One of the First Main Streets of Québec City
Côte de la Fabrique is one of Québec City’s oldest streets, appearing on the very first maps of the town in the 17th century. However, today’s storefronts are from a more recent era, when the higher classes would come shopping for luxury items. The area was also frequented by writers and poets.
The church council
The street was laid out as it appears today right at the start of the colony in the 17th century. Its name comes from the assembly of laypersons tasked with managing the parish’s material possessions, known as the “fabrique paroissiale” in French. The parish in question was created in 1656. It came to include the church that was built in 1664 and still sits atop the hill to this day, though has since become the Notre-Dame-de-Québec Basilica-Cathedral.
A shopping street
In the 19th century, Côte de la Fabrique became a place of trade. At the time, the square in front of the church was the site of the Upper Town public market. Drawn by the steady stream of potential customers heading to market, many merchants chose to set up shop.
Côte de la Fabrique quickly came to house mainly higher end shops. Hatters, furriers, fabric merchants, and tailors catered mostly to an English-speaking bourgeoisie, who were sheltered from sun and rain as they shopped by the canopies that adorned the storefronts. Starting in 1878 they could also hop aboard a horse-drawn tramway linking rue Saint-Jean to Côte de la Fabrique.
A home for the literati
The street did not just draw the anglophone middle class. Established in 1847, Librairie Crémazie quickly became a meeting place for francophone literature lovers, especially after it expanded under the guidance of the founder’s brother, the poet Octave Crémazie. It was frequented by novelists, poets, and historians who browsed its large selection of books imported from France, including some of the most recent titles. These writers also gathered in the back room to discuss the future of French Canadian literature.
After falling heavily into debt, Crémazie sought exile in France, and the bookstore was taken over by the young Joseph-Pierre Garneau. For the next few decades, it would be Quebec City’s preeminent bookstore, especially after it moved into a larger space on rue De Buade in the early 20th century.
A street of entertainment
Côte de la Fabrique also has a long history of entertainment. In 1894 it was the route of the first Québec City Winter Carnival parade. In 1936 the Empire Theatre opened its doors to Upper Town moviegoers. Today street performers attract crowds at the square at the top of the hill between the cathedral and Québec City Hall.
A heritage legacy
The building that housed the Empire Theatre for years was recently purchased by La Maison Simons, which has operated a clothing store in the building next door since 1870.The company expanded its store while preserving the Art Deco façade of the old theatre. Heritage protection and promotion has gone hand in hand with the growth of La Maison Simons for years. For example, in its century-old store on Côte de la Fabrique, renovated antique French woodwork beautifully complements the unique character of Old Québec.