Québec is not only large, it’s also quite historic. The province originated in Québec City in 1534 and I was fascinated to learn all about the history and well-preserved areas, some of which I thought still look as they did in the 1700s.
I was fascinated by the history of Québec long before I arrived.
Québec City, the province’s capital, was founded in 1608, making it the oldest city in Canada, according to the city’s website.
But its history goes back even further than that. BBC reports that in 1534, French explorer Jacques Cartier found and claimed the land surrounding the St. Lawrence River, Québec, then known as New France, for his country.
Then, in 1763, after British colonists settled in the Americas, war broke out over the land, according to the same source, and the British took over all French colonies east of the Mississippi River. England ruled Québec until it became a part of Canada in 1867, but the French language was still recognized.
Since then, there have been many efforts to preserve French history and culture. In 1972, the government of Québec instituted the Cultural Property Act, which allows the government and local officials to identify and protect elements of the land’s heritage from being altered in a way that destroys its history, such as buildings and artwork.
And in 1985, the Historic District of Old Québec, a neighborhood in Québec City that has been preserved for 400 years, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
According to UNESCO, Old Québec was selected because of its roots in French-American civilization and preserved French and British colonial architecture, from Neoclassical cathedrals to government buildings inspired by the Second Empire, an architectural style classified by prominent rooftops, according to the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. These elements make it the “most complete example of a fortified colonial town north of Mexico,” according to UNESCO.
Because of its title as a UNESCO World Heritage site, I expected Québec City to look historic but I didn’t realize that little has physically changed since the 1700s. I was amazed at how some areas, like Dufferin Terrace, a wide, wooden pedestrian walkway in Old Québec between the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac and the cliff overlooking the St Lawrence River, looked to me exactly like it did in 1753, despite being enlarged twice, according to the city’s website.