THE CITY OF
THE MISGUIDED TOUR
part VII … QUEBEC'S HIDDEN GEMS
It's no great feat to find this concrete monstrosity that I was looking for. It's not as if it's well hidden (which is quite a shame if you ask me)
So here we are, and the first thing to do is to count the storeys. Yes - there are indeed 16, and so that tells you that this is the Price Building - or Edifice Price, the first skyscraper to be built in the city. By the way, one thing that you will have to become used to is that there are no immeubles or bâtiments anywhere in Francophone Canada - just plenty of édifices.
The Edifice Price was designed by two Architects from Montreal, namely Ross and MacDonald and the only thing that I can think of is that they produced the design of this building on instructions from the city of Montreal as some kind of spoiler in a game of Inter-City Rivalry because, quite frankly, I think that it is appalling. One of these tourist guide things that you find awards this building one star, would you believe? I would love to have a pint of whatever it was that the author was drinking when he was writing up his notes.
Built in 1930 in "the Art-Deco style then in fashion", so we are told, and if this is "style" or "fashion", then I'm a Dutchman, mijnheer. As far as I am concerned, it has all the appeal of Albert Speer's "Bunker School of Architecture", or Comecon architecture of the early 1950s, with no redeeming features. It certainly has no place here in Québec, if you ask me, although many other people of course disagree - Ross and MacDonald to name but two.
In case you are wondering, by the way, the building was named after the company, Price Brothers, that occupied it upon completion. This was the company that opened up the Saguenay area by taking advantage of the timber resources there, developing the wood and paper industry in that region.
During our wander around the city we've seen plenty of buildings that have been described as "typical Québecois buildings of the 18th Century", and although they all started out as single-storeyed buildings, they all seem to have grown another storey some time subsequently - which makes me wonder how it is that they can be so described. That is clearly another story.
However, just down the hill from the Edifice Price on the corner of the rue Cook and rue St Aimé is a really gorgeous green and cream building. The irony of this is that I have been unable to find out any information at all about it, so I am not able to give you any hint as to its origins, but the single storeyed construction, with a mansarded roof (but that of course is another story - or storey), makes me wonder whether or not it might be far more of a "typical Québecois building of the 18th Century" than any that we have seen so far
You will of course notice that it seems to be hemmed in by a couple of more-modern buildings, in which case it also makes me wonder exactly how this area must have looked before the construction of that awful skyscraper just up the hill. Furthermore, cynic that I am, I also wonder how long it will still be here before someone sticks another concrete monstrosity over the top of it.
Wandering away from my little corner, I find myself face-to-face with this large building, which apparently is the Town Hall.
I suppose that the skip, or dumpster for my North American readers, being right outside the town hall must be symbolic of something. Perhaps I ought to organise a competition for my readers to suggest a few things that could be put in it, cynic that I am. If you have a good suggestion, .
So back to my street corner because the view of the building was rather better from there and we had some kind of bizarre sculptures instead of the skip.
The Town Hall was designed by Georges-Emile Tanguay and built in 1896t on what was formerly the site of the former Jesuit college and church. You are probably astonished, just as I am, when you realise from the dozens of former religious sites all over the city just how strong and pervasive the influence of the religious bodies must have been back in those days,
On the outside of the Town Hall is a notice board giving, inter alia, information to visitors. One thing that surprised me, although it shouldn't have done, knowing what I know about North America, is that "Americans" - people from the USA - are referred to officially as Etasuniens
Yes, throughout the continent there's quite a resentment about how people from the USA have appropriated the term "American" to describe themselves, and deny the same term to anyone else living on the continent. I remember once trying to order a garden shed for my plot of land in New Brunswick from a company proudly advertising that "we deliver to all parts of America", and being told "sorry - we don't deliver to Canada", and many other people have told me many similar stories.
Yes, it's no real surprise that "Americans" from the USA recently "won" a poll for being the most hated people on the planet.
There are a couple of small alleyways off the streets that are around the Town Hall, and so I went for a wander into some of these little crooks and nannies to see what I could find lurking there before I continued on my way.
This is rather twee, isn't it? It looks very much like a typical Québecois fieldstone building of the late 18th Century if you ask me, and as I said just now, it makes me wonder what this whole area might have been like before some of the "improvements" to this area following the building of the Town Hall and the Edifice Price.
Continuing our little wander down the hill we find yet another church. This is the church of St Andrew and that will tell you almost immediately that there is some kind of connection with Scotland - he being the patron saint of that country and the "Andrew" not being a recognised name in the French language.
It's a Presbyterian church and was built in 1810 to cater for the religious needs of the Scottish population of Québec, the Fraser Highlanders having garrisoned the city for some considerable time after its fall to the British. Such was its popularity that in 1823 it was necessary to enlarge the building.
The Scots are of course famous for their socialising and so you will rarely see a Scottish church without its church hall - or maybe I should say kirk hall - and St Andrews is no exception. There's a kirk hall just across the road from the corner of the rue Cook and the rue Dauphine.
This is another beautiful stone single-storeyed building which deserves far more recognition than it receives. But then again, it's stuck in a corner down a back street away from the usual tourist beat with not a single tourist trap - boutique, souvenir shop, coffee house, trendy restaurant - within a quarter of a mile. You can't expect tourists to come down here.
The view of the kirk hall from the other side is even more appealing. The block paving in the street and in the carpark, together with the low stone wall, do set it off quite nicely, which is quite a change when you consider many other "modern enhancements" that we have seen elsewhere on our travels.
The setting of the church is improved by the small park too.
In the centre of this tiny little square you can see a statue. It seems to be called Hommage aux Baillairgés - "Honour to the Baillairgés">, a family that we have encountered on many occasions during our travels.
The Baillairgés concerned are
The statue was designed by Jean-Louis Baillairgé (1918 - 1998) who was the seventh generation
You might be wondering what a statue to the famille Baillairgé might be doing here in this little square, but if I tell you that this building just here, to the left of the sqare in the above photo, was designed by Francois Baillairgé, you'll know exactly what the building in the photo below is, and what the significance of the statue might be.
Yes, well done that man. This is indeed the old Quebec prison, and where we met Francois before was at another one of his works - the old prison at Trois Rivieres .
This prison, built 1808-1814, was said to be the first in Canada to be run in accordance with the principles of John Howard, the prison reformer, and was in use until 1861 - in contrast to the prison at Trois Rivieres which, despite having been condemmed as unfit at the beginning of the 20th Century, was still in use as recently as 1986
When the prison was taken out of use it was sold to one Joseph Morrin. He was the prison doctor and also, for a time, Mayor of Quebec. It became a college for young Anglophones until 1902 and is now the Headquarters of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec. It serves as a cultural centre, and holds the English library and many historical records and archives.
I wonder if it might have a copy of Lanouiller's map of the route of the Chemin du Roy. I shall have to make further enquiries.
Continuing my little wander around this forgotten and unexplored part of Quebec, I stumble across this beautiful stairway that forms a continuation of, if my orientation is correct, the rue St Stanislas.
As you know from our walk around the walls earlier, it's quite a steep climb in places, and right down there at the bottom is the Dauphine Redoute and the old barracks that we visited earlier.
But this is the building that I have come here to see.
It's the old Temple, a former Wesleyan Methodist Church dating from 1848 and is said to be the first neo-Gothic religious building in Quebec. It is to be found on the corner of the rue Dauphine and the rue St Angele. Our stairs, by the way, are right behind it.
It came into the hands of Senator Lorne C Webster who donated it to the city in 1944. Having undergone considerable repair in 1946, in 1949 it became the Headquarters of the Institut Canadien.
It also sees use as a Francophone cultural centre, municipal library and conference venue. Occasional concerts and theatrical plays are performed here too.
And I'm sure that you are all wondering who St Angele is, too. Well, so was I and so I went off to enquire. I can now tell you that she lived from 1474-1540 and was the founder of the Ursuline Order, which has a major presence in the city.
We're retracing our steps and going down the ... errr ... steps that we just saw, into the rue St Jean and turning to the right, towards the city centre
When we reach the far end of the street we can turn round for a look back the way that we have just walked, and there away in the distance we can see the Porte St Jean. That, you may remember, is where we started our tour this morning.
If we wanted to go back to catch our bus, then we could simply walk down there to the other end. But we aren't going to do that quite yet as we still have plenty to do before we can go back to our motel. There is still a great deal to see, and we need to get a move on.
So turning back round again to continue our journey, this is the view that presents itself to us. We want to go on up to the top of the hill and turn to the right.
But you can see, in this photo and the previous one, what I mean about the rue St Jean being nothing but trendy boutiques and chic restaurants. This is definitely the place to be during the lunch break. and if you want to find your souvenir de Quebec.
At the top of the hill looking down a little side-street to the Rivière St Charles, which you can just about see down there at the end, it will not escape your notice that this street seems to be relatively untouched.
Apart from the main thoroughfares, where all the buildings seem to have been all fitted out as shops and trendy restaurants, this is pretty much what the area is like.
The street lamp on the side of the building to the left seems to be a relic of the Victorian Age. In fact it wouldn't take too much imagination to conjure up an image of a flickering gas flame, a typical London pea-souper, and Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson emerging from the shadows.
Now we need to turn around and see what there is behind us. You won't be disappointed.