The Military Past of a Peaceful Park
This peaceful oasis of greenery in the heart of Old Québec is the only remaining part of the first French fortifications built in the 17th century…which explains the cannons. The park stands on a rocky mound known as Mont Carmel that provides it with natural defences and lends its name to the adjoining street. As for the mill and the cavalier in the park’s name, they refer to the windmill that used to stand here.
To the four winds
Today you can admire many fine historical buildings from this high point of Old Québec, but before they were ever built Simon Denys de la Trinité thought it the perfect place to build a windmill. This rocky mound, known as Mont Carmel, was exposed to the four winds and was then on the outskirts of town.
The mill and the cavalier
During the siege of Québec in 1690, Governor Frontenac had the mound hastily fortified. Three years later he reinforced the first fortifications of earth and wood with a stone wall around the mill, which then became the “cavalier” of the Saint-Louis bastion. In the military language of the day, a cavalier was a pile of earth with an upper platform to hold a battery of cannons. In this case, the cannons were directly on the ground, as they are today, and the mill completed the defensive wall, standing tall, a little like the tower of a castle.
War and peace
The bastion was abandoned at the start of the 18th century when the French moved the city’s fortifications to where they stand today. The mill was knocked down at the end of the French regime.
After the Seven Years’ War, ownership of this plot of land known as Cavalier-du-Moulin passed into the hands of the British colonial government. The government had a number of buildings put up on it, including the home of Colonel Darling, a keen wine enthusiast, which burned down in 1844. The restored wall we see today dates from exactly the same period. It was redone to prevent it from falling, and the land was then rented out to various individuals.
A city park
The Québec government acquired Cavalier-du-Moulin and the home next to it in 1962. Shortly after, it had the stone wall reinforced. During this work, archaeologists uncovered part of the buttresses erected in 1693, which are under this 19th century layer of stone.
Since the 1980s the park has been a haven of peace and greenery known and enjoyed by only a minority of locals and curious tourists. You can now count yourself among them.