History

The Saint-Jean-Baptiste District

Take a stroll in the atypical streets of the Sant-Jean-Baptiste (SJB) District to discover all of its hidden treasures. From côte d’Abraham to boulevard René-Lévesque, from rue Salaberry to avenue Honoré-Mercier, the one ways and hills come together in a little green and elegant labyrinth. Its stairs, its colours, its narrow houses and its dormers make the SJB District a picture worth the greatest movies. Every street corner, turning to gaze down upon the lower city can make us discover breathtaking sunsets, whose colours stretch out far away unto the Laurentides. However, its historical and natural charms are not the only elements that distinguish this neighbourhood: the little shops and craftsmen that have settled down here have created a community life that delights everyone. Going out for errands suddenly becomes a lovely walk where one can meet several locals. Its residents are not the only ones who enjoy it, since this neighbourhood also welcomes ephemeral visitors with arms wide open, letting them discover its hidden terraces, its culinary specialties, its novel or age-old businesses as well as its trendy shops. The SJB District is open to the world and is proud of its commercial and cultural diversity, which makes it a universe to discover.

The neighbourhood’s story

The Faubourg Saint-Jean is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Québec City. It existed during the French regime, before the British 1759 conquest. Its name, Faubourg Saint-Jean, can be explained by two historical facts. First of all, the term faubourg used to designate a district outside a city’s walls. Then, M. Jean Bourdon, a cartographer and survey engineer who used to live on a land situated in the current Montcalm district, decided in 1667 to build the chemin Saint-Jean, which connected his land to the city’s fortifications. In 1737, this road became rue Saint-Jean, as well as the starting point for the Chemin du Roy between Québec City and Montréal.

Throughout the eighteenth century, the Faubourg Saint-Jean endured many development problems due to the British conquest and the invasion of Canada by the British troops. Many courageous craftsmen and shopkeepers managed to settle down. Particularly, it was the affordable cost of the lands in the faubourg that attracted the population. However, it was only during the nineteenth century, during the British troops’ final withdrawal of the district, that the Faubourg Saint-Jean as we know it started truly developing. At this moment in time, the craftsmen and shopkeepers started to converge towards the faubourg and made it a cultural and commercial community. Moreover, it was during that period that the delicatessen Épicierie J.-A. Moisan, the oldest grocery store in North America, opened its doors.

 

Reborn from the ashes

Over the course of its history, great fires devastated the faubourg. During that period, wooden constructions become easy prey to the flames. The first fire of 1845 almost completely destroyed the entirety of the Faubourgs Saint-Jean and Saint-Louis. Despite efforts to rebuild and a law forbidding wood as a construction material, two other fires claimed the houses of these faubourgs in 1861 and 1862. Starting 1854, the progressive installation of an irrigation system, which would provide water more efficiently to the neighbourhood, gradually solved the fire problem. Throughout the following decades, the faubourg could thus continue to develop normally without fear of being engulfed by the flames again.

The Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church, which was turned to ashes by one of the faubourg’s great fires, has also been rebuilt and has become the figurehead of the neighbourhood since it follows the religious heritage of the city. The faubourg was thus often reborn from the ashes, yet has always succeeded in staying a popular commercial neighbourhood throughout the years.

Fom Faubourg Saint-Jean to Saint-Jean-Baptiste District

In 2017, the wind of novelty blew on the Faubourg Saint-Jean. In order to remain faithful to its citizens and to those who are in contact with it, the faubourg was rejuvenated and took up the official name of Saint-Jean-Baptiste District, although it doesn’t leave behind all of its history. The name SJB District is more accessible, more convening and more attractive to the newer generations. Since learning from the past is essential for growth, daring to move forward is equally essential to keep this dynamic neighbourhood alive and enjoyable. The entrepreneurs, de craftsmen and the business owners who have settled down throughout time continue to flock to it. They continue to share friendliness that may not be found elsewhere as well as the pleasures of buying local!

Come explore the Saint-Jean-Baptiste District and discover its secrets!