Quebec City, Quebec History on TransCanadaHighway.com
In 1535, Jacques Cartier was on a mission for Francois I, King of France, to seek gold in the New World, as well as a passage to the Orient. He stopped at the Indian villages of Stadacona (sometimes anglicized to "Strathcona") at the base of the city's cliffs. Searching for precious stones (but finding just iron pyrite and quartz), he named the escarpment Cap Diamant, cape of diamonds. After three expeditions, and finding neither gems nor an Orient passage, the King refused to finance further voyages by Cartier. In 1608 Samuel de Champlain established a permanent trading post at the site, with fortified buildings, which was called the Abitation. The first winter was harsh, and 20 of the 28 men died from scurvy and malnutrition, but marked the beginning of the French fur trade in North America. Over time peasant families moved from France and established farms in the area and up and down the St Lawrence. Champlain named the community for "Kébec" the native word meaning "place where the river becomes narrow»". New France covered covered all of what is known today as Eastern Canada, the Eastern United States, the Great Lakes and Louisiana, and extended from Hudson's Bay in the north to Florida in the south. In 1620, Champlain built Fort Saint-Louis, and in 1691 the Royal Battery is built by Governor Frontenac.
Basse Ville became the town's commercial and residential centre, and Lower Town retained its status until the middle of the 1800's. The Recollets were the colony's first missionaries in 1615, and were followed by the Jesuits in 1635, and the Ursulines and Augustines in 1639 (the last two, orders of nuns, are still active today). Monsignor François de Laval founded the Séminaire de Québec in 1663 and became the first bishop of the newly created diocese of Québec in 1674.
The English-French rivalry in the New World is central to Quebec City's history for the next 200 years. In 1729 the city was captured by the Kirke brothers, but was returned to France in 1632. Later in 1690, the city successfully survived a siege by Admiral Phipps, but fell for the last time after the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. British troops under General Wolfe boldly climbed up the steep cliffs upstream of the town and defeated the French under General Montcalm, killing both in the battle. New France and the 9000 residents of Quebec City was ceded to the British under the 1763 Treaty of Paris.
Shortly afterwards, during the American Revolution, 1775, the English Carleton fought off the Americans under Montgomery and Benedict Arnold. The construction of the current Citadelle and other fortified works was completed: 1805-23 Martello Towers No. 1, 2, at the Plains of Abraham, No 3 at Grand Théatre (since demolished) and no 4 on rue Lavigueur, in the Saint-Jean-Baptiste district, and Dalhousie Gate which is the entrance to the Citadel. From 1873-76 much of the fortifications of Quebec City were recycled into the stone buildings that dot the older part of the city. Lord Dufferin, the British governor for what because known as Lower Canada realized the potential for tourism, and prevented further destruction of the city's walls and fortifications and rebuilt the Saint-Louis and Kent gates in 1878 and 1879.
Quebec quickly became a major British east coast port, and became a major centre for shipbuilding. Over the 1800s, though, Quebec City would lose its prominence as gateway to the interior to Montreal,. Which was also accessible to ocean-going shipping. Quebec city retained its role as centre of government, and as a major military base.
The Constitutional Act of 1791 divided the "Province of Québec" into Upper and Lower Canada and designated Québec City as the capital of Lower Canada. In 1841, the Union Act united the two Canadas. Over a period of a few years, different Canadian cities played the role of national capital, including Québec City. After the British North America Act in 1867, which created the new nation of Canada, Québec City became the capital of the province of Québec.
The Fairmont Chateau Frontenac hotel, which is seen in almost every tourist photo of the city, is actually quite recent. In 1890, Cornelius van Horne, head of the Canadian Pacific railway began to build hotels across Canada to attract European tourism to Canada. The hotel is named for one of the best known governors of New France, Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac who lived from 1622 to 1698. The hotel was designed by American architect Bruce Price, better know for his skyscrapers, who incorporated the feel of Loire Valley chateaus. It was built in four stages, with the first completed in 1893, and the central tower in 1923. The 1944 Quebec Conference was held here, when US president Roosevelt, British prime minister Winston Churchill and Canadian prime minister Mackenzie King discuss the post war future of Europe.
Québec City started the first Winter Carnival in 1954. In the 1950s the province was sidetracked by the cronyism and nationalist vision of Québec premier Maurice Duplessis. In the 1960s, visions of French nationhood re-awoke, leading to the violent FLQ crisis in 1970, when Quebec-raised prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau enacted the War Measures Act to control unruly separatists. More recently, the province held several referenda on separation from the rest of Canada in 1980 (60% against 40% in favour) and in 1995 when the 'No' vote won by less than 1%. Old Québec was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
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