Saint-Roch in Its Heyday
Saint-Roch’s architecture reveals its working-class roots, but a sprinkling of homes stand out for their size and luxury. Stone masonry work, chic brick cladding, turrets, and cornices are all telltale signs of a community of local worthies eager to flaunt their social standing. These homes date to the neighbourhood’s heyday.
People of standing
Despite the predominance of the working classes in Saint-Roch, towards the end of the 18th century and throughout the 19th, members of the middle classes who grew up in the neighbourhood opted to stay there. Some were professionals such as lawyers, notaries, and doctors. Others made their fortunes in business, manufacturing, or industry.
The dignity of stone
The middle classes who stayed in Saint-Roch built homes that reflected their social status. With their size and costly construction materials, they clearly stood out among the wooden working-class homes and, later, the standard brick homes. Until the mid-19th century, they were built from stone, an expensive material that required specialized workers like stonecutters and stone masons, who commanded higher wages than regular artisans.
These stone houses were built on a model common in 18th century residential architecture. They had sheet metal gable roofs and one or two storeys, plus a fire wall on either side to comply with municipal bylaws. Their stone walls were bare or roughly plastered to provide insulation.
In the late 19th century, brick emerged as the go-to material in Saint-Roch. The homes of the well-to-do were no exception. To show their wealth, local dignitaries hired well-known architects to design elegant homes for them according to the latest trends in architecture. The homes were exquisitely embellished to set them apart from their neighbours. So it was that confectioner William Davis hired Joseph-Ferdinand Peachy in 1885 to draft plans for his home at Du Parvis and Du Roi. The architect drew inspiration from the Château style and adorned the house with a distinctive turret.
A few metres away at 330 rue du Parvis, a home that once belonged to former Québec City mayor Joseph-Oscar Auger catches the eye with its steep gable roof typical of the Victorian style. Its architect, Eugène-Michel Talbot, used to the same style for the extravagant home of shoe store owner Octave Feuiltault at 533-535 rue De La Salle.
Starting in the 1930s, however, the moneyed classes begin to leave Saint-Roch for new homes in the nicer neighbourhoods of Upper Town. The homes they left behind were often divided into apartments or rooms to rent, although recently some have regained their glory of old.