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Québec Custom Houses

Old Quebec Customs House

© Parcs Canada / Yvan Fortier

In 1972, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) recognized the New Québec Custom House (1856–60) as a site of national historic significance for its historical and architectural values. It gave the same recognition to the Old Québec Custom House (1831–32) in 1990. The Federal Heritage Building Review Office gave classified building status to the New Custom House in 1989 and the Old Custom House in 1990.

The main source of income for the government, the customs office gained in importance in the 19th century and was housed in buildings of impressive and imposing design. The Québec Custom Houses symbolized the power of the government as well as the growth of trade. They were placed within view of the St. Lawrence River, a reminder of their original function as well as the Port of Québec’s role as gateway to the continent, particularly since it was a centre for the lumber trade and the shipbuilding industry around 1850 (event recognized by the HSMBC in 1957).

Built in 1831–32, the Old Custom House was designed by architect Henry Musgrave Blaiklock. The two-storey limestone building was used for its original purpose until 1841. Its layout, window treatment, materials and interior design make this a rare and excellent example of a neoclassical building from the 1830s. The New Custom House was designed by William Thomas and built between 1856 and 1860. It is in the same style, with a symmetrical facade, portico, pediments and a dome giving it a monumental appearance. After fires in 1864 and 1909, the building underwent major renovations. Located close to the river, it is one of the most beautiful public buildings in Québec, and remains an identifying image of the city.