Jean-Baptiste Chevalier’s house
It is the house built by Jean-Baptiste Chevalier in 1752 that gives this group of buildings its true character. When he chose as a place of residence and of business this site formely occupied by arquebusier Jean Soulard, Chevalier, a ship owner and trader from the Bourbonnais region, was assured of direct access to the river and the Anse-aux-Barques, also called the Baie du Cul-de-Sac, a focal point of the port operations that strikingly marked the history of Place-Royale.
Maison historique Chevalier occupies an important, special place in Québec’s architectural heritage. First, the house’s style, of classic French inspiration, clearly reflects urban architecture in New France. Fire walls, high chimneys and vaulted cellars are a few of its noteworthy features.
However, the house can be distinguished from its neighbours by its monumental appearance, which is emphasized by its special shape. The plan and elevation drawings are not symmetrical and follow the landform configuration, originally the shore of Anse-aux-Barques. The use of the adjacent wharves influenced the shape given to mason Pierre Renaud’s work.
Ravaged by fire then rebuilt in 1762, what is sometimes called the Hôtel Chevalier continued to be used for commercial purposes under the English Regime. In 1807, George Pozer, the owner of the house, rented it to an innkeeper, who inscribed “London Coffee House” on the façade. Maison historique Chevalier kept this name until the early 20th century.
Construction materials and characteristics
Maison historique Chevalier was built of three kinds of stone. The walls were made of Ange-Gardien stone, a sandstone whose colour ranges from grey to rusty brown and which is easily cut into blocks. The March 20, 1752 construction contract indicates that Beauport stone, a limestone, was used to raise the vaults where a well dating from earlier times was located. Pointe-aux-Trembles stone, also a limestone but one whose bigger grain facilitates cutting, was used in the openings of doors and windows.
In the 17th century, different kinds of wood were used to build houses. However, by around 1750, white pine was the most commonly used wood, notably in framing, floors, roofs and ceilings. Cedar shingles were frequently used to cover roofs, which were also simply covered with boards, or more judiciously with slate or, as in the case of the Chevalier House, with sheet metal à la canadienne, according to a method that engineer Chaussegros de Léry apparently tested around 1742.
It should be noted that the house’s appearance has changed considerably over the years. For example, the walls are not covered with wet dash as the building contract stipulated. Even more remarkably, the majestic façade, which now faces the St. Lawrence River, was originally the back of the house. While this detail is not historically authentic, it underscores the monumental effect sought when the house was restored.
Maison historique Chevalier, along with the two neighbouring houses, now belongs to the Musée de la civilisation, which presents thematic exhibitions there.
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