J.-F. Peachy’s contribution to Québec City’s heritage was considerable, particularly in the Saint-Jean-Baptiste neighbourhood, where he lived and worked. He was especially active from 1865 to 1890. Often identified with the Second Empire style, he was the first to apply it to private homes like this one (No. 429). Peachy’s approach long gave Grande Allée its prestigious appearance.
The making of a great architect
When he started out Joseph-Ferdinand Peachy adopted the sober architectural approach that reigned across the city. He apprenticed with the renowned Charles Baillairgé, becoming his assistant and then associate from 1853 to 1866. Peachy’s career really took off when the city recruited Baillairgé as superintendent of works and Baillairgé stopped working as an architect.
Peachy worked frequently for municipalities, banks, parishes, and religious orders, designing churches, public buildings, and businesses that were a natural extension of his early works.
A novel approach
In 1876, before work had started on Québec’s parliament buildings—which would adopt the Second Empire style under architect Eugène-Étienne Taché—Peachy broke new ground by applying the same French style to six townhouses built on Rue Sainte-Anne in Old Québec. This more expressive style included more decorative elements and would from then on be associated with Peachy’s work, leaving its mark on the city’s architecture for decades to come.
The style’s main feature is probably the mansard roof, which proved both popular and practical since it increased the living area under the roof. Elaborate lintels that topped and embellished the façade windows were another common feature, along with sometimes very elaborate bay windows.
During a stay in France in 1879 Peachy had a chance to study Second Empire and Neo-Renaissance styles very closely, both very much in vogue at the time in Europe. This influence imbued his future work even more exuberance and originality.
Peachy and Grande Allée
From 1877 to 1895 Peachy designed 32 private homes for the well-to-do of Grande Allée, all in Second Empire style. The finest of all were demolished in the 1960s. They were opposite parliament and stood out thanks to a wealth of sophisticated decorative elements: spirelets and flagpoles on high arched roofs, bull’s-eye windows topped by carved pediments, wrought iron crests, modillion cornices, luxurious oriel windows on the façades, lintels and archivolts adorning narrow windows, and stone banding in contrasting colours.
The homes that best represent this well-heeled Second Empire elegance so favoured by Peachy and his rich clients can be found at 455–555 Grande Allée.
Rue Saint-Jean and Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church
The house at No. 429 Rue Saint-Jean was designed by Peachy. It belonged to F.-X. Dussault, the joint owner of a large tobacco company that was once right in the middle of Saint-Jean-Baptiste and has today been converted into apartments. It is a fine example of the luxurious private homes that were built in the Second Empire style. Peachy, who lived and worked on Rue Saint-Jean, designed seven more such homes for others who lived on the same street.
Rue Saint-Jean is also home to the building considered to be Peachy’s masterpiece: Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church. He drew up the plans for the building right after it was destroyed by fire in 1881. The façade was completely transformed, flaunting Peachy’s mastery of the very latest trends that inspired him. The interior also shows off his use of space and the architectural style of a virtuoso recently returned from Europe.
A neighbour and mentor
J.-F. Peachy played an active role in the community. He served as churchwarden, was a member of the city council for 20 years, and was the founding member and president of the province’s association of architects. A number of young architects served their apprenticeships in his office, including his successor Joseph-Pierre-Edmond Dussault and Elzéar Charest and Georges-Émile Tanguay, both of whom lived in the same neighbourhood. Tanguay would later be at the forefront of a new wave of architecture in the city.