In today’s society, it is so easy to walk around with blinders on. We look ahead or look down and watch where we’re walking, but we rarely look up or around us to see exactly where is it we are walking! There is so much to discover and learn when we make an effort to look up and around, and when we are not afraid to deviate from our path.
The Morrin Centre, located between rue Sainte-Anne and rue Dauphine in Vieux Québec (upper town), is one of those buildings we walk passed without a second thought, or a second look for that matter. Which is unfortunate as this is one of the most interesting buildings in this area of Québec City.
An 18th Century Military Barracks & Then a Jail
Originally a military barracks in 1712, the Royal Redoubt (now the Morrin Centre) later held prisoners of war, including that of Esther Wheelwright who later became mother superior of the Ursulines. In 1813 the Royal Redoubt become the common city gaol (where some prisoners were publicly hung from the balcony above the main door) which held debtors, murders, and journalist who spoke against the government. However in 1867, the prisoners were moved to a new gaol on the Plains of Abraham, and in 1868 the building was converted and used by Morrin College (the first English-language college in Québec City). The college operated for roughly 40 years before closing its doors in 1902 due to lack of students and funds.
Now: Literary & Historical Society and English Library
Today the Morrin Centre is home to the Literary and Historical Society of Québec, which has been housed at the Morrin Centre since 1868 (it was in the north wing when the college was running).
Dedicated to the history of Québec City, the Morrin Centre offers tours of the jail cells (yes, they kept some of them intact!), the chemistry and physics labs from when the college was in the building and the Victorian library where the Literary and Historical Society of Québec has collected rare books and documents about Québec (and also has an impressive collection of English-language books).
Take a Tour
Tours run at various times during the year and cost $8.75 for adults and $.50 for students (those prices do not include taxes). From May 17th to Labour day the centre offers bilingual guided tours every day from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. The rest of the year tours are available by appointment only and you need a group of at least 8 people. For more information, contact Stefanie Johnston, Guided Tours Coordinator at 418 694-9147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Location of the Morrin Centre:
44, chaussée des Écossais