travel / travel magazine / mar10

March 2010 issue

Parks Canada: National Parks and National Historic Sites

National Historic Sites: Touching history  (Page 1 of 3)
Three national historic sites — Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux, the Trent-Severn Waterway and Lower Fort Garry — are poignant reminders of those who came before, how they lived, and all they accomplished

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

Click map to enlarge
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.

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 office building.

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.



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Comments on this articleLeave 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?

Submitted by Thomas Gilchrist on Monday, March 29, 2010

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