The famous monument to Québec founder Samuel de Champlain looms over the excavated ruins of the Château Saint-Louis.
Photo: Renaud Philippe
Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux: Forts underfoot
Descend into the layers of the past at Québec’s Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux
Photography by Renaud Philippe with story by Peter Black
WHAT STARTED AS A REPAIR JOB is now surely one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in
North America, and one of the most accessible to visitors. The Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux National
Historic Site in Québec, situated under the Dufferin Terrace boardwalk in front of Le Château Frontenac
hotel, has proven to be a treasure trove of architectural vestiges and historical artifacts dating back to 1620.
|Click map to enlarge|
Although historians knew that the ruins of four forts and two residences lay beneath the terrace built
in 1838 and subsequently extended, it was not until the 1980s that the need for urgent repairs to the
structure presented the opportunity for a major dig. As an indication of the bounty to come, among the
first discoveries when workers peeled back the boardwalk was a large cannon carriage — perhaps an
appropriate find for a fortification Governor General of New France Louis de Buade de Frontenac made
famous with his 1690 vow to reply to an English call to surrender with the “mouths of my cannons.”
Archaeologists dug out thousands more artifacts before the site was again covered over in 1987.
The promenade was again ripped up for repairs in 2005-07. This time, though, Parks Canada decided
to create a temporary open exhibit for the benefit of the anticipated surge of visitors for the city’s 400th
anniversary in 2008. And visitors did come. Some 500,000 tourists have walked the site since it opened and marvelled at the ruins of kitchens, stables, fortifications and,
yes, latrines. A fraction of the multitude of artifacts unearthed in various digs are on display in the neighbouring old post
Based on this success, Parks Canada is now looking for the best option to protect the site and artifacts and make them
available for viewing on a more permanent basis. More work to protect the ruins will begin this summer. In the meantime, the
site should still be accessible to visitors for a few weeks this spring.
Photojournalist Renaud Philippe is based in Québec. Peter Black is a radio producer and writer in Québec.
|Comments on this article||Leave a comment|
Is not Fort Prince of Wales considered a trading post? It is surely older than Lower Fort Garry. Also - Riel occupied Upper Fort Garry during the Red River Rebellion - did he occupy the lower fort as well?