House Page 15

Great Canadian Houses

Manoir Mauvide-Genest, St.-Jean, Quebec - 1734

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous example of a Quebec stone manor house, built in 1734, by Jean Mauvide, a surgeon for the King of France, on the ancient Chemin du Roy, the road by which you circle round the Ile d'Orleans.

This historic island is just down river and east of Quebec City.

Some of Quebec's - and Canada's - oldest continuously farmed land is on this island.

And many of Canada's leading painters for the past two hundred years have come here to paint habitant farmers as they toil sickle and rake, ox and plough, or go of with horse and rig, or team and sled.

Some, like Horatio Walker bought a house here and set up his studio where he entertained the royalty of Canada's painting community over a century ago.

Manoir Mauvide-Genest, St.-Jean, Ile d'Orleans, Quebec - 1734
Orig. Quebec style, "colombage pierrote" stone house
Found - St.-Jean, Ile d'Orleans, Quebec

Wolfe's Balls or Tourist Hype?
In 1759, the manoir was 25 years old when the British fleet, carrying General James Wolfe's army, appeared offshore, ready to lay siege to the French in Quebec. In a preliminary move, Wolfe landed his troops on the Ile d'Orleans, planning to use the island as a staging ground for the siege of the city a few kilometres upriver. To destroy the French resistance, to a landing on the island, he softened up the shore batteries with broadsides from his war ships.

The tourist literature from the Isle d'Orleans breathlessly notes the three cannon ball holes on the water side wall of the manor - barely 100 metres from shore - above the window beside the far door.

(Tourist promoters around the world love pinpointing bullet holes and shell damage by guns, in houses and churches; it guarantees lots of photos and stories when awestruck visitors get back home and tell family and friends of the damage. Can't beat it for publicity and more future customers.)

We went looking but found no holes, at all, in the walls above the same window right. When we enquired inside - at the end of summer there were no guests eating at this large restaurant - a grumpy chef, sporting the appropriate French accent, showed up at the door.

"No, no cannon ball holes in this hotel! It's just a story. Thank you,"
and he was gone... A bit crossly; he had anticipated a high paying dinner guest but found two tourists who were asking about a period of history he obviously had no interest in having recalled.

On the Isle d'Orleans, plaques etc. about Wolfe and the Conquest of 1759, have been slowly, but surely, pushed from their earlier places of prominence, to less public corners of sites, so making them harder to find. Was hiding the cannon ball holes part of this effort to hide history?

We examined the window more closely, and lo, there underneath the stucco one could make out where the three holes had once existed, and had now been covered up, guaranteeing no more questions about Wolfe...

So the question remains, since the three holes had once been there, where they genuine from Wolfe's day, or had they been more recently constructed by an owner who wanted to hype the tourist potential for people who hankered for such memorabilia of past mayhem and bloodshed - make that all of us!

How would you ever know the truth?

So we sought out archival photos of the manor and found the photo left, from 1926, as it was undergoing a restoration by private owner Judge Camille Pouliot who wanted it saved.

And there, above the window, are the same three cannon ball holes that showed up in the tourist brochure in 1996, some seventy years later.

They had been out in the open for scores of years; they had definitely been covered up only a very short time ago.

Mystery solved: they were definitely Wolfe's, not some tourist promoter's... Right?

Like many of these large Quebec stone houses, the Manoir Mauvide-Genest grew by sections, clearly shown in the picture from 1924, before restoration began.

The original house and door are on the right - where the cannon ball holes are. But it was only a single storey high.

The rubble wall left of the door show where the original house ended.




Later the second storey was added and the rest of the house extended, with another door and chimney to give it more symmetry as well as the necessary heat and access.

At the beginning of the 20th century, many of Quebec's old stone mansions and houses had fallen into disrepair as modern Quebeckers opted for modern housing.







With the rebirth of pride, over the past few decades, in people, places, and events in Quebec history, heritage conscious Quebecois are gradually reclaiming houses that once sheltered their ancestors. They are spending multi-thousands to restore them - and even live in them - before they are irretrievably lost to the decay of history.

And they set up plaques pointing out to all who pass, that here, full of hope, is where their family first turned over sod in the early 1600s.

Standing in front of such a place leaves one awestruck and profoundly moved to share this heritage moment with a Canadian family so long ago...

the marker for the Leclerc Family homestead (yellow dot) in Ste.-Petronille, on the west end of Ile d'Orleans. It stands alongside the highway beside the drive down to the farm houses where it all began so long ago...

General Wolfe actually had his headquarters here during the summer of 1759, only a few hundred metres to the left of this marker (blue dot.)

The Leclercs had already farmed these fields for 100 years, when the British army arrived, and covered their property with tents, as some 40,000 of Wolfe's soldiers waited for him to decide how, when, and where, he would send them into battle.

But Québécois, everywhere, are swinging away from battlefields and heroic generals, and putting the emphasis of historic remembrance where it should have been all along - on celebrating the day to day hard work of ordinary men, women, and children of long ago, who really built up the infrastructure that gave Canada the firm foundation on which a nation was built.

Not the generals - like Wolfe and Hillier, Canada's Chief of the Defence Staff - who just live for the moment when they can smash things down. In the end, Wolfe had pounded much of Quebec's architectural heritage into the dust before a victory could be declared.

The handiwork of generals is like that; whenever they win, they are surrounded by devastation on all sides, of people and places. And loser generals as well... As the Duke of Wellington said, "Nothing, except a battle lost, can be half as melancholy, as a battle won."

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Church, St.-Laurent, Ile d'Orleans, Quebec - 1860
Orig. Quebec style,cut stone church
Found - St.-Laurent, Ile d'Orleans, Quebec
On this very spot General Wolfe stepped ashore, barely 100 metres to the right of the village church of St.-Laurent. He walked right by the spot where a commemorative plaque now marks the event.

The actual church Wolfe saw when he landed is right below and which was finally demolished in 1864, and replaced by the one above.

On the door above the curé had posted a note to the general before fleeing, hoping Wolfe would harvest and help himself to the vegetables and fruit in his garden, as they were ripe and it would be a shame for them to be wasted.

Wolfe spared the church and outbuildings from the usual depredations by his troops. The curé had found a soft spot in the general's heart.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Wolfe at Quebec - JD Kelly
Orig. print - Size - 33 x 47 cms
Found - Dundas, ON
Supplement to the Christmas Globe, 1905
Not far from the Leclerc family farm above, General Wolfe stands at Ste.-Petronille, and watches with satisfaction as his artillery - the smoke from the Levis shore, left - pounds the city, and the French-Canadian men, women, and children it contains, to rubble. The smoke and fire from the city shows his gunners - they've been doing this for months - are finding targets, and successes.

This fine historical print, issued as a Supplement to the Christmas Globe in 1905, can still be found, a hundred years later, at rural auctions in Ontario, carefully preserved by generations of British immigrants who honour Wolfe's role in the establishment of the British heritage in Canada. Though not by descendants of the people who perished under his guns.

Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005