Esplanade Powder Magazine
Recognized Federal Heritage Building
© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1989.
100 Saint-Louis Street, Québec, Quebec
Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
1807 to 1807
Event, Person, Organization:
Ralph Henry Bruyères
FHBRO Report Reference:
Description of Historic Place
Situated near the Saint-Louis Gate and the National Assembly in the Québec Fortifications National Historic Site of Canada, the Esplanade Powder Magazine, is a gable roofed, military structure of vaulted stone construction with a south-facing entrance. A flat roof connects the building to its surrounding protective, stone wall, which stands at a distance of 12 feet (3.6 meters). The building houses the Fortifications of Québec Interpretation Centre. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Esplanade Powder Magazine is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.
The Esplanade Powder Magazine is closely associated with the vast reorganization of Québec’s defensive system at the turn of the 19th century. An integral part of Québec’s system of fortifications, the Esplanade Powder Magazine has played a significant role in local history, as it bears witness to the defensive works building program begun in 1790 to meet the needs of a military presence that was growing steadily in the Upper Town of that period.
The Esplanade Powder Magazine is valued for the good aesthetic qualities of its specialized military defensive design. Demonstrating excellent functional design, the magazine is true to the pure military tradition established by the engineer Vauban in the 17th century, and contains all of the features needed to render its two rooms bomb-resistant and dry. The south-facing entrance and the presence of vents attest to the measures taken to ensure better ventilation. Noteworthy of its good craftsmanship, the main building, of vaulted stone construction, is surrounded by a protective wall, also of masonry construction.
The Esplanade Powder Magazine, located close to the St-Louis Gate on the west side of the rampart, reinforces the defensive military character of its fortress setting in Old Québec. The building has become a landmark for both Quebec residents and the city’s many tourists.
Sources: André Charbonneau et Julie Harris, La poudrière de l’Esplanade, Quebec, Quebec, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, Building Report, 88-165; Esplanade Powder Magazine, Quebec, Quebec, Heritage Character Statement, 88-165.
The character-defining elements of the Esplanade Powder Magazine should be respected.
Its specialized military defensive design, excellent functional design and good materials and craftsmanship, for example: the main building with a gable roof and south facing entrance; the vaulted stone construction; the barrel vaults of the magazine; the vents in the longitudinal walls; the interior division into two bomb-resistant and dry rooms.
The manner in which Esplanade Powder Magazine reinforces the defensive military character of its fortress setting in Old Quebec and is a well-known landmark in the city, as evidenced by: its overall scale, massing and materials, which harmonize with its surroundings on the west side of the rampart in Old Quebec; its role as an interpretation centre, and its prominent location in the Québec Fortifications National Historic Site of Canada, which makes it a familiar landmark for both Quebec residents and the city’s many tourists.
Heritage Character Statement
The heritage character statement was developed by FHBRO to explain the reasons for the designation of a federal heritage building and what it is about the building that makes it significant (the heritage character). It is a key reference document for anyone involved in planning interventions to federal heritage buildings and is used by FHBRO in their review of interventions.
The Esplanade powder magazine was built in 1807 to plans by the military engineer Ralph Henry Bruyères. In 1959, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada recognized its national historic significance. Since 1979 the structure has housed the reception centre for Quebec's fortifications, and it belongs to the Canadian Parks Service of Environment Canada. See FHBRO Report 88-165.
Reason for Designation
The Esplanade powder magazine was designated Recognized because its construction attests to the vast reorganization of Quebec City's defensive system at the turn of the nineteenth century, its functional design is of great quality, its relations with its immediate surroundings have changed very little and, finally, because it has become, over the years, a point of interest in Old Quebec.
An integral part of Quebec's system of fortifications, the Esplanade powder magazine has played a significant role in local history, as it bears witness to the defensive works building program begun in 1790 to meet the needs of a military presence that was growing steadily in the Upper Town of that period.
True to the pure military tradition established by the engineer Vauban, the magazine has all the features needed to render the two rooms characteristic of this type of edifice bomb-resistant and dry. The main building, of vaulted stone construction, is today still surrounded by a protective wall at a distance of 12 feet. Despite the addition of a roof between the two structures, the original design is still evident. The south-facing entrance and the presence of vents attest to the measures taken to ensure better ventilation.
This powder magazine is located close to the St-Louis Gate on the west side of the rampart in a setting that has always helped enhance its value. Since 1939, the building has housed various services to the community: a recreation centre, restaurant, and a reception centre. For this reason, and no doubt because of its picturesque character, it has become a landmark for both Quebec residents and the city's many tourists.
Character Defining Elements
The heritage character of the edifice lies generally in the ensemble of features associated with its original function, namely: the protective wall built largely of coarse sandstone, the barrel vaults of the magazine, the vents in the longitudinal walls, and the interior division into two rooms.
If a renovation or refit is ever done to the interior, it would be desirable to highlight these features of the building. In such case, the best way of restoring the original relationship between the protective wall and the magazine would be to remove the roof that has connected them since the 1920s or 1930s. The vaults now covered up by hanging ceilings should be exposed. Unobtrusive modern lighting could be installed on the side walls to suit the requirements of the projected use of these spaces.
The original relationship of the magazine and its site still exists because of the presence of Esplanade Park, and the absence of big structures near by. It would be preferable to leave it that way.