The hotel takes its name from Louis de Buade, count de Palluau et de Frontenac, a key figure in New France history. Frontenac was the governor of the colony from 1672 to 1682, and again from 1689 to 1698, and is recognized for having defended it against British and Iroquois attacks.
The Château Frontenac was built near the Citadel on which Frontenac had begun construction in the late 17th century. Situated on a large cape, the hotel overhangs the Saint Lawrence River and runs alongside the celebrated Plains of Abraham historic site where the battle for the conquest of Québec took place in 1759 during the Seven Years’ War between Great Britain and France.
The construction began in 1892, headed by William Van Horne of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. The directors of the railway society sought to encourage luxury tourism and hoped this prestigious hotel would induce wealthy tourists to board their trains. They commissioned New York architect Bruce Price, designer of Montréal’s Windsor and Viger Stations, to design the hotel with inspiration drawn from French castles. The hotel opened in 1983.
Several modifications took place during the twentieth century that changed the original image of the Château. Undoubtedly, the most important addition was the 1926 central tower with architects Edward and William Maxwell as contractors. Construction of the Citadel Wing was carried out in 1899 and of the rue Mont-Carmel in 1908. The Claude-Pratte Wing with its interior swimming pool and fitness center and a magnificent exterior terrace were inaugurated in June 1993. The modern hotel is operated by the Fairmont Hotel chain.
Many dignitaries have honored the famous hotel with their presence: Charles Lindbergh, Charles de Gaulle, Alfred Hitchcock, and representatives of the British royal family to name but a few. Québec Premier Maurice Duplessis (1936–1939; 1944–1959) lived at the Château Frontenac during his mandates. Additionally, a number of important events have taken place at the Château Frontenac. It hosted both of the Québec Conferences (August 1943 and September 1944) at which the Allies discussed strategies during World War II, including the finalization of Italy’s surrender. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was also founded at the hotel in 1945.
Several hundred million years ago, during the Paleozoic era, the entire Québec City area was located on a continental margin. The waterfall is a remnant of this ancient period—a fault over which the Montmorency River rushes. Frequented by large fish and giant squid.
The indigenous people who populated the area had long known about the waterfall, but it was Québec’s founder, Samuel de Champlain, who dubbed it Montmorency falls. He chose the name in honor of the Duke of Damville, Charles de Montmorency-Damville, Admiral of France and Brittany. But the Duke never saw the falls that still bear his name. He died in 1612, never having set foot in Canada.
Over 150 years later, under the leadership of General James Wolfe, the British built land fortifications near the falls in preparation for battle. The site was chosen because it gave the British a good view of the defenses installed by the Marquis de Montcalm and the French army from the other side of the river all the way to Québec City. Remnants of these military installations dating from 1759 have survived and are located in the eastern section of Montmorency Falls Park.
The war also spawned the legend of the White Lady. Two young lovers, Mathilde and Louis, were set to be married in July 1759. A few days before the wedding, the British launched an attack near the falls. As a member of the colonial militia, Louis joined the battle and was killed. Overcome with sadness, Mathilde returned home, put on her wedding gown, and threw herself over the falls. Even today, some say they can see a white figure throwing herself into the churning waters below.
The refreshing mist that emerges from the falls is very pleasant on hot summer days, but the spray freezes in winter, accumulating on the cliffs and at the foot of the falls, where it forms what is known as the “sugar loaf.” In some years, the icy mass can reach epic proportions. It was a popular destination as far back as the 18th and 19th centuries.
Having narrowly repelled the American invasion of Canada during the War of 1812, the British decided to re-examine their defensive strategy. Charles Lennox, Duke of Richmond and Governor-in-Chief of British North America, was given the task and drew up plans to build and improve defensive works at strategic locations.
Lieutenant-Colonel Elias Walker Durnford of the British Army was entrusted with building the Citadelle of Québec. His star fort shape is based on designs by French engineer, Sébastien Le Prestre Vauban. Construction spanned from 1820 to 1850, and the Citadelle is today an integral part of the fortifications of Québec.
Its first occupants were British troops, followed by the Royal Canadian Artillery. It remains an active garrison and since 1920 is home to the Royal 22e Régiment, the Canadian Forces’ sole French-language regular force infantry regiment.
From the beginning, the Citadelle has played an important role in Québec City and in the history of Canada, through its characteristic architecture, its military functions, and the events it has hosted, such as the Québec Conferences where military strategies to end the WWII were hammered out. The Citadelle continues to serve as a diplomatic centre and host to many official events.
Morrin Centre (Literary & Historical Society of Quebec)
Founded in 1824 by the Earl of Dalhousie, governor of Lower Canada, the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec was Canada’s first learned society. After several moves and two fires, the Society settled into the northern wing of Morrin College in 1868.
Its original aims were diverse. The Society gathered historical documents about Canada and republished many rare manuscripts. Research in all fields of knowledge was actively encouraged. Scholarly essays were published regularly in a series of Transactions, some making a significant contribution to the advancement of knowledge.
Over the years, the Society played a part in creating institutions that would take over many of its traditional roles. For instance, it fostered the foundation of the National Archives of Canada. It was also active in the preservation of Canada’s heritage, helping to save what was left of the historic Plains of Abraham battlefield from development and participating in the creation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. The Society’s activities gradually became centred on the services of its lending library, providing access to English-language books in a largely French-speaking city.
In the last decade, the Society has broadened its mandate. The building was entirely renovated, and transformed into the Morrin Centre, which not only houses the library but also acts as Quebec City’s English-language cultural centre and a historical interpretation site.
The origins of the English-Language library (bottom middle picture) date to the founding of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec in 1824. In the course of its long history, the Society has had the fortune to host such illustrious figures as Charles Dickens and Emmelyne Pankhurst. Since 1868, the library has been housed in the building currently housing the Morrin Centre. During this period, the library incorporated the collection of the Quebec Library, the oldest subscription library in Canada, founded in 1779 by Governor Frederick Haldimand. While many of the older books are no longer in the collection, the current collection, to which new acquisitions are continually added, includes a number of older volumes, some of which date to the 16th century.
Musée du Fort (The Fort Museum)
Observatoire de la Capitale (Observatory of the Capital)
REFERENCE: Google Earth