Finding Your Way in Quebec City

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I tracked down five types of street signs within the traditional limits of Quebec City. The oldest signs are these attractive blue and white ones. The highest concentration of such signs are in Saint-Jean-Baptiste.

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This type of sign with a curious mix of embossed lower case and capital letters is the next in our chronological progression. Saint-Sauveur is where most of these are located.


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After the 1950s, these signs with rounded corners and a black line frame started popping up. This type is scattered all over the city.


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The most recent type of sign is this one, which began appearing in the 1990s. The historical information explaining the origins of street names is an interesting addition, but the font and general design are a bit boring.

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These types of signs are visible only within the historic district of Vieux Quebec. They started appearing in the late 1980s. The design is looking a bit dated. The colours have faded on the older signs, leading to a bright pink/baby blue border unsuitable for a historic district. But I suppose it could be worse.


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In 2002, many outlying municipalities were amalgamated into a larger Quebec City. Most of these were nondescript suburbs with traditional North American green signs. Other municipalities, like Sillery (above), had their own type of street sign. Although these municipalities no longer exist in any legal sense, signs have not yet been changed.

This entry was written by Patrick Donovan , posted on Friday June 22 2007at 07:06 am , filed under Art and Design, Canada and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

5 Responses to “Finding Your Way in Quebec City”

  • Those old blue ones are identical to the signs that used to be mounted on buildings in some parts of Montreal as well as in other cities like Calgary. I wonder if they were all produced by the same company.

    Although I’m not so big on Quebec’s current designs, I like that many signs contain a blurb explaining the origins of the name. It gives a sense of relevance to the landscape. But isn’t Quebec currently in the midst of a controversial project to franciser some old street names? Or is that just a bit of malicious Montreal-originated myth?

  • It’s not “francisation” that’s causing Quebec to rename its street signs, at least not from what I’ve heard; it’s eliminating duplicate names across the megacity and replacing them with names of notable Quebecois.

    I’ve always wondered what happened to the street signs of the various constituent cities that grow to form a megacity. I know that in Canada, especially in Quebec, distinctive street signs are the rule rather than the exception (as they are in most of the US, with the exception of maybe California and Arizona.), and many of the old municipalities that now make up the city of Montreal had their own designs (Outremont’s twee oval comes to mind). I wonder what happens when one of those signs needs to be replaced. Is Montreal just going to substitute its current standard, or will they keep manufacturing the old signs? I know Toronto developed a new style upon amalgamation, a larger version of old Toronto’s black-on-white sign. Toronto has put a lot of these up throughout the other former municipalities, and it seems to be helping to tie the city together.

  • Signs are a borough responsibility so all of those distinctive styles will be preserved. In fact, this also opens the possibility for boroughs in the former city of Montreal, such as Ville-Marie or the Plateau, to develop their own signs.

    Of course the city does not actively replace existing street signs so the current landscape will probably remain the same for awhile.

  • Patrick Donovan says:

    Eliminating duplicate street names is the reason for the street name changes in Quebec City. If anything, there are now more English street names than there were before: rue Pascal is now rue Meredith; rue des Sables is rue William-Bartlett; part of rue Turgeon was renamed rue Richard Burke; etc. etc. The city of Quebec is actually putting considerable money and energy into commemorating the local English-speaking community & promoting cultural diversity.

    The last time I heard about francisation conspiracies was in the early 1990s when part of “rue Scott” was renamed “rue de l’Amérique Française” next to the new “parc de l’Amérique française.” A few Anglo-Canadian newspapers put their best conspiracy theorists on the case at the time. Even Jan Wong would have blushed…

    The only other attempt I can think of to have an English street name changed is a vocal group of locals who want to have Moncton street renamed. Moncton played a rather bloody role in the Acadian deportation so I can’t say I disagree with their cause.

  • Wu Chan says:

    Quebec City is a racist city that “cleansed” its Chinese population by forcing that community out of its Chinatown in the 1970’s.

    How do I know this? I used to live there.