Quebec City Tour: Saint-Jean-Baptiste

I would have second thoughts about living in Quebec City if it wasn’t for my neighbourhood: Faubourg Saint-Jean-Baptiste.

Located directly outside the old city walls is this very dense area of rickety working-class homes. Most were built between the 1840s and the early 20th century. Saint-Jean-Baptiste has a grit lacking in other parts of the upper city. Power lines are tangled up like clotheslines across the streets, most of which are too narrow for trees. The neighbourhood is laid out in a grid patterrn on a steep hill, and has consequently been used on many occasions as a cheaper alternative to filming in San Francisco.

Rue Saint-Jean, the main street, has all the trappings of a great neighbourhood: there’s a bakery on every street corner, a butcher, a poissonier, a chocolatier, European delis, health food stores, and a few excellent gelato shops. The old Anglican church has been respectfully converted into the neighbourhood library, with Sir Walter Scott’s brother and Queen Victoria’s half-brother buried in a graveyard/public park outside. The towering Catholic church is a superb landmark of late 19th century ornamental architecture. There are cozy old bars, affordable cafés, and restaurants selling food from around the globe. And then there’s the supermarkets, furniture shops, and hardware stores you can’t find in the more touristy areas nearby.

Quebec City has the reputation of being conservative and stuck-up, but Saint-Jean Baptiste is a glaring exception to this rule. The area has a healthy mix of students, artists, expats, Marxists, musicians, underpaid intellectuals, and most of the city’s gay & lesbian population. The old working class population still lives here, but there’s none of the social polarization that exists in other areas that have undergone rapid gentrification. Perhaps this is because the old population was lower-middle-class rather than down-and-out, and the newer population is not made up of wealthy bachelors in Hugo Boss suits living in converted industrial lofts (on that note, don’t miss the next Quebec City neighbourhood tour, which will take us to Faubourg Saint-Roch).

Take a tour of Saint-Jean-Baptiste.

This entry was written by Patrick Donovan , posted on Friday October 06 2006at 08:10 pm , filed under Architecture, Demographics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Response to “Quebec City Tour: Saint-Jean-Baptiste”

  • Fran Murphy says:

    I’v been trying to find an old friend who lived in QC in the 50’s and have had no luck so I started to check out different sites – I remember going to the house where he grew up and lived with his mother, brother and sister (there were 6 or 7 children) – I can’t remember the street name so I was trying to find a list of street names to see if any name looked familiar.Saint-Jean-Baptiste seemed like the type of area he might have lived – he was a student at Laval – he had just graduated college and was to attend the Law school in the Fall of 1954. His brother (Jean-Paul) was in medical school – I have some information regarding the members of his family but not enough after all these years – Is there a form of Blog where I could make a request for information on this family? The surname is Mackinnon. Thank you for listening. Fran