Description of Historic Place
Québec Court House National Historic Site of Canada is a massive, late 19th-century masonry public building in the Second Empire Style. It occupies a prominent corner in the city’s historic upper town, facing the Place d’Armes, and is in close proximity to other major administrative buildings of similar vintage and architecture. The building is adapted to its sloping site, rising four storeys along Saint-Louis Street and five storeys along du Trésor Street. The formal recognition consists of the building and its legal property at the time of designation.
The Québec Court House was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1980 because:
- it is representative of the judicial system of the province of Québec;
- it is a fine example of the Second Empire Style.
The heritage value of this site resides in its symbolism of the Québec justice system and in its architectural design. The Québec Court House was constructed in 1883-1887 to serve all levels of court in the local judicial district of Québec. In its large scale, elaborate architectural treatment, iconography and use of local materials, the court house conveyed the province’s commitment to justice, its self-confidence and pride in its French Heritage. It served as a court house from 1887 to 1983.
The Québec Court House is a fine example of the French Second Empire Style, and is distinguished by its rich stonework, mansard roof, classical decoration and lively silhouette. The plans were prepared by Eugène-Étienne Taché, a celebrated architect in the employment of the provincial Department of Public Works. Its design was influenced by the successes of the Québec parliament buildings (built 1877-1886), also designed by Taché in the Second Empire Style.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, March 1980.
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of Québec Court House include:
- its dramatic siting at the corner of du Trésor Street and Saint-Louis Street, facing Place d’Armes, and its spatial relationship or proximity to other administrative buildings;
- its Second Empire Style, evident in its metal-clad mansard roofs with iron cresting, broken by elaborately ornamented dormers, its classical decorative vocabulary, notably the rich Renaissance-inspired ornamentation concentrated on around windows, doors, towers and eaves, the symmetrical organization of its elevation with grid-like placement of tall windows, its clear delineation of each storey by pronounced stringcourses, and its plan with a slightly projecting corner entrance, flanking wings, and projecting corner pavilions;
- its richly textured and coloured exterior masonry and stone detailing of local stone such as grey and green sandstone from La Malbaie, Deschambault limestone, green sandstone from Sillery, and Stanstead granite;
- the wide range of architectural expression achieved in its stonework, including the broad arches of the entrance arcade, sculpted panels, contrasts in texture and colour, horizontal banding, Renaissance decoration on dormers and the final storey of each tower, cornices, and window surrounds;
- those elements signifying its role as a provincial court house, including its clock tower and symbolic stone reliefs, such as the coat of arms of the province of Québec, Jacques Cartier, Limoilou, Champlain and Brouage, maple leaves carved into the tympanum above the central arcade, and the extensive use of the fleur-de-lis in decoration, and surviving elements of its interior layout, materials and finishes indicative of its role as a court building.