Municipalité de Ste-Pétronille
Municipalité de de Ste-Pétronille | Ile d'Orléans
Municipalité de de Ste-Pétronille  | Ile d'Orléans
Municipalité de de Ste-Pétronille | Ile d'Orléans



Interpretation Panel 1




1652 - 2002

Sainte-Pétronille Recalls



Éléonore de Grandmaison, born in Clamecy, France, was likely the first European to settle on the île d'Orléans, in 1648, with François de Chavigny de Berchereau and the first of their six children. The following year, her husband was given a rear-fief of 40 arpents across the breadth of the western tip of the island.


Having become a widow in 1651, Éléonore de Grandmaison took Jacques Gourdeau as her third husband on August 13, 1652. The marriage - the first to be celebrated on île d'Orléans, was performed par Father Chaumonot. At that point, the fief of the first seigneuress in New France passed into the hands of Jacques Gourdeau and took the name Beaulieu. Four children were born of this union.


On the occasion of the 350th anniversary of this marriage, a plaque was unveiled on Augut 11, 2002, by the Association mondiale des descendants d'Éléonore de Grandmaison (AMDEG) and by the Sainte-Pétronille town council. At the same time, a heritage walking tour was inaugurated in the heart of the village - starting here. Il describes the first buildings in the 17th century and the development of the tip of the island, wich gave rise in 1870 and 1874 to the parish of Sainte-Pétronille-de-Beaulieu and to de village of Beaulieu. The latter has been called the village of Sainte-Pétronille since 1980.




Interpretation Panel 2


The Anse du Fort



Right ahead of you, beyond the inn, archeological digs revealed the traces of Native occupancy dating back over three thousand years and belonging to a woodland tradition. This is the site of the anse du Fort, whose name evokes a more recent period in our history, however.


This is where the Hurons in fact settled in 1651 in their efforts to escape the deadly attacks of the Iroquois, who had routed them from the Fort Sainte-Marie in the Georgian Bay region of Ontario. In their desire to provide them with shelter and permit them to live, the Jesuit missionaries rented much of the seigneury of the widow Éléonore de Grandmaison, located from 1648 on the western tip of the île d'Orléans.


The mission, headed by Father Chaumonot, was defended by a fort comprising a paling surrounding a house for the missionaries and their servants and a chapel in wich was likely celebrated the marriage of Éléonore de Grandmaison and Jacques Gourdeau, on August 13, 1652.


Within the protection of the fort were built the cabins of the Hurons, numbering between 500 and 600, according to the Jesuits' Relations. The lived a peaceful farming existence until 1656, when the were again attacked by the Iroquois, whose canoes had passed by Quebec City furtively under cover of darkness. The survivors of the massacre sought refuge in the shelter of the canons of Quebec City. They went on to settle permanently in the area around the capital.


The Hurons had lived a little over five years on the lands of Éléonore de Grandmaison - from March 29, 1651, to July 4, 1656.



 Interpretation Panel 3


The Firt Wharf on the Île d'Orléans



In 1855, not far from the anse du Fort, solicitor Noël Hill Bowen had a one hunded and fifty foot wharf built, which permitted a depth of twenty foot draft at even the lowest tides.



The Island’s Portal


This undertaking boosted the economy of the île d'Orléans through the links provided with Quebec City thereafter by schooners and steam boats, much more effective than small boats, especially for the market farmers who supplied the markets of the city. In turn, the residents of the capital, drawn by the bucolic charms and stunning vistas of the western tip of the island, began to invade it on weekends. Those better off chose to move there during the fine weather. This is the setting for the birth and development of the village of Beaulieu, which, later on became Sainte-Pétronille.



Ferry Traffic


In order to accommodate ferry passengers, at the other end of the rue du Quai, the Maison du passage provided a waiting room and a livery stable and vehicle park. In 1924, a new ferry accommodated passengers and vehicles on board. From then on, the islanders had a steamboat that could, in an emergency, set sail for Quebec City at any hour, as the crew lived near the wharf.


It was, however, the construction of a bridge in 1935 that promoted land traffic and tolled the knell of the Sainte-Pétronille wharf: the tip of the island welcomed only small excursion boats, like the famous Duc d'Orléans. Finally, the decline of the facilities led eventually to the abandonment of the wharf and the loss in the early 1980s of its use.



A Favorite Look-out


Traditionally considered the place publique of Sainte-Pétronille, the wharf is still a delightful destination for walkers and still offers, in addition to unique access to she Seaway, a fascinating place to view the activity on the St. Lawrence, which begins, at the pointe de Lévy to bend in front of Quebec City and Cap-aux-Diamants. In short, along with Dufferin terrace in Quebec City and that of Lévis, the Sainte-Pétronille wharf provides a third exceptional window on a panorama that could well be described as imposing.



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On Tides and Currents



The St. Lawrence is one of the world's biggest rivers. It runs 1,167 Kms from its emergence in Lake Ontario to the end of the Gaspé Peninsula, it drains the entire Great Lakes basin along with the tributaries flowing directly into it. Nearly 10% of the world's fresh water reserves pass through it, and it flows at a rate of 11,900 cubic metres a second.



Tides - an Astronomical Phenomenon


Twice a day, the level of the River rises and falls. It does so daily, some 50 minutes later as each day passes. The immense liquid mass of the oceans shifts and moves as the sun and the moon change their positions relative to the earth - creating tides.


The height of the tides varies with the phases of the moon, rising at full and new moon. In the St. Lawrence, the attraction of the two celestial bodies is excpresed in very long waves, which start in the estuary and continue their swell right up to Lac Saint-Pierre. This then is why the tide is high in Sainte-Pétronille and low in Rimouski and vice versa. In addition, the height of the tide will be more marked in Sainte-Pétronille (5.8m) than in Rimouski (4.1m) because of the reduced area of movement of the water mass, in both width and depth. Finally, the tie takes ten hours to cover the distance from Sept-Îles to Lac Saint-Pierre, a distance of some 600 Kilometres.



Marine Currents around the Island


Marine currents off Sainte-Pétronille are complex, because the Chenal des Grands Voiliers on the south shore of the Île d'Orléans is much deeper and wider than is the Chenal du Nord. The effect is to considerably accelerate the flow of the water, with the marine currents reaching as much as 7 Km/h on the south side of the island, but no more than 2 Km/h on the other side. This disparity in the flow of the curents produces a shearing effect, which generates eddies off the wharf. In some instances, the currents will move around the western tip of the île d'Orléans.



Navigation in the Area of the Île d'Orléans


Commercial shipping passes along the south shore of the island through the Chenal des Grands Voiliers off Sainte-Pétronille. It then takes the Traverse du Nord, which, opposite Saint-Jean, moves to join the Chenal du Nord forming an elongated S downstream from cap Tourmente. A long passage of 31 Kilometres dug to a depth of 12.5 metres below the lowest usual sea depth and dragged annually, the Traverse du Nord permits large merchant ships and liners, even 150,000 tons tankers, to pass at high tide on their way to te Saint-Romuald terminal in Lévis.



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Small Pleasures and Great Delights




The attractions of the île d'Orléans, assessible thanks to the construction of a landing mid 19th century, led to development around the Sainte-Pétronille wharf.




From the Château Bel-Air to the Goéliche


The first inn, buit in 1880 but destroyed by fire in 1894, was the site the following year of a four-storey Victorian style building, surronded on three sides by an imposing verandah and crowned by two turrets on its southwest side. Proudly overlooking the St. Lawrence, the Château Bel-Air was a popular destination in the summer, thanks to the ship traffic. Between 1920 and 1960, it enjoyed days of glory as it hosted a faithful clientele from the United States, among other places, for extended periods of stay.


After renovations, it enjoyed a revival in the 1990s as La Goéliche. It was, unfortunately, destroyed in the winter of 1996 by a speactacular fire in which one employee was killed. It had just celebrated its centenary. It rose again from its ashes in the spring of 1997.




"Nous irons jouer dans l'île…" (1)


The completion of the wharf in 1855 made discovery of the island possible for an increasing number of visitors from around Quebec City. On fine summery Sundays, considerable numbers of visitors could be seen coming ashore, attracted by the charms of the tip of the island: its rich vegetation, its stately residences, its glimpses of the River and the passing ships.


At the end of the 19th century, the area between the rue du Quai and the River provided visitors with walkways and tables, a carousel and swings, a small zoological garden and a covered bandstand and dance floor. However, as of 1935, with the decline in the wharf's marine activity came a decline and finally the abandonment of this popular recreation area.




(1) From the old French song À Saint-Malo beau port de mer


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A Promising Shipward



In 1744, Mr. Louis Chaussegros de Léry, a New-France engineer, suggested the development of two dry docks for the Quebec City region, one in the Saint-Charles River and the other at the western tip of Orleans’ Island. The Council of Marine of France gave its approval to the first one, postponing the realization of the one on the Island. Fifteen years later, the colony shifted hands in favor of the English. Then in 1806, Napoleon imposed a blockade on the Baltic Sea where England’s wood stock was. Facing a crying need in wood supplies, England turned towards its new acquisition, the colony, where timber was found in abundance.


It is in this context, in the beginning of the XIXth Century, that the adventure of the young Charles Wood takes place. He was a naval architect and shipbuilder, already famous in Scotland. During a stay in Quebec City, he had noticed that the numerous coves, notably the ones in Sillery, were cluttered with wood stocks just waiting to be dispatched to England. To make up for this situation and to cut costly shipping prices, he created a raft-ship. This structure resembled a huge casing made of squared wooden pieces with sails.


Ten times bulkier than the average ship in existence, its broadsides could store up large quantities of wood, especially the valuable pieces of great size that no ship would risk hauling up on its board. Built for a single crossing, these ships would be dismantled once at destination and in order to liquidate the wooden hull, sold on the market at a low price with lesser taxes. In short, a bold and clever venture in which the Scottish merchants were interested to invest and finance.


Charles Wood set up his shipyard in the Fort’s Cove. Nowadays, it is occupied by an inn and the wharf. Imagine the bustle prevailing in the gigantic dry dock and its numerous workshops! All day long, you would hear the resounding and tinkling of the tools of some three hundred workers. The swarming place was so intriguing to the local people that boatmen arranged excursions to watch from afar the work in progress!


In 1824 and in 1825, the two biggest ships ever built in Canada were launched from this shipyard: the Columbus and the Baron of Renfrew, respectively measuring 301 and 390 feet (91.75 and 118.88 meters) and of 3,690 and of 5,294 tonnage. But the adventure would end abruptly off the English coast when one and then the other were wrecked. It was said to be due to the inconsequent behavior of those responsible to bring them safe and sound to England. For the Columbus, the shareholders’ greed would impose a second crossing for which it was not built. It resulted in a fatal blow to Charles Wood’s ambitions. This double disaster would spell the end of an innovative shipyard considered at the time as one of the two most important shipyards of the golden age of shipbuilding in Quebec City. 



Interpretation Panel 7


Vessel Aground



The Cunard Line's RMS Franconia was an imposing vessel with a 20,340 tonne displacement and 192 metres in length, which had made a name for itself in the transportation of troops following the Second Worls War. In 1945, at the Conference of Yalta, it served as British Headquarters and welcomed Prime Minister Winston Chrurchill aboard. After the war, il travelled regularly beween Quebec and Liverpool.


On Wednesday, July 12, 1950, the Franconia left Quebec City with 1,270 passengers and crew on board. At 21:38 hours, thirty-three minutes after leaving Anse-aux-Foulons on an outgoing tide, the ship ran violently aground off the western tip of the île d'Orléans, not far from the Sainte-Pétronille wharf.


Refloating the vessel proved to be a difficult undertaking. However, on Sunday, July 16, on the morning's high tide, it was refloated. It was then repaired in the Davie shipyards in Lauzon. The Franconia sailed again that September and went on to ply the North Atlantic for another six years.


This event, which shook the quiet existence of the residents of Sainte-Pétronille, clearly illustrates the delicacy of manoeuvring around the pointe de Lévy, as pilots must take the channel, the currents and the tides into account.





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Villas and Gardens



Now accessible by wharf, the enchanting western tip of the île d'Orléans with its micro-climate attracted Quebec City's well-to-do as of the middle of the 19th century.



A Different Accent


And so, arose, at times hauled up on the heights of the rocky spur in order to have an unparalleled view, pure white villas of wood, opening onto bounteous nature with lots of windows and broad verandas. They followed the curve of the point and the shape of the riverbanks thereby forming a contrast with the traditional positioning of île d'Orléans houses determined by the parallel division of farm lands.


Expressing the cultural origins of their owners, these "cottages" added a British and American flavour to French-inspired architecture, giving the area its own unique cachet. Added thereto was their positioning at times in the middle of luxuriant gardens, whereas the rest of the island had for generations sacrificed much of its trees to farming.


The crowning touch was a small, three-hole golf course, on the property of the Dunn family, which added to the pleasures of the visiting well-to-do. Serving as the beginnings of the current Sainte-Pétronille golf course, it is said to be the oldest in America.



The Porteous Estate


The most impressive piece of property was that of Charles E.L. Porteous, a member of a family associated around 1820 with the founding of the Bank of Montreal. In 1900, he began construction of an imposing residence whose official rooms were decorated with scenes of the countryside painted by famous artists William Brymner and Maurice Cullen, works considered cultural assets of national interest. An impressive Italianate garden, sprinkled with balustrades, fountains and statues over a succession of terraces, pools and clusters of exotic and indigenous plants was attended by five gardeners. Given up by the Porteous family and having a new vocation as of the 1960s, the estate looks back nostalgically at its former glories.





Interpretaion Panel 9


Horatio Walker




(Central panel)


Born at Listowel, Ontario, in 1858, Horatio Walker made his start in Rochester and then New York City in photography before devoting himself to painting there. By 1888, he bas spending the summer months in Sainte-Pétronille, where he set up permanently in the first decade of the 20th century. He died here in 1938 and is buried at St. Mary's Anglican Chapel near the Sainte-Pétronille golf course.


The Bard of the Île d'Orléans


Considered in the United States to be the most famous Canadian painter of his day, Horatio Walker enjoyed great commercial success there for many years, and his work was seen in many countries in Europe. His success rests in large part on his illustration of rural life and his majestic representation of farm animals.


Both fascinated by the traditional peaceful existence on the island and influenced by the pictorial movement in the French Barbizon school and in modern Dutch and Belgian schools, Horatio Walker created pastoral scenes, which captured the imagination of New York City dwellers through their exoticism.


In fact, what Horatio Walker saw in the farming community he observed around him was its simplicity, authenticity and stability, which he thought would offset the threat of unbridled technological advance, which had already begun to wreak its havoc in this day, at the start of the 20th century.




(Left panel)



His Contribution to Québec's Cultural Development


Anxious to preserve those fundamental values, Walker soon developed an interest in establishing cultural institutions that would promote their expression. He became involved in many ways in promoting the artistic community and the development of art in Québec. In particular, he was part of discussions held generally at his home, which led to the creation of the Montreal École des Beaux-Arts and more specifically the Québec City school, in 1921. He was involved with its development over the coming years.


On his property on the tip of the island, it was common tu see him in the company of various noteworthy figures of the art world of the day, including William Brymner, Maurice Cullen, Edmond Dyonnet, Clarence Gagnon, James Wilson Morrice and Edmund Morris.




(Right panel)


The Painter's Studio


HorationWalker established his residence in a particularly beautiful location, the very spot in fact where he liked to think Jacques Cartier had visited when he stopped at the île d'Orléans in 1535! To his house and later the studio he commissioned from architect Edward Black Stavely, he gave a purely British look.


The studio of traditionalist painter Horatio Walker was in keeping with the tradition of the day. First appearing in England in the early 1800s, likely developed much earlier by Dutch artists, the concept of the artist's studio was a large single room, whose north wall, thanks to high windows, allowed the passage of a quality and intensity of light sought by artists varied little over the course of the day and the seasons. The studio, where Horatio Walker took refuge in order to work on his art, also included a laboratory, a few bedrooms on the upper floor and a living room looking out toward Quebec City.


An English garden completed the picture. Under the sizeable trees shading it, Horatio Walker took pleasure working the beds around a pond dotted with water lilies at the feet of a Venus eager to join them…





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"Maisons de bois, maisons de pierre, clochers pointus…"

  Félix Leclerc, Le tour de l'île




During the 17th and 18th centuries, homes began to appear along this part of the road, which, from the rocky outcropping where you stand now, descends steeply toward the River. The outline of three of them bears witness to their French architecture and to the start of adaptations to the climatic conditions of the St. Lawrence valley. Their construction here indicates that the western tip was the first part of the île d'Orléans to be inhabited, despite the hilly terrain of a sector illsuited to agriculture.



The Heart of the Village


It was here that the seigneur gathered his first tenants 'round him in anticipation of possible attacks by the Iroquois. The oldest and most famous of the properties is Number 137: the first manor built on the island, in 1647. It housed two of the first families on the island: the one founded by Éléonore de Grandmaison and her two husbands, François de Chavigny de Berchereau and Jacques Gourdeau de Beaulieu and the children she had with each. The manor was burned in a fire on March 8, 1652, and burned a second time at the time of the tragic death for Jacques Gourdeau, in May 1663, and was immediately rebuilt where it had burned.


This is the oldest sector and the very heart of what would becomne the sixth village on the island in the early 1870s. The houses little by little melded into the décor formed of the white-painted wooden villas built on the tip of the island. Added to the picture were two churches, located somewhat back from the road : the Anglican Chapel, St. Mary's, built in 1876 on the Dunn property near the golf club and the Catholic Church, dedicated to Sainte-Pétronille, in 1871 atop a virtually deserted rocky outcropping.



The Old Falmilies


The first ancestral homes heralded in a way all of the other, often more modest homes, of the dozen or so families living permanently in the village. They held jobs that were often hereditary, while providing a variety of services to the community - both seasonal and permanent. In their own way, these people made a major contribution to the quality of life enjoyed today by the people of Sainte-Pétronille. A tribute then to these old families.



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The Bout de l’Île Church


The west end tip of the island is currently referred to as Bout de l’Île. Its expansion took place mid 19th century, due to the arrival of summer residents, coming from Quebec City thanks to the implantation of a ferryboat service made accessible close by. The Quebec bourgeoisie, mostly Anglophones, seduced by the rustic charm and the unique perspective of the site, settled many cottages and gardens on its heights and along its coves.


After the nearby construction of an Anglican chapel in 1867, some forty five Francophone families, all permanent residents, soon acquired their own place of worship. Up until then, those without a horse and carriage had to walk eight kilometers to attend mass, often barefoot in order to spare their shoes, and on an empty stomach for those wishing to receive communion, in accordance with the Catholic principles of those days.



A New Parish


The body of the parish settlement mainly took place on the hillside, at some distance from the existing houses forming the village on the island’s extremity. Designed by architect Joseph-Ferdinand Peachy who had already realized some hundred buildings in Quebec City, the new temple welcomed its first worshippers in the fall of 1871. Nevertheless, parishioners had to wait two years before the church tower was erected and sixteen more until the interior covered with sober wood paneling could be completed. A landmark for navigators, standing high on its rocky headland, the new church overlooked the village officially established in 1874 in the old fief of Beaulieu, name under which it will be designated until 1980.


Now detached from the parish of Saint-Pierre (St. Peter) situated a few kilometers further east on the island, the new parish was devoted to St. Petronille, traditionally considered to be the daughter of St.Peter, head of the apostles. Nearly one hundred years after the construction of their temple, parishioners could at last revere a statue of the saint by sculptor Tobias Mack, curiously represented holding a broom.



A Place of Pilgrimage


Around 1880, the parish priest Charles-Henri Pâquet, remembering his visit to St. Philomena’s tomb in Mugnano (Italy), orders a wax recumbent statue of the miracle-worker to be placed in his church. For about ten years, due to his enthusiastic preaching, he literally drives popular fervor to a high, which in the summertime will attract more than a thousand pilgrims at Sainte-Pétronille’s landing stage wharf. This devotion will naturally decline after his death, while the liturgical reforms put forward by the Second Vatican Council will take care of ending St. Petronille’s Statue reign.



Surroundings Fit for Music


This church distinguishes itself for its remarkable acoustic quality, making it a perfect choice for holding concerts. These last decades, this church has rendered the “Bout de l’Ile” a summer destination for music-lovers, welcoming the Société des concerts de l’Île d’Orléans (a concert society of the Island) and the Musique de chambre à Sainte-Pétronille (a chamber music association). Since its creation in 1983, this last organization made performances possible by artists of international caliber, performances often broadcasted on radio.