Château Frontenac National Historic Site of Canada

Québec, Quebec
General view of Château Frontenac showing its prominent location and imposing presence on a cliff, overlooking the St. Lawrence River. © Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.
Prominent location and imposing presence
© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.
General view of Château Frontenac showing its prominent location and imposing presence on a cliff, overlooking the St. Lawrence River. © Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.General view of Château Frontenac showing its grey, ashlar stone base and string courses and the orange, Glenboig brick wall cladding, 2007. © Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, Ron Garnett, 2007.General view of Château Frontenac showing its massive scale and fortress-like appearance. © Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.
Address : 1 des Carrières Street, Québec, Quebec

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1981-01-15
Dates:
  • 1892 to 1893 (Construction)
  • 1908 to 1909 (Addition)
  • 1920 to 1924 (Other addition)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Canadian Pacific Railway  (Organization)
  • Bruce Price  (Architect)
  • W. S. Painter  (Architect)
  • Edward and W.S. Maxwell  (Architect)
Other Name(s):
  • Château Frontenac  (Unknown)
Research Report Number: 1980-021

Plaque(s)


Existing plaque:  1 des Carrières Street, Quebec, Quebec

This hotel, built in 1892-1893, was the first of many Château-style hotels erected by Canada's railway companies. Enhanced by a magnificent site, the building recalls the romantic character of the 14th- and 15th-century châteaux of France's Loire valley. Enlarged four times, the original design was adapted from these models by architect Bruce Price, who abandoned classical symmetry in favour of the picturesque eclecticism popular at the time. With its steeply sloping roofs, towers, dormers and ornate turrets, the Château Frontenac has become one of the dominant landmarks of Old Quebec.

Description of Historic Place

In the château style, Château Frontenac is an imposing hotel with five brick and stone wings and a central tower erected in seven stages between 1892 and 1993. It is prominently located on a cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence River, within the Québec historic district. The designation refers to the building on its footprint in 1981 (the date of designation).

Heritage Value

The Château Frontenac was designated a national historic site because it is an excellent example of a Chateau-style hotel.

The Château Frontenac was the first of a series of Chateau-style hotels built by Canadian railway companies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to encourage tourists to travel on their railways. Popular with the travelling public for their elaborate décor and comfortable elegance, these hotels quickly became national symbols of quality accommodation.

The Château Frontenac was the prototype for the Chateau-style railway hotels that followed, and remained the purest expression of the Chateau style among the group. Its fortress-like design, derived from the medieval chateaux of France's Loire Valley and enhanced by its dramatic cliff-top location, expressed the prevailing romantic view of Quebec as a French medieval city. The hotel's picturesque eclecticism and rich polychromatic surfaces reflected popular taste in Victorian architecture. Construction began in 1892-93 for the Canadian Pacific Railway to designs by architect Bruce Price. The hotel was enlarged in 1908-09 to designs by W.S. Painter, in 1920-24 to designs by Edward and W.S. Maxwell, and in the 1990s by the Arcop Group.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minute, January 1981; Commemorative Integrity Statement.

Character-Defining Elements

The key elements that relate to the heritage value of the Château Frontenac include: - its prominent location and imposing presence on a cliff, overlooking the St. Lawrence River; - its massive scale and fortress-like appearance; - its plan around an inner court; - its assymetrical profile and irregular massing; - its Chateau style, evident in: its steeply pitched roofs; massive circular and polygonal towers and turrets; ornate gables and dormers; tall chimneys; the row of machicolations above the fourth-storey windows; its high-quality materials; and its dramatic setting; - its fortress-like solidity, expressed in: its broad, flat wall surfaces; and heavy tower forms; - its strong horizontal emphasis, expressed in: its ashlar base; and string coursing - its steel frame construction; - its grey, ashlar stone base and string courses; and the orange, Glenboig brick wall cladding; - volumes of original interior public spaces; - the fine original finishes of the main public spaces, including mahogany panelling, marble staircases, carved stone and wrought-iron decorative elements, glass roundels with historical subjects by Edward Maxwell, coffered ceilings.