For a Safer, More Beautiful City
This lovely urban boulevard is the only one in the Saint-Roch district to have a large median planted with hundred-year-old trees. Originally, the street was called Saint-Ours and was like any other in the neighbourhood, but the great fire of 1866 led to a complete makeover. It was widened to create a fire barrier, then turned into a landscaped boulevard at the suggestion of architect Charles Baillairgé.
A very old street
This is one of the city’s oldest streets. It started as a road leading to the Recollect Monastery built in 1623 and converted into a general hospital in 1692. In the early 18th century, a windmill was erected here to meet the needs of the Augustinians, the religious community that managed the general hospital. In 1731 it was rebuilt in stone, and was in operation until the first half of the 19th century. Today it stands at the corner of rue Saint-François Ouest.
In the mid-19th century, the land along the road was divided into building lots. Workers settled along the street then named Saint-Ours in honour of Jeanne-Geneviève, benefactor of the general hospital’s religious community.
Fire, an agent of change
In 1866 a terrible fire destroyed 2,500 homes in Saint-Roch and the neighbouring municipality of Saint-Sauveur. The buildings on rue Saint-Ours, which then constituted Québec City’s western limit, were razed. The fire led to the changes we see today.
The City tripled the width of rue Saint-Ours, extending it from 9 to 30 metres. The objective was to create a wide fire barrier between Saint-Roch and Saint-Sauveur, an area in which most homes were made of wood and therefore particularly vulnerable to fire. It took six years to expropriate all the property required.
Lower Town’s first urban boulevard
The beautification project for this exceptional street was initiated in 1885 under the direction of City engineer Charles Baillairgé. It entailed the opening of the cliff—today’s côte Salaberry—to improve traffic flow and the creation of a median along the boulevard, which in 1890 was renamed Langelier in honour of Québec City’s mayor. Baillairgé was influenced by English and American movements in urban planning of the day to incorporate nature into the city. American elms were planted on this first Lower Town boulevard, and it was equipped with public benches, streetlamps, and a bandstand to make the city healthier and more agreeable.
The new design led to the construction of prestigious stone buildings, such as a National Bank branch, the Jacques-Cartier Convent, a technical school (310 boulevard Langelier), and a number of upper-middle-class homes made of brick.
A diverse urban fabric
In addition to the prestigious buildings erected between 1892 and 1910, boulevard Langelier bears traces of other periods of its history. There are still a number of more modest brick apartments built after the fire of 1866, and one of the shoe manufacturing facilities that dotted the neighbourhood around 1900 is at the corner of rue De Saint-Vallier (the entrance is at 7 rue De Saint-Vallier). Changes made to the median in the 1950s to accommodate the increasing number of automobiles are still in place.