A charitable foundation in Montreal is tearing down the past in order to preserve its memory, as it prepares to honour the city's crumbling Griffintown Horse Palace by building a new stable to keep the site in use.

Originally built in 1862, the Horse Palace was once part of a larger stable that played an important role in the growth of the city. Horses housed at the Horse Palace once hauled goods, carried passengers and cleared snow in the early days of Montreal's history, before the current era of cars and condos.

Decades later, after modernity took over, the urban stable remained in use as a home for caleche drivers' horses.

"It's part of the DNA of the area here," Robert Girard of the Horse Palace Foundation told CTV News. "It's a great place to have a stable in downtown Montreal."

But the crumbling structure simply couldn't hold together any longer, and it had to be torn down. Now, supporters of the Griffintown Horse Palace project are clearing the rubble away, with plans in place to build a new structure on the site of the old one. The structure is expected to open its doors sometime next year.

"We had to have that, because it belongs to history," neighbour Michael Marciano said.

The new barn is expected to pay homage to the Horse Palace's history, and to the memory of Leo Leonard, the last "urban horseman" to own the site. Leonard maintained the barn for decades and frequently resisted pressure to sell it to developers. He died five years ago, but he remains an important figure in the minds of those working to continue his legacy.

Caleche driver Judy Waldon, who keeps her horse at the stable, says rebuilding the site would be a fitting tribute to Leonard.

"Little pieces of Leo will still be there," she said.

With files from CTV Montreal bureau chief Genevieve Beauchemin