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The Maison Bélanger-Girardin

For the week of Monday January 19, 2004

On January 24, 1673, Nicolas Bélanger received a concession in the Fargy borough, in the seigneury of Beauport, one of the first seigneuries in New France. On this tract of land, he immediately built a small log house that would be transformed throughout the 18th century. This house is a very good example of traditional French-inspired architecture in Canada.

Map detail of the "Carte du gouvernement du Québec" drawn in 1709 by engineer Gédéon de Catalogne. This section shows how the coastal lands of New France, between Québec, Beaupré and the tip of l'île d'Orléans.
© Virtual Museum of New France, Canadian Museum of Civilization, www.civilisations.ca

In 1627, France established the seigneurial system in order to populate its North American colony. To do this, the State granted land to the nobility, clerics, military officers and civil administrators who then became seigneurs. Robert Giffard was one of them. He arrived in New France with some hundred colonists, including Nicolas Bélanger, and founded the seigneury of Beauport in 1646. Thanks to Giffard’s hard work and that of his inhabitants, the Fargy borough became one of the three permanent villages in the St. Lawrence Valley.

According to the principles of the system, the seigneur had to develop his land. Since he could not do it alone, he would give long and narrow tracts of land located close to a water course for colonists (called censitaires) to develop. These censitaires, however, had to comply with certain conditions under penalty of losing their land. They had to build a house, live in it and continue cultivating the land. In 1673, Bélanger, originally from Normandy, built himself a log house. As was customary at the time, this house was handed down from father to son until 1722, after which various proprietors made a number of changes to it. In around 1727 and 1735, the house was enlarged by two stone additions and the original log house disappeared.

Maison Bélanger-Girardin
© Parks Canada/ HRS 950-18

In 1884, Ignace Girardin added dormer windows and made some other changes, and then handed the house down to his nephew. In 1925, the property was passed to the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre‑Dame in Montréal. Finally, the City of Beauport acquired and restored it in 1983-84. As it stands today, this stone house is representative of the homes built by French colonists in the 18th century: it is small, with stone walls, few openings and a roof with a very pronounced angle.

This small house is a very good example of the type of property built under French rule in the former seigneury of Beauport. The Maison Bélanger-Girardin was designated as a national historic site of Canada in 1982.

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