Historical Houses Walking Tour (Self Guided), Quebec City

Often referred to as the cradle of New France, Québec City has one of the richest architectural heritages in North America and is particularly evocative of Europe in its atmosphere. Most of the city's architecture, however, had to be adapted to harsh winters and the lack of specialized workers and materials in the colony; as such, most houses were designed as simple and efficient before anything else. While not overly extravagant, the more developed buildings in this walk stand out among the rest, and will give you a wonderful glimpse into the lives of several pioneers of Canadian civilization.
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Historical Houses Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Historical Houses Walking Tour
Guide Location: Canada » Quebec City (See other walking tours in Quebec City)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: susan
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Chevalier House (Maison Chevalier)
  • Louis Jolliet House (Maison Louis Jolliet)
  • Maillou House (Maison Maillou)
  • Duke of Kent House (Maison Kent)
  • Tetu House (Maison Tetu)
  • Sewell House (Maison Sewell)
  • Louis S. St. Laurent Heritage House
  • Henry-Stuart House National Historic Site
Chevalier House (Maison Chevalier)

1) Chevalier House (Maison Chevalier)

The mid-18th-century classical French Maison Chevalier is another fine example of urban architecture in New France. A former hotel, it was the first building in the Place-Royale area to be restored in the 1950s. The current structure is really three separate houses from three distinctive periods: Maison de l'Armateur Chevalier (home of a former shipowner), built in a square in the 1750s; Maison Frérot, with a mansard roof (1683); and Maison Chesnay, dating from 1660.

All three houses were repaired or partially rebuilt following the British Conquest. As a group, they were rescued from deterioration by Gérard Morisset, the influential director of an art works inventory, who suggested that they be purchased and restored by Québec's government, which in turn has prevented the demolition of the Royal Square itself.

With the iconic Château Frontenac visible in the background, this is an excellent place to walk around while soaking in the area's beauty and history. During the Quebec Carnival in February, it's also a great place for traditional music evenings.
Louis Jolliet House (Maison Louis Jolliet)

2) Louis Jolliet House (Maison Louis Jolliet)

One of the earliest dwellings in Old Québec (1683), this house was built after the great fire of 1682, which almost completely razed Basse-Ville. It was this tragedy that prompted authorities to require all buildings to be made of stone and equipped with firewalls. Among other things, the decision resulted in the spread of first suburbs outside city walls, since poorer settlers could not meet the costly new requirements and were forced to move out of town.

Now containing the lower platform of the Old Funicular and selling various trinkets, the house is named after Quebec-born explorer Louis Jolliet (1645-1700) who achieved international fame in his lifetime as the first non-Aboriginal person, together with Jacques Marquette, to travel and map the Mississippi River. The first person of European parentage to accomlish such feat, he taught hydrography at the Séminaire de Québec during the last years of his life. A document dating from 1720 also recognizes the fact that "he played the organ and had taught several people from the seminary to play."
Maillou House (Maison Maillou)

3) Maillou House (Maison Maillou)

Located at 17 Saint-Louis Street in the historic district of Old Québec, this building was built around 1737 by Jean-Baptiste Maillou – one of the French regime's most prominent landowners and masonry contractors. It took on the appearance we know today after an upper storey was added in 1767 and an extension was built in 1799.

In 1815, the residence became the property of the British Army. During this period, it housed the commissariat and treasury, and accommodated senior officers until the troops left in 1871. After that time, the federal government took possession of the building, which notably became the headquarters for the militia and army for almost 60 years. Note the metal shutters used to thwart weather and unfriendly fire.

While access to the site is restricted, the courtyard and the outbuildings, where a restaurant is located, are accessible to the general public. A pamphlet and commemorative plaque provide the houses' history.
Duke of Kent House (Maison Kent)

4) Duke of Kent House (Maison Kent)

Built in the mid-17th century (1648) by the Chartier de Lotbiniere family, this might be Québec's oldest building. It's most famous for being the house in which France signed the 1759 capitulation to the British forces. Ironically, the house was occupied by France Consulate General before being turned into a tourist lodging. Its name comes from the Duke of Kent, Queen Victoria's father, who lived here for a few years at the end of the 18th century, just prior to marrying Victoria's mother in an arranged liaison. His true love, Madame de Saint Laurent, was with him in Maison Kent, which has since underwent a number of renovations.
Tetu House (Maison Tetu)

5) Tetu House (Maison Tetu)

The Maison Têtu is a particularly elaborate example of the many large, urban town houses built for prosperous Canadian merchants during the mid-19th century. It was designed in 1852 by Charles Baillairgé, a member of a celebrated family of architects who, beginning in the 18th century, left an important mark on the architecture of Québec City and its surroundings.

The house's Greek Revival facade, a masterpiece of the genre, is tastefully decorated with palmettes and discreet laurel wreaths. The main floor has huge bay windows that open onto a single expansive living room in the London style. From the time of its construction, the house incorporated all the modern amenities: central heating, hot running water and multiple bathrooms. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of "The Little Prince", was hosted here by the De Koninck family in the early 1940s.
Sewell House (Maison Sewell)

6) Sewell House (Maison Sewell)

Built in 1803-1804 and inspired by British Classicism, the Jonathan Sewell House illustrates early 19th-century development in Québec's upper middle-class settlement of Upper Town. The original owner, a lawyer, was appointed Solicitor General and Attorney General of Lower Canada before becoming Chief Justice and Chairman of the Executive Council in 1808. The Sewells had 16 children who were educated here, but the home was also known for hosting political debates.

In the early decades of the 19th century, the construction of dwellings for Anglophone elites introduced a new architectural vocabulary that included neoclassical elements such as symmetrical openings, low-pitched roofs, and a restrained appearance. The Sewell House's architectural character, as well as its well-crafted ashlar masonry construction, mirrors the penchant for British classical design so evident in nearby military buildings.

The property's official recognition also refers to the adjoining buildings, including the Saint-Louis barracks at the rear, and the Squash Ball Court, former workshop, garages and warehouse, built in different eras along the property's west border.
Louis S. St. Laurent Heritage House

7) Louis S. St. Laurent Heritage House

This elegant building was the home of Louis S. St. Laurent, Prime Minister of Canada from 1948 to 1957, who lived in it until his death in 1973. After a brilliant career of over 35 years as a lawyer, he was appointed as Minister of Justice in 1941 and elected as Member of Parliament the following year. As Prime Minister, his constitutional expertise, his achievements on the international scene, and his social and economic policies transformed Canada into a modern nation that soon became a full member of the United Nations, NATO and the new Commonwealth.

Due to its historical and architectural importance, as well as the environmentally privileged place it occupies, the house's heritage value was officially recognized in 2001. While the exterior evokes the cubism of early 20th-century "Four Square" houses, the interior plan and finish clearly reflect the former occupants' professional status, including the high-quality woodwork and fireplaces. Further illustrating the lifestyle of high-class families in 1950s Québec City are period furnishings, costumed guides, and several multimedia touches.
Henry-Stuart House National Historic Site

8) Henry-Stuart House National Historic Site

Take afternoon tea and cake in this charmingly authentic 19th-century cottage – one of the few remaining Regency-style Anglo-Norman cottages around. This type of colonial British architecture is distinguished by a large pavilion roof overhanging a low veranda surrounding the building.

Built in 1849 for Mrs. William Henry, the wife of a rich wood merchant, the house – which once used to mark the border between city and country – is now found on one of the biggest boulevards, but inside it has retained its elegant and rich decor. There are only a few rooms to visit, but the collection they house is amazing, with actual items that the Stuart family owned and used. Tours of the building and the original garden give visitors an idea of what life was like for well-to-do English families in Québec at the turn of the 20th century, as well as of how quickly the world has changed.

It's also lovely to have lemon cake and tea on the veranda at the end of the hour-long tour!

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