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Historical Capsules

Did you know?

  • On February 9, 1883, the contract for the construction of the Parliament Building’s main facade was signed. Construction began the following May. The plans for the main entrance already included the motto created by Eugène-Étienne Taché: “Je me souviens” (I remember).

  • The lights on the Parliament Building’s central tower were installed in 1908 to mark Québec City’s Tercentennial. Since then, they have remained lit whenever the Assembly is sitting, night or day.

  • At the end of the 19th century, it was the enviable lot of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly to have living quarters in the Parliament Building, a hub of social activity where political eminences regularly rubbed shoulders with the capital’s more prosperous citizens. The Speaker of the Legislative Council also had private quarters in the Parliament Building.

  • The Library data bank contains the names of all the contractors who worked on the Parliament Building from 1876 to 1909 and the nature of the work they carried out. This treasure trove of information will be further enriched once archival research has been carried out covering the years 1909 to 1980.

  • The presence of the coats of arms of the Netherlands and Belgium, in the Parliament Building’s main hall, remains shrouded in mystery. Research has shown that they were installed sometime between 1966 and 1975, but no clues have surfaced as to exactly when or why.

  • Of the 22 bronze statues arrayed on the facade of the Parliament Building, 16 were installed between 1890 and 1926. The project was subsequently put on hold until 1965 when, over the next four years, the six remaining bronzes were cast and installed.

  • While the Parliament Building was still under construction, the Québec Skating Club built an impressive structure housing a skating rink close by. Given the location of the rink, right in front of the Parliament Building, Eugène-Étienne Taché repeatedly called for its demolition. The structure was finally pulled down in 1889.

  • In 1904, Henri Beau’s painting, The Arrival of Champlain at Quebec, was mounted on the wall above the Speaker’s throne in the Legislative Council Chamber. The Government had it removed in 1926 and replaced by Charles Huot’s The Sovereign Council. Beau’s painting is now at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec.

  • In the fall of 1881, workers began digging the foundations for the Parliament Building’s facade. To cut costs, the government authorized the contractor, William John Piton, to hire Québec Prison inmates who would be paid less than regular labourers.

  • As early as 1875, Eugène-Étienne Taché began outlining plans for a polygon-shaped library to be built in the Parliament Building courtyard. This was not to be, however, and in 1912, a power plant was erected in the courtyard to house the Assembly’s heating and electrical systems.

  • On June 20, 1985, the quadrangle of buildings and property bordered by what are identified today as René-Lévesque boulevard east, Honoré-Mercier avenue, Grande Allée and des Parlementaires street was declared a national historic site under the Cultural Property Act.

  • Le Parlementaire Restaurant was inaugurated on December 14, 1917, and was called Le Café du Parlement until 1970. It was originally a gathering place for the Members and personnel of the National Assembly as well as the press. It opened its doors to the general public in 1968 and four years later was renamed Le Parlementaire.

  • In 1913, painter and illustrator Charles Huot was asked to create an historic fresco for the ceiling of the Legislative Assembly Chamber. Entitled Je me souviens (I remember), the painting represents the province of Québec in the guise of a woman handing a laurel wreath to some of Québec’s most important historical figures.

  • In August 1980, the Government of Québec issued an order in council to replace the names of its five parliamentary buildings. Since 1938, they had been identified simply by the letters A, B, C, D and E.

  • A bronze statue of Louis Jolliet (1645–1700), early explorer and discoverer of the Mississippi, is included among the historical figures on the facade of the Parliament Building. Did you know that Eugène-Étienne Taché was related to this heroic figure of New France?

  • In 1875, the conservative government in power at the time decided to build a new legislative building. It is interesting to note that then Premier Charles-Eugène Boucher de Boucherville did not sit in the Legislative Assembly with the elected Members but rather in the Legislative Council, to which he was appointed in 1867 to represent the Montarville Division.

  • In 1885, elected Members had to sit in the Legislative Council Chamber because construction work in the Legislative Assembly Chamber was not yet finished. This meant that Legislative Council Members had to meet in the library until the “Red Room” became available to them in 1886.

  • From 1911 to 1926, a statue of Queen Victoria and another of King Edward VII stood in alcoves on opposite sides of the Speaker’s throne in the Legislative Assembly Chamber. Because they were often the subject of criticism, the statues were removed in January 1926.

  • Eugène-Étienne Taché drew his inspiration for the Parliament Building from the architectural style of the Second Empire, which had been popular in France since the expansion of the Louvre between 1848 and 1852.


It happened on...

  • January 27, 1887 - The session had barely begun when Premier Louis-Olivier Taillon, unable to command a majority in the House after the 1886 elections, saw his government voted down by the opposition forces led by Honoré Mercier. Taillon’s reign, a mere four days, remains the shortest of all Québec premiers.

  • January 31, 1889 - While in Québec City to give two recitals, celebrated opera singer Albani (Emma Lajeunesse) found time to attend a sitting of the National Assembly. By arrangement of the Speaker, a special chair was placed on the floor of the House to accommodate the distinguished visitor.

  • February 7, 1913 - Artist Charles Huot announced that his mural-sized painting The Language Debate had been successfully mounted above the Speaker’s throne in the National Assembly Chamber. The painting was officially unveiled the following November.

  • March 27, 1884 - The Assembly sat in temporary rooms set up on the ground floor of today’s Parliament Building, which was still under construction. The Parliament Building on Côte de la Montagne had burned down, and the Assembly was constrained to this costly solution to avoid jeopardizing the opening of the 3rd Session of the 5th Legislature.

  • April 8, 1886 - For the first time ever, the Assembly held a sitting in the present-day National Assembly Chamber. A contemporary photograph reveals the Chamber’s unfinished state, with its unpainted walls and Spartan decor.

  • April 19, 1883 - Fire destroyed the Parliament Building on Côte de la Montagne, leaving Members without a roof over their heads. The solution? Temporary rooms were set up and furnished at great cost in the present-day Parliament Building, still under construction at the time.

  • June 3, 1878 - Québec stonemasons went on strike at the Parliament Building construction site. Two days later, the contractors brought in strikebreakers from Montréal and Trois-Rivières. Riots broke out in Saint-Roch and the army was called in to control the situation. When the dust had settled, two people were dead and several others injured.

  • June 17, 1884 - The cornerstone of the main-entrance portico was laid in an official ceremony presided by Québec’s Lieutenant-Governor, Théodore Robitaille. Among the “time-capsule” objects placed inside the stone were a commemorative plaque, an official photograph of Mr. Robitaille and a number of newspapers.

  • August 18, 1881 - The contract for construction of the foundation for the facade of the Parliament Building was signed.

  • August 26, 1890 - The bronze sculpture A Halt in the Forest, by Louis-Philippe Hébert, was given a prominent place in front of the main entrance to the Parliament Building. It received an award at the Paris World Exposition before being shipped to Québec City.

  • September 1, 1880 - The construction of the Parliament Building was coming along: the Department of Agriculture was first to move in, followed by the province’s Secretariat.

  • October 11, 1884 - Two violent dynamite explosions shook the facade of the Parliament Building then under construction. There were many rumours as to the identity of the perpetrators, but investigators found no leads and after a few months, the investigation was dropped.

  • October 20, 1887 - The first interprovincial conference was convened by Premier Mercier in Québec City. Discussions were held on provincial autonomy and federal subsidies.

  • October 25, 1836 - Eugène-Étienne Taché was born in the parish of Saint-Thomas (Montmagny). At age 13, he went to Toronto to study civil engineering and surveying at Upper Canada College. He completed his training in Québec City in 1860 alongside Charles Baillairgé, Québec’s most prominent architect at the time.

  • December 9, 1939 - On this date, a new coat of arms was adopted by an order in council of the Government of Québec to better reflect Québec history and heraldic rules. The new coat of arms features three fleurs-de-lis (stylized lily flowers) in comparison with the two found in Québec’s original coat of arms.