Description of Historic Place
La Malbaie Historic District National Historic Site of Canada is nestled in the mountainside of a narrow, eight-kilometre long strip of land overlooking the St. Lawrence River, in Quebec’s Charlevoix region. One of the oldest villégiature areas in the country, this designated site includes over 200 main and subordinate buildings dating primarily from the Golden Age of villégiature, from 1880 to 1930, as well as more recent components. Most of the main buildings are directly associated with the villégiature because of their use as hotels/restaurants, residences and recreation-related sites. La Malbaie Historic District is also characterized by its numerous panoramic vistas of the river and its winding roads, along which wooden cottages can be found. Official recognition of the site is defined by the District’s land lot lines, as well as the site’s natural boundaries and the historical routes associated with the resort at La Malbaie.
La Malbaie Historic District was designated a national historic site of Canada in 2007 because:
- one of the oldest villégiature areas in Canada, it continues to eloquently attest to this phenomenon that occurred from the mid-19th century to the first decades of the 20th century;
- with its impressive vistas overlooking the majestic St. Lawrence River, its summer homes and charming hotels and inns in a picturesque and rural setting, and its role as a place conducive to rest and outdoor recreation activities, it clearly illustrates the summer way of life for which it has been well-known between 1880 and 1950.
The historic value of La Malbaie Historic District’s historic value is mainly based upon its function as a villégiature resort. Its use and historical ties are associated with this social phenomenon, which characterized Canada from the mid-1800s until about 1930. La Malbaie was one of the first areas to host vacationers. With the growth of maritime transportation, this phenomenon quickly took hold, transforming the rural, isolated nature of the place. As a result, La Malbaie became a very exclusive resort, offering all that was essential to its reputation, including an incomparable setting and location, as well as many resources made available to vacationers.
In its early days, the villégiature coincided with the appearance of a bourgeoisie arising from the industrial revolution and the socio-economic changes that ensued. At that time, sea bathing and fresh country air became a solution to the unhealthiness of cities, as such natural spaces were beyond rapid industrialization. Vacationers stayed in lovely summer homes along des Falaises Road and regularly went to the Manoir Richelieu for grand receptions. Still today, many resources bear witness to the significance of La Malbaie during the entire Golden Age of villégiature in Canada. With its man-built and landscaped heritage, La Malbaie Historic District still represents a showplace for Canadian villégiature.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, December 2005.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include:
- its location along the St. Lawrence River, in Quebec’s Charlevoix region;
- its surrounding environment, favourable to villégiature, with water, forest and mountain meeting to create a unique and appealing geomorphology;
- the St. Lawrence River, a significant natural element in the sector, including its role in accessing the site, as witnessed by the recreational quay which replaced a previous unloading quay;
- numerous structures sited in relation to potential vistas on the river, such as du Quai Street and du Havre Road reminiscent of the strong link with the River;
- the construction of residences and hotels on large landscaped areas, as well as the winding and changing layout of certain streets, stretching from the quay to the foot or side of the mountain, or on the open spaces near the river;
the mixed-use character of the buildings, including residential or commercial uses, as well as those used for the traditional functions of the sector;
- the original recreational areas, or recalling of villégiature activities that have endured, including the two golf courses and some tennis courts and pools;
- the resources dating back to the Golden Age of villégiature, from 1880 to 1930, as well as more contemporary resources;
- the integrity of the key physical characteristics of the Historic District’s buildings and structures, defined by size, form, materials and design, including colours and finishings;
- the primary building materials, including the widespread use of wood throughout La Malbaie’s constructions;
- the accommodation establishments, particularly the second Chamard’s Lorne House (now the Manoir Charlevoix), one of the oldest preserved hotel resources in La Malbaie;
- the second Manoir Richelieu in a privileged setting, with its Château style, its massing, its reinforced concrete construction, its irregular roofing with towers, turrets and peaked gables, its main body and graciously linked subordinate wings, its panoramic veranda overlooking the river, as well as its elegant interior decor, with girders that perfectly imitate wooden beams;
- the clustering of prestigious summer homes along des Falaises Road;
- the typology of the sector’s buildings, including simple constructions inspired by the traditional Quebecois, Charlevoix-type house, especially the cottage architecture, whether Anglo-Norman, Quebecois or Picturesque;
- its villas built by prime contractor Jean-Charles Warren, and inspired by the Gothic vocabulary, which illustrate a predilection for the integration of architectural forms in relation to the outlines of the sites, combined with an “Arts and Crafts” way of designing the interiors;
- its variety of summer home styles with common characteristics, such as wide verandas, ample roofing often studded with dormers, many big panoramic openings, decorative shutters and related structures, such as subordinate pavilions, low walls, fences and gates;
- the viewscapes of and from the St. Lawrence River.