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Multifamily Brick Dwellings

Multifamily Brick Dwellings

The Saint-Roch Trademark

In the late 19th century after a series of devastating fires, Saint-Roch became more densely populated, leading to gradual changes in how the neighbourhood was set out. The wooden maisonettes gave way to townhouses, and later to multifamily dwellings. These brick buildings still predominate today. If you look at their mostly plain facades, you will nonetheless see a broad range decorative details. 

Brick, a good compromise

In the aftermath of the terrible fires of 1845 and 1866, two new types of house were built in Saint-Roch. The poorest had no choice but to rebuild in wood, just as before. But the better-off opted for a material that was both lasting and fireproof: brick. Brick was a good compromise between wood and stone, the latter being much more expensive.

These one- and two-storey brick homes were often flush against neighbouring homes. With no alleyway between them, a shared porte-cochère provided access to the stables and outbuildings behind them. With their rather narrow facades, these homes often had gable roofs, later replaced by mansard roofs to provide additional living space in the attic. These homes at 735 and 741 Rue De La Salle are a good example.

One house, many families

In the late 19th century, the population of Saint-Roch was still growing, and vacant lots were becoming more and more rare. A new type of home appeared on the market: the triplex or multifamily dwelling. An import from the United States, this type of raised home got the most out of each lot by putting apartments one on top of the other. Most were three storeys high and housed three families, each of whom had its own door on the front of the building.

Such homes were built on narrower lots than their American counterparts, and flush with the street. They had no verandas and no front staircases on the outside. They looked a little like the townhouses in the area, borrowing features like brick cladding and mansard roofs, and were built touching each other. At the turn of the 20th century, contractors gradually switched to flat roofs, which were easier and cheaper to put up.

A distinctive look

Multifamily dwellings built between 1870 and 1945 are the predominant type of housing in Saint-Roch. Their plain facades are embellished in various ways, giving each its own personality. Doors and windows often have fairly plain stone, brick, or wooden trim, while broad, corbelled bay windows are also quite common. In days gone by, they would indicate which floor the owner lived on. Less elaborate than mansard roofs, flat roofs also boasted a wide range of cornices. On rue de la Reine, the houses at numbers 650, 644, 645, 633, 614, 610, 594, and 592 give a good idea of the variations from building to building.

Brick cladding was another way to set homes apart. Since bricks had never been used, Québec contractors experimented both with the type of brick and how they were laid. The bricks used in the neighbourhood were for years made by artisans and are noted for their varied shapes and colours.