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Portail du Québec
The Portal of Quebec
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Tourist Guide of Quebec

Welcome in the Old Capital! Here, modern buildings contrast with the ancestral architecture of the houses and remind you that Québec was the first colonized city in North America. Let us tell you this wonderful adventure!


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Historical Retrospective

Three centuries of colonial conquest are at the origin of the non traditional architectural aspects of Quebec City.

At the time when Europeans furrowed the seas looking for new spaces to conquer, American Indians already had long been occupying the site of Quebec. They had founded an important center named Stadaconé. Many signs seem to confirm that this center was on the cliff of Cap Diamant. Stadaconé was the capital of a small region: Canada (the village in American Indian). At this time Hochelaga (Montreal) had authority on the people of the valley.


Jacques Cartier

Jacques Cartier was the first European to spend wintertime in Quebec. He settled in 1535, during his second trip to America. The navigator set up his camp at the jonction of the St-Charles and Lairet rivers (the Lairet is now covered and canalized). This settlement is costly in human life because of Scurvy (due to a Vitamine C deficiency). It's an American Indian remedy, made with white cedar leaves and bark that cured the disease. Cartier din't find gold or treasures, or the road to India. However, he discovered a large river, American Indian culture, tobacco, and contributed to the progress of geography.

In 1541, Cartier settled in the roadstead of Cap-Rouge, naming it Charlesbourg-Royal. During this third expedition, he thought he had discovered gold and precious stones, but it was iron pyrite and quartz cristals, thus the name "Cap Diamant" or Cape Diamond. Following these trips, France lost interest for the Laurentian valley, only the cod fishermen remained present. It wasn't until the XVIIth century, with Samuel de Champlain and the development of the fur trade, that France renewed its presence on the North-American continent.


A slow colonization

In 1608, Samuel de Champlain installed a fur trading post in Quebec. The rade, the promontory above Cap Diamant, the St-Charles river and Cap Tourmente were the determining factors in the choice of Quebec as a strategic location. Immediately upon his arrival, Champlain built a house at the foot of the hill (a circle on the ground of Place Royale symbolizes this location). However, colonization was very slow.

It wasn't until 1760, that the population reached 1700 residents. Due to the topography of the site, the city's physionomy was determined from the beginning and remains nearly unchanged to this day: religious establishments, hospitals and military buildings on the high ground, with the commercial activities and their installations downtown close to the waterways. The intendant's palace (colony treasurer) was built in Lower-Town.


Coveted land, a colony to defend

Political, economic, and religious capital, Quebec city plays the role of «America's Gibraltar». It must defend the Laurentian valley.
Quebec's capture has always been the first objective of every Canadian invader, and the city was besieged five times.

1629, Champlain must battle the English emissaries, the Kirke brothers,
1690, Frontenac resists to maréchal Phillips assaults,
1711, to those of Walker,
1759, the French army, under the command of Montcalm lost the war to the English Wolfe,
1775, the English Carleton fought off the Americans, under the command of Montgomery and Arnold (episode of the USA war of independance).

It is therefore no surprise that large defense undertakings are an integral part of the city's history, be it under the French or English regime. The construction of the current Citadelle and other fortified works was completed around 1830. However this system of defense was only definitively finished at the beginning of the XXth century.

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