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Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux
National Historic Site

Structure and Organization of the Forts and Châteaux

The Saint-Louis forts and châteaux site is complex. It consists of three elements: the forts, châteaux and gardens. There were a total of four forts and two châteaux. After the last château burned, the ruins gave way to three successive terraces.

Four forts

The first fort

The first fort to occupy the top of the cliff at Quebec City was the one Champlain constructed in 1620. It consisted of a few wooden buildings surrounded by a palisade.

The second fort

Champlain began expanding his facilities in 1626. This second fort was surrounded by ramparts of wood and soil.

The third fort

The third fort was constructed in 1636 by Charles Huault de Montmagny, who covered the second fort's earthen ramparts with stonework. Construction lasted 24 years, finishing in 1660.

Description of the fort, Quebec 1635 Description of the fort, Quebec 1635 by Jean Bourdon.
© Library and Archives Canada, H12/340, Quebec 1635

The fourth fort

Governor Frontenac undertook in 1692 construction of the fourth Saint-Louis fort following admiral Phips' siege of Quebec. The enceinte was completed in 1693 and would not change until 1759, when the British army once again attacked Quebec. From the late 1680s to the end of the French regime, the Saint-Louis fort sheltered a small garrison of at most 25 men as well as the governor's personal guard of 17 soldiers.

In 1762, governor Murray indicated that the Saint-Louis fort no longer had a defensive value. It was therefore not strengthened. Only the part overlooking the cliff was stabilized.

Instead, from 1779 to 1783, during the American War of Independence, British soldiers constructed a temporary citadelle on Cap Diamant where the current Citadelle is located. The Saint-Louis fort therefore lost its defensive function. In 1782, the cannon balls stored in its court were moved to the temporary citadelle.

Two Châteaux

The first Château

The first Château was built by governor Charles Huault de Montmagny in 1648.

The fort and chateau St. Louis The fort and Château St. Louis by Jean-Baptiste Franquelin in 1683
© Library and Archives Canada, H4/350, Québec, 1683.

Champlain's former corps de logis was razed and materials recuperated for the governor to construct a single-storey stone building 28 metres long by about eight metres wide. The river side of the building had a terrace for receiving dignitaries and other guests. In the late 1680s, despite expansion work, the château was in an advanced state of disrepair.

The second Château

Beginning in 1694, the count of Frontenac, who was governor, began reconstruction work, building on the foundation of Montmagny's former Château. The new building had two stories and a slate roof. It was extended by about seven meters in 1700.

The chateau St. Louis The Château St. Louis, anonymous, ca. 1700.
© Library and Archives Canada, C-4696.

Between 1719 and 1723, work was completed by adding a new pavilion and two wings. The structure was then worthy of a 17th century French château due to its symmetry, balance, and pavilion roof. The building retained its terrace.

The chateau according to Chaussegros de Lery The Château according to Chaussegros de Lery, 1723
© Library and Archives Canada, C-1575

The second Château suffered the throes of bombardment in 1759. Located atop the cliff, it was a choice target for British artillerymen. In 1766, according to residents of rue Sous-le-Fort, located just below the château, it risked falling into ruins. Only the southern two-thirds of the building were repaired. The terrace overlooking the river wasn't reconstructed until 1775-1777.

The chateau according to James Hunter The Château according to James Hunter, ca. 1775
© Library and Archives Canada, C-1506

The northern third of the building was rebuilt only in 1798.

Governor Haldimand divided his time between the château Saint-Louis and a new building he commissioned next to Place d'Armes, located by the old ramparts below the current Château Frontenac. The new building, which was named after him, incorporated a former powder magazine converted into a kitchen, so that the building was Y-shaped. It was constructed with stone between 1784 and 1787 and featured three floors and a simple architecture.

Haldimand's and Saint-Louis Château Haldimand's and Saint-Louis château, ca. 1800
© Parks Canada, Duberger and By model

Governor James Craig devoted the building to administration. For his accommodations, he restored the second château Saint-Louis, between 1808 and 1811, adding a third floor. Its décor and composition featured a neo-Classical style, with pediments, porch columns, Palladian windows, a central door, gambrel roof, symmetry of design, and smaller windows on the top floor. On January 23, 1834, the building fell victim to fire.

The ruins of the chateau The ruins of the Château, ca. 1836
© Library and Archives Canada, C-1038


The upper garden

Beginning in 1648, governor Montmagny created a garden to the southwest of the Saint-Louis château, close to the current Fairmont Château Frontenac hotel. It was divided into islands, with crossing alleyways. According to 17th century plans, it measured 86 by 75 metres.

Chateau and gardens Château and gardens ca. 1700
© Bacqueville de la Potherie, Histoire de l'Amérique septentrionale (Paris, 1722):230

According to the Jesuits journal, the site was a place of repose, but early on served as a vegetable garden. At the end of the 17th century and through the 18th, trees were added to embellish the garden. In 1753, the palisade around the garden was replaced by a stone wall. In 1783, the upper garden was given an English style, fully wooded and with trails winding through it. In the late 1820s, the monument commemorating Wolfe and Montcalm was erected.

Governor's gardens by James P. Cockburn Governor's gardens by James P. Cockburn
© Library and Archives Canada, C-012684.

The upper garden was opened to the public in 1838 and became an urban park around 1933.

The lower garden

After the Conquest, the upper garden underwent a major transformation: under governor Haldimand, its size doubled with the addition of a lower garden.

Located between the cliff and Rue Des-Carrières, the lower section served as a vegetable garden, with part being devoted to strawberries. In 1856, it was transformed into a botanical garden for the naval normal school. It ceased to exist following construction of the various terraces.

Three terraces

The first Durham terrace

In 1838, four years after fire attacked the Château Saint-Louis, then-governor of the colony Lord Durham proposed the first terrace, which would bear his name. Fifty metres long and 15 wide, it was built on stone pillars.

The second Durham terrace

The first terrace, which was inaugurated in 1838, was extended several dozen metres toward the Citadelle in 1854. That became the second Durham terrace.

The Dufferin terrace The second Durham terrace by Livernois
© Library and Archives Canada, C-8589.

The Dufferin Terrace

During the 1870s, governor general Lord Dufferin proposed an expansion project for the terrace. A strong proponent of the conservation and presentation of the fortifications, Dufferin proposed extending the Durham terrace some 300 meters toward the Citadel. Along with the construction of six kiosks – Victoria, Louise, Lorne, Frontenac, Dufferin and Mgr. Plessis – the project saw the light of day in 1879.

The second Durham terrace by Livernois The Dufferin terrace
© Library and Archives Canada, C-17306.

The same year, the first funicular linking the upper and lower towns was completed. Its upper reach was the basement of the former Château Saint-Louis.