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Morrin College – Former Quebec Prison National Historic Site of Canada

44 Chaussée des Écossais (formerly Saint-Stanislas Street), Québec, Quebec, G1R, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1981/11/13

View of projecting central pavilion with pedimented porch over central entry.; Source: Andrew Waldron, Parks Canada, 2014.
View of projecting central pavilion.
Interior view of the library.; Source: Andrew Waldron, Parks Canada, 2014.
View of the library.
Entrance hall and stairs with pendant lighting.; Source: Andrew Waldron, Parks Canada, 2014.
Entrance hall and stairs.

Other Name(s)

Morrin College – ancienne prison de Québec
Old Prison of Québec (Morrin College)
La vieille prison de Québec (Morrin College)
Morrin College – Former Quebec Prison National Historic Site of Canada
Morrin College – Former Quebec Prison

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1808/01/01 to 1814/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/01/25

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Morrin College / Former Québec Prison National Historic Site of Canada is an imposing early 19th-century institutional building, located in Quebec City. This four-storey stone building, designed in the Palladian style, was built in 1808-14 as a prison. It was converted for use as a college in 1868, and has served since then as the library and archives of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec. Official recognition refers to the building on its lot at the time of designation.

Heritage Value

Morrin College / Former Québec Prison was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1981 because:
-it was the first prison in Canada to reflect the ideas of British reformer John Howard, and;
-it was one of the first buildings in Quebec to be inspired by the principles of British classicism.

In keeping with Howard’s principles, the interior plan of the prison provided for the separation of inmates into cell blocks according to the type and severity of their crimes. Within each cell block, communal space was provided for rehabilitative work activities, and latrines ensured basic hygiene. The prison was also one of the first to be built separately from a courthouse.

Designed by Quebec architect François Baillairgé (1759-1830), the building reflects the traditions of both English Palladian and French architecture. Brought to Canada by British administrators and clergymen after the conquest, the Palladian style became popular in Canada during the early 19th century for domestic and religious architecture. Baillairgé was one of the first Quebec architects to use the Palladian style for an administrative building. Baillairgé gave the building a distinctive appearance by incorporating unusual dimensions and ornamentation, and by employing a 16th-century French architectural device in which building components are arranged in accordance with a mathematical ratio. Craftsmen who contributed to the building of the prison include joiners Charles Marié et Pierre Fauché, carpenter J.-Baptiste Bédard, masons Édouard Cannon et fils, glassmaker Pierre Romain, and ironworker Pierre le François. The building was converted for use as an anglophone college in 1868 by architect Joseph-Ferdinand Peachy. Since then it has also been the home of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, itself an institution designated of national historic significance.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minute, November 1981.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements which relate to the heritage value of the site include:
- its siting inside the old city;
- its Palladian style, evident in its massing with four-storey projecting central pavilion and flanking three-storey wings; symmetrically arranged five-bay façade with pedimented porch over central entry, giant Doric pilasters, and integration of attic windows with metopes and triglyphs;
- the regular and symmetrical placement of double-hung windows throughout the building;
- evidence of the original crépi exterior wall finish;
- its fine craftsmanship and high quality materials;
- its stone construction and detailing;
- surviving remnants of the original interior plan, including: basement cell blocks and intact cells;
- surviving graffiti in the secured areas
- evidence of interior layout as designed by Joseph Ferdinand Peachy.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1867/01/01 to 1867/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design
Governing Canada
Security and Law

Function - Category and Type


Post-Secondary Institution


Correctional Facility

Architect / Designer

François Baillairgé, Joseph-Ferdinand Peachy



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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