"A Gateway to a New Future for Canada"

Old Québec’s Fortified Wall Became
"A Gateway to a New Future
for Canada"

(1867 to 1939)

By contrast with the previous period (1832 to 1866), which had marked the Fortified Wall's highest point of usefulness as the essential part of Québec City's defensive system, this period marked at first, from 1867 to 1871, its lowest point of usefulness for military purposes. From a military perspective, the Fortified Wall had become obsolete. The advent of rifle artillery, which was much more powerful and much more precise, transformed how war was waged. So much so that the future of the Fortified Wall became very uncertain at that time, as many people were asking for its demolition. Instead, thanks in very large part to Lord Dufferin, Québec City's Fortified Wall found "a new life" after 1872, for the main purpose of "urban embellishment".

1867 — Canada became a confederation on July 1, which also marked the official end of the British Regime. After that, as vestiges of legal dependence on the British Parliament progressively eroded, Canada became more and more autonomous. Originally, that federal union included the provinces of Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Subsequently, it expanded to include its present 10 provinces and three territories. Canada became a bilingual country, with both English and French as its official languages. At the beginning of the 21st Century, it is the world's second largest country by total area. And Canada's common border with the United States to its south and northwest is the longest in the world.

1867 — At a time when most gates were starting to be considered obsolete as part of Québec City's defensive system, St. John Gate was rebuilt and that new structure would last until 1898. Previously, it had been first built in 1693 and rebuilt in 1720, restored in 1791, replaced in 1823 and demolished in 1865.

1871 — Increasingly, Québec City's Fortified Wall was considered obsolete as part of the city's defensive system. Its ramparts were gradually abandoned, its stones fell victim to pillagers, plus there were not enough men and not enough money to repair it. The Canadian soldiers in Québec City were concentrated mainly in the permanent Citadel and separate forts on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River.

1871 — Moreover, for about 30 years, the municipal authorities of Québec City had been putting pressure on the military authorities in Québec City to allow certain changes to be made to the Fortified Wall, in order to facilitate urban development, such as the opening and extension of the streets as well as the creation of terraces and parks. These requests greatly intensified after the Canadian Confederation of 1867 and the Treaty of Washington of 1871 (which established peace between the United States and Canada).

1871 — A movement was created in favor of the demolition of the Fortified Wall. The population of Québec City got involved after the transfer of ownership of Québec City's Fortified Wall from the British Regime to the new Canadian Government. Numerous petitions demanded the parceling of the lands along the Fortified Wall and wider openings than its gates to improve traffic flow.

1871 — The municipal authorities of Québec City were willing to go along with these requests and petitions from the population. They also felt that for too long the military needs for Québec City's defensive system had hampered urban expansion and commercial development. They wanted much of the land that was previously used for defensive purposes to be handed over to the town.

1871 — Consequently, a major wave of demolition of the Fortified Wall began. Both St. Louis Gate and Prescott Gate were demolished, with no plans to rebuild them. The outworks in front of St. Louis Gate were also destroyed to free the Rue St. Louis area. The ramparts of the Fortified Wall were lowered on its east side, along Rue des Remparts, in order to open a distant view toward the port.

1871 — Because they had become obsolete as part of Québec City's defensive system, during this year:

  • St. Louis Gate was demolished and there were no plans to rebuild it in the future. Previously, it had been first built in 1693, restored in 1720, demolished and rebuilt in 1791, replaced in 1823.
  • Prescott Gate was demolished and there were no plans to rebuild it in the future. Previously, it had been first built in 1797, then modified and fortified in 1823.

1871 — On November 11, the last British military units inside the Fortified Wall left Québec City. That was called "their final departure". A company of British engineers, a British battalion of the 60th Regiment as well as a British gun battery all left on that day, ending a 112-year British presence inside Québec City's Fortified Wall, which had started when they had won the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, in 1759.

This illustration shows the British 60th Regiment leaving the Dalhousie Gate and the Citadel permanently, on November 11, 1871.
Image Credit: Photo by René Chartrand / The illustration itself was originally from the Canadian Illustrated News, December 2, 1871 / Private collection / Reproduced with the permission of the photographer.

Photo taken in 1878 of Lord Frederick Temple Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, First Marquis of Dufferin and Ava. Better known as "Lord Dufferin", he was the savior of Québec City's Fortified Wall, during and after 1872.
Image Credit: Miscellaneous / Library and Archives Canada / Access number 1969-001 NPC / Reproduction reference number C-001285 / Photo taken in 1878 by Notman and Sandham / Entitled "Lord Dufferin".
1872 — Who could have anticipated, in 1871, that the overall public, municipal and governmental opinion in regard to Québec City's Fortified Wall would change radically, in no time at all, going from wanting to destroy it as a public nuisance to wanting to preserve it and beautify it for "urban-embellishment" purposes? Nobody. But all it took to effect such a radical about-face was the strong-minded presence of one powerful man who "fell in love" with Québec City and its Fortified Wall the moment he set foot in that area: Lord Dufferin.

1872 — A British statesman of Irish nobility and a distinguished career diplomat, Lord Dufferin arrived in Québec City in 1872 to be the new Governor General of Canada, which he would remain until 1878. He was immediately seduced by Québec City, by its special charm and eventful past, including its Fortified Wall. He strongly conveyed to the overall public, municipal and governmental opinion a new sense of romanticism, as his plans to preserve as well as beautify Québec City and its Fortified Wall gained increasing popularity and support through the years. Most of his plans came to fruition. They greatly influenced the future of Québec City and its Fortified Wall.

1872 — Lord Dufferin's urban-embellishment plans started early and were extensive. He practically flew in the face of the overall public, municipal and governmental opinion by proposing to extend the Durham Terrace as far as the Citadel and beautify it too. It had been a section of the Fortified Wall since 1838. This major improvement would be such that it would give birth to a new and completely redesigned boardwalk in 1879, called the "Dufferin Terrace" in his honor.

Here is one of Lord Dufferin's designs for the beautification of Québec City and its Fortified Wall, between 1872 and 1878. This was his original design for St. Louis Gate.
Image Credit: Print dating from 1876 by Lord Dufferin and John Henry Walker / Available at the McCord Museum under the access number M988.182.36.7 / Ink on newsprint — Photolithography.
Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/?File:Dufferin_Quebec_St_Louis.jpg

1876 — Lord Dufferin presented all of his plans for the urban embellishment of Québec City and its Fortified Wall, in what became known as the "Dufferin Project". Where the streets intersected with the Fortified Wall, Lord Dufferin proposed building bridges or new gates (which turned out to be the solution implemented), featuring romantic architecture of medieval inspiration. What he had in mind was the building of a pedestrian walkway all around Québec City's Fortified Wall. The new gates would provide passage over streets and at the same time become ornamental elements for urban embellishment. His project also included the creation of a park on both sides of the Fortified Wall, on its west site, which became known and still is known today as the "Esplanade Park".

1876 — Most of Lord Dufferin's major plans came to fruition in the 19th and 20th Centuries. The only major plan of his that did not come to fruition was to build within the permanent Citadel a new Château St. Louis, as the future residence of the Governor General of Canada. But even with that plan he was influential, in the sense that he revived the idea of a new and prestigious Château St. Louis … which, in 1893, would become the new and prestigious Château Frontenac hotel, at almost the same location as Château St. Louis had occupied from 1648 to 1834, before it was destroyed by fire.

This is a particular design by Lord Dufferin that never came to fruition. It featured a new Château St. Louis inside the permanent Citadel, as we see here. However, the majestic Château Frontenac would become a reality in 1893, at the same location that Château St. Louis had occupied earlier. And it would be built right in front of a long terrace overlooking the St. Lawrence River and the Lower Town of Old Québec … a terrace that he also designed and that would be called the "Dufferin Terrace" in his honor.
Image Credit: Print dating from 1876 by Lord Dufferin and John Henry Walker / Available at the McCord Museum under the access number M988.182.36.1 / Ink on newsprint — Photolithography.
Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/?File:Dufferin_Chateau_St-Louis_1876.jpg

1876 — Everyone agreed with Lord Dufferin's proposals. Support for his major plans and his "Dufferin Project" came from all over: from the municipal authorities of Québec City and Québec's Provincial Government to Queen Victoria herself and Canada's Federal Government.

1876 — The true genius of Lord Dufferin's plans and the main reason for their historical success was in reconciling conservation and modernization, in showcasing the glory of Québec City's military past while meeting the modern-day needs of Québec City. With the idea of preserving and beautifying Québec City's Fortified Wall as a historic monument of great and unique importance, Lord Dufferin was able to prompt a rapid about-face in public opinion and save it from further destruction.

1878 — This year marked the end of Lord Dufferin's post as Governor General of Canada, after six years. But his major legacy regarding Québec City and its Fortified Wall would endure. It can even be argued that saving Québec City and its Fortified Wall the way he did was one of the main reasons why Québec City and its Fortified Wall were named a "World Heritage Site" by UNESCO in 1985.

1878 — As part of Lord Dufferin's major plans and overall project for urban embellishment, St. Louis Gate, which had been considered obsolete as part of Québec City's defensive system and demolished in 1871, with no plans to rebuild it in the future, was rebuilt for urban-embellishment purposes in a style that was very close to what Lord Dufferin had designed. First built in 1693, restored in 1720, demolished and rebuilt in 1791, replaced in 1823 and demolished in 1871, St. Louis Gate exists today because its particular structure of 1878 was well preserved and maintained.

1879 — As part of Lord Dufferin's major plans and overall project for urban embellishment, the Durham Terrace, which had been built in 1838 and extended in 1853, was extended again by about 984 feet (300 meters) in the direction of the permanent Citadel. That terrace was so improved that it was called the "Dufferin Terrace" when it was officially inaugurated on June 9, in honor of the savior of Québec City's Fortified Wall. It included its six present-day special kiosks, made of cast iron and wrought iron. It also continued to be a very popular boardwalk. Today, more than 2,000,000 people every year visit the Dufferin Terrace.

1879 — As part of Lord Dufferin's major plans and overall project for urban embellishment, Kent Gate was constructed. The funds to build it were provided by Queen Victoria and it was named after her father, Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, who may have lived in Québec City from 1791 to 1794. Kent Gate exists today much as it was built in 1879.

This photo is a view of Québec City from the city of Lévis that dates from around 1880-1890. Note at the left of the photo the completed permanent Citadel on top of Cap Diamant. Also note, in the middle of the photo, the completed Dufferin Terrace on top of the high cliffs of Old Québec and the absence of Château Frontenac, which would be built in 1893.
Image Credit: J.E. Livernois / Library and Archives Canada / Access number 1979-308 NPC / Reproduction reference number PA-122622 / Photo by Jules-Ernest Livernois, circa 1880-1890, entitled "View of Québec from Lévis".

1892 — The former Château Haldimand was demolished to make room for Château Frontenac. Previously, Château Haldimand had been built between 1784 and 1787, behind Château St. Louis. It had been used afterward for official government balls and receptions. In May 1857, that building had been transformed into a school: the École normale Laval. After the decision was made in the early 1890s to build Château Frontenac on the same prestigious site that was once occupied by both Château St. Louis and Château Haldimand, that school was transferred to another location and the building itself was demolished.

1893 — For 59 years, Québec City and its Fortified Wall had been deprived of Château St. Louis, after its destruction by fire in 1834. The authorities of Québec City had been patient with the site left vacant by its disappearance and, other than the Durham Terrace in 1838 which had become the Dufferin Terrace in 1879, had kept it in reserve for some grand project worthy of such a unique location. That opportunity came at the beginning of the 1890s, when the Company of Château Frontenac was created, in order to finance the construction of a grand luxury hotel that would honor such a prestigious site.

1893 — The architect chosen by the Company of Château Frontenac to implement such a huge and sophisticated construction project was American architect Bruce Price. Originally, Château Frontenac had been conceived as a modern structure. But Price changed that concept quickly to a glamorous Renaissance-type of structure that would be inspired by the French châteaux and more particularly the French châteaux of the Loire Valley in France. He also wanted the style of Château Frontenac to be well adapted to the needs of modern times and its materials to be in harmony with the environment while allowing special effects of color and light.

1893 — Château Frontenac would be located at the center of a grandiose landscape. Therefore, Bruce Price felt that Château Frontenac also had to be grandiose, as much by its materials as by the simplicity of its design. Château Frontenac's main structure was built during 1893 in a U-shaped style, around a courtyard of honor.

1893 — Its high copper roofs, its towers and its turrets gave it the style of a "French Renaissance" château, and its interiors proved as spectacular as its exteriors. Its interior design and unique furniture were marked by both opulence and elegant charm, in the style of the 16th Century. Overall, this grand luxury hotel looked like a true palace.

1893 — Château Frontenac officially opened on December 18. By that time, it had become the property of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), which thought it would become the ideal stopover for CPR travelers. Its president at that time, Sir William Cornelius Van Horne, wanted Château Frontenac to become "the most talked-about hotel in the world".

1893 — Château Frontenac became an immediate and total success. At first, most of its customers were Americans and Canadians. But it did not take long before Europeans and people from all over the world made it a destination of choice. William Van Horne's wish became reality. Today, Château Frontenac is the main worldwide symbol of Québec City, as well as the most photographed hotel in the world.

1893 — Château Frontenac originally had 170 luxury rooms. Today, it includes more than 618 luxury rooms and suites. Due to its continuous success, many expansion projects after 1893 fashioned Château Frontenac into what it is today, including the Citadel Wing and Pavilion construction in 1899, the Mont-Carmel Wing construction between 1908 and 1910, the Addition construction in 1915, the construction of the St. Louis Wing and the Central Tower between 1920 and 1924, the Riverview Wing reconstruction right after a fire greatly damaged it in 1926, as well as the Renovations in 1973. Another major expansion phase was completed between 1987 and 1993, with the construction of the Claude-Pratte Wing, including a superb indoor pool, a physical fitness center and a magnificent outdoor terrace. The inauguration of the Claude-Pratte Wing in 1993 marked the 100th anniversary of Château Frontenac.

This photo shows the way Château Frontenac looked in July 1908, only 15 years after its original construction. Note the absence of a Central Tower, which would be added between 1920 and 1924. Also note that the boardwalk on which people were walking in front of Château Frontenac was the Dufferin Terrace at that time.
© 2009 Service des communications, Ville de Québec / Book in French about the 400th anniversary of Québec City, entitled "Québec, ma ville, mon 400e", page 27 / Photo by Keystone View Company in July 1908 / Entitled "Dufferin Terrace and Château Frontenac, Québec Tercentenary" / Archives de la Ville de Québec / Image reproduced with the permission of Archives de la Ville de Québec.

1898 — In order to allow the passage of the tramway, St. John Gate was demolished and it seemed at the time that it would not be rebuilt. Previously, it had been built in 1693 and rebuilt in 1720, restored in 1791, replaced in 1823, demolished in 1865 and rebuilt in 1867.

1899 — Due to the increasing demand for rooms at the prestigious Château Frontenac, American architect Bruce Price was asked again by the Canadian Pacific Railway company to go back to his drawing board and design a new wing, as well as a new pavilion for that hotel. So, Château Frontenac's "Citadel Wing" and "Citadel Pavilion" were added. They were designed and built in perfect harmony with the original design and construction of the hotel. Together, they permanently closed its original U-shaped style. This would be Price's last contribution to Château Frontenac. He passed away in 1903.

1910 — The addition of the Mont-Carmel Wing to Château Frontenac, between 1908 and 1910, made it the biggest hotel in Canada at that time. Its northward elevation was accentuated to the point where it became the highest structure in the Upper Town of Old Québec. The style of the Mont-Carmel Wing was also in perfect harmony with the rest of Château Frontenac.

1914 — World War I began and raged until November 11, 1918. Many Canadians fought in Europe, but, from its beginning to its end, there were no reports of enemy ships near Québec City or its port. Therefore, it had very little impact on Old Québec's Fortified Wall.

1915 — The Addition to Château Frontenac was built. It was in perfect harmony with all the previous constructions since 1893, to the point where a new pyramidal roof with two corbelled turrets and a remarkable stone balcony figured prominently at the top of this Addition. It accentuated the original elevation linking two of Château Frontenac's wings.

1924 — Château Frontenac's St. Louis Wing and Central Tower were built between 1920 and 1924. These two additions were major, especially the 17-floor Central Tower, which eventually towered over the rest of Château Frontenac, as it rose to a great height over the existing structure of 1920. Together, these two major additions practically doubled the prestigious hotel's capacity to accommodate more customers. Their style was also in perfect harmony with the rest of Château Frontenac.

1926 — Just as the architectural ensemble of Château Frontenac could finally be considered "complete" with the two major additions of 1924, a catastrophic fire destroyed its Riverview Wing on January 16. Fortunately, the prestigious hotel's fire protection system was efficient, as it protected the rest of Château Frontenac's structure. And the Canadian Pacific Railway company did not hesitate in ordering the reconstruction of the Riverview Wing, according to its original design. Amazingly, it was completely rebuilt within 127 working days of that catastrophic fire.

1939 — In the spirit of Lord Dufferin's major plans and overall project for urban embellishment, St. John Gate was rebuilt in 1939, in the same Renaissance style featuring a romantic architecture of medieval inspiration as St. Louis Gate in 1878. This particular structure of St. John Gate still exists today, very much as it was built in 1939.