefit of current and future generations".

Alphonse Desjardins Historical Society focuses on 3 main areas of activity: the safeguard and promotion of the heritage left behind by Alphonse Desjardins, Dorimène Desjardins and their successors, historical research and historical interpretation.

Its services are available to Desjardins Group officers, personnel and members, to cooperators in Canada and abroad and to the general public.

Alphonse Desjardins Historical Society employs historians who research the history of Desjardins Group and the lives of Alphonse and Dorimène Desjardins.

Alphonse Desjardins Historical Society also offers advisory services such as processing information requests, providing support for the research and writing of historical documents about Desjardins Group, and carrying out historical studies.

Feel free to contact us.

Aware that they were taking part in a lasting endeavour, Desjardins Group officers always saw the importance of conserving traces of the past. The collections held by Alphonse Desjardins Historical Society are the result of a long tradition of conservation.

Alphonse Desjardins Historical Society collections now include over 6,000 artifacts.

The collections include property previously owned by Alphonse Desjardins, Dorimène Desjardins and their descendants, objects that depict the material culture of the founder's era and the history of Desjardins Group, as well as an important numismatic1 collection.

A glimpse at the diversity of our collections

1. Relating to coins and currency.

Discover Desjardins's heritage buildings

Many buildings in Old Lévis played an important role in the history of Desjardins Group. This guided tour showcases 10 buildings that are an essential part of our story. Enjoy!

Download the Lévis tour (PDF, 4.31 MB) - This link will open in a new window.

Loans of artifacts

If you are part of an organization dedicated to promoting history and heritage and want to highlight a chapter in the history of Desjardins Group, Alphonse Desjardins Historical Society can loan you a few artifacts from its collections to enhance your exhibit.

To learn more, contact us.

Donations of artifacts

Alphonse Desjardins Historical Society collections come primarily from donations made by descendants of Alphonse Desjardins and Dorimène Desjardins, Desjardins Group caisses and components, and people who either played a significant role in the history of the institution or want to enhance its collections.

If you would like to contribute to the conservation of Desjardins Group's collective heritage, contact us.

The Maison Alphonse-Desjardins is a museum devoted to promoting the origins of Desjardins Group and the history of its founder and co-founder, Alphonse Desjardins and Dorimène Desjardins.

It was the Desjardins family residence for more than half a century and housed the head office of Caisse populaire de Lévis from 1900 to 1906. It was between these walls that the project to found the first savings and credit cooperative in North America was developed.

Since it was built in 1883, the house served many purposes. It was a private residence for nearly 100 years and in 1981 became the property of Société historique Alphonse Desjardins.

Since it was opened to the public 30 years ago, several thousand visitors from here and abroad visit the house each year to learn its fascinating history.

Read all about the history of the residence in Maison Alphonse-Desjardins: Where it all began (PDF, 8.13 MB) - .


The Maison Alphonse-Desjardins holds a unique place in North America's collective heritage. The cradle of the cooperative savings and credit movement, it was the site of significant historical events. It was visited by several influential people and saw the start of what would become the largest cooperative financial group in Canada.

The significant heritage and historical value of this commemorative site has been pointed out several times. The Maison Alphonse-Desjardins is a "recognized museum," a "cultural property" classified as a "historic monument" whose first owners, Alphonse and Dorimène Desjardins, were each designated a "National Historic Person." It housed the head office of Caisse populaire de Lévis, whose founding was recognized as a "National Historic Event."

A commemorative site to discover
Photo: Jacques Beardsell

The Maison Alphonse-Desjardins invites you to take an intimate look at the history of a couple who, through their commitment and tenacity, worked to achieve a great dream.

The house was painstakingly restored in the Victorian style, transporting visitors back to 1906 when the Desjardins family lived there and operated the head office of Caisse populaire de Lévis out of their home. Guided tours give visitors an opportunity to see the context in which the major cooperative project emerged and a glimpse into the family's domestic world.

The permanent exhibit, The legacy of a couple, features the inspiring biographical journey of Alphonse and Dorimène Desjardins. It includes artifacts, photos and recordings depicting the defining events in the couple's history and that of the caisses populaires. It is, for visitors, a touching encounter with the cooperators who faced many challenges to leave their fellow citizens a precious legacy.

The Maison Alphonse-Desjardins offers customized, dynamic tours that reflect the unique character of the site. The museum is open year-round and admission is free.

Learn more - about visiting the Maison Alphonse-Desjardins

Permanent exhibit: The Legacy of a Couple
Photo: Marie-Michelle La Rue
Maison Alphonse Desjardins kitchen
Photo: Martin Bergeron

Holiday time with the Desjardins family

The Maison Alphonse-Desjardins has been decked out for the holidays! Get set for fascinating discoveries about the decorations, meals and customs from the colourful era in which the Desjardins family lived. Visitors will also be served plum pudding.

For twice as much fun (and cake!), you can also take the kids to visit the Maison Alphonse-Desjardins. Join our search for funny elves, and create an ornament for the tree!

From November 21, 2023, to January 7, 2024

Free admission – Reservations required for groups of 8 or more

Maison Alphonse-Desjardins, 6 Rue Du Mont-Marie, Lévis

418-835-2090, ext. 5562507 | By email

Inaugurated in 1950, the building in the heart of Old Lévis was designed to be a living monument to Alphonse Desjardins' glory. A genuine symbol of unity, it housed all Lévis-based Desjardins Group under the same roof.

Today, the Art-Deco inspired building houses Desjardins Group historical archives and museum collection preservation facilities. On the ground floor, there's a free exhibit open to the public, highlighting the rich historical heritage of Desjardins Group and Quebec society in the post-war period. The exhibit includes artifacts and archival photos and videos.

Come discover Desjardins Group's vibrant history by visiting our exhibit.

The POP-SAC-À-VIE…in the footsteps of a movement exhibit features over 100 objects and paper and audiovisual archive documents that illustrate the economic and social contributions of Desjardins, its educational role and deep, regional roots.

See the POP-SAC-À-VIE virtual exhibit - External link. This link opens in a new window.

Free guided tours

You can view the Desjardins Building exhibit on your own. Pick up an audio guide and listen to short capsules at various points as you walk through. You may also make a reservation for a guided tour by contacting Société historique Alphonse-Desjardins.

Desjardins Building business hours

Note: Desjardins Building is closed on holidays.

Open on weekdays. Reservation required.

Desjardins Building is accessible to people with reduced mobility.

Photo: Claude Côté
Desjardins Group
Photo: Claude Côté
Desjardins Group

For more than 30 years, we've been offering free educational activities to preschool, elementary and high school students. The tours take place at the Maison Alphonse-Desjardins, the Desjardins Building and online.

What students learn about on our tours:

  • The history of Quebec at the turn of the 20th century
  • Cooperative values
  • The life and work of Alphonse and Dorimène Desjardins

Planning a visit?

We can help you coordinate a joint activity with us and one of our cultural partners. You can reserve a room for the students to eat lunch. Reservations are required for all our educational activities.

  • Free activities
  • Flexible schedule
  • English tours on request
  • Historical monument
  • Wheelchair accessible

Contact us


By phone

1-833-572-2088, ext. 5562507

View the activity booklet

See our educational activities