The source of most of the following copy and illustrations is the book entitledL’histoire du Québec à travers ses lieutenants-gouverneurs. Reproduction is prohibited without written authorization from the Office of the Lieutenant Governor (see the policy regarding reproduction rights, in French).
Québec City was New France’s, and, later, British North America’s, first city. Intendants, Governor Generals and Lieutenant Governors managed the affairs of the colony from a number of locations.
Throughout our history, the Lieutenant Governor’s official residences—Champlain’s Abitation, the château Saint-Louis, Spencer Wood (afterwards the Bois-de-Coulonge), and, lastly, the Dunn house—have been symbols of political power. Now, these places are vestiges that echo with memories.
BAnQ, Fonds J.E. Livernois
Photographic reproduction of a picture of l'Abitation de Québec (Champlain's residence) drawn circa 1900
In the beginning, Samuel de Champlain, the founder of Québec City, had a few temporary buildings erected, including the famous Abitation, flanking the St. Lawrence River. In 1620, he began construction of a fortified structure on the south side of Cape Diamond to fend off Amerindian or British attacks. Fort Saint-Louis was Champlain’s second and final residence, where he died in 1635.
His successor, Charles Huault de Montmagny, a knight of the king, transformed the structure into a bona fide military fortress. In 1647, a new building, château Saint-Louis, was added to the fort. With the chateau in increasing disrepair, in 1694 Governor General Louis Buade, comte de Palluau et de Frontenac, undertook its reconstruction.
The siege of Québec saw the advent of the British regime in 1759 and, with it, damage to château Saint-Louis and large-scale rebuilding. In the meantime, General James Murray took up residence on rue Saint-Louis, where the edifice underwent extensive refurbishment and enlargement. The house bore a number of names—New Building, New Château Building, Château Neuf, Vieux Château, and château Haldimand—before it was destroyed by fire. In 1892, its remains were demolished to make way for the famous Château Frontenac hotel and Dufferin Terrace.
BAnQ, auteur inconnu
Picture of the Bois de Coulonge Villa (1962).
In the days before Confederation, the colony’s Governor Generals were the ruling sovereign’s representative in North America. The government leased Spencer Wood from a rich merchant, Henry Atkison, who then sold his estate, thereby ensuring that Spencer Wood would remain public property for the exclusive use of the Province of Québec.
Spencer Wood, later known as Spencer Grange and Bois-de-Coulonge, was a vast holding featuring a magnificent villa overlooking the St. Lawrence River. At one point or another, it was home to a Governor of New France, a British Governor, three Governors of Canada, and 21 Lieutenant Governors of Québec.
Over time, other buildings and facilities were added to the estate, namely, a chapel, a stable and coach house, a gatehouse, walks, a belvedere, a henhouse, a fountain and a sugar shack.
In the night of February 21, 1966, a fire caused by faulty electrical wiring broke out in the villa. Everyone except Lieutenant Governor Paul Comtois managed to escape. According to Father Gaudiose Labrecque, the chaplain of Bois-de-Coulonge, the Lieutenant Governor had returned to the chapel to rescue the Blessed Sacrament from the flames.
The 104-year-old vice-regal residence housed a collection of priceless works of art, most of which belonged to the Musée du Québec. With this conflagration, an entire part of our history was swept away in smoke.
The estate has been a public park since 1967. Visitors can see the foundations of the villa and enjoy the beauty of this setting in the Québec City borough of Sillery–Sainte-Foy in all weathers and all seasons.
From 1967 to 1997, Lieutenant Governors and their family had a new residence, located at 1010, chemin Saint-Louis. The last Lieutenant Governor to live in the Dunn house was the Honourable Jean-Louis Roux.
In 1997, the Government of Québec decided to sell the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor. Ever since, the quarters of the Lieutenant Governor of Québec have been at 1050, rue des Parlementaires.
SIQ, private collection Jean-François Provençal
1010, Saint-Louis Street
Subsequently, the Dunn house was sold, torn down and replaced by a privately owned mansion