St. Lawrence Hall

The St. Lawrence Hall, around 1900

Facade of the St. Lawrence Hall, around 1900.

In 1863, Hugh O’Neill, a renowned Quebec City hotelier, built an imposing L-shaped hotel. The St. George Hotel, renamed St. Lawrence Hall four years later, was an almost instant success – so much so that it had to be expanded twice. Everything was provided for the comfort of the guests: a grand ballroom, a ladies’ parlour, a craft boutique, a bowling alley and, for the gentlemen, a smoking room, a barber shop, a telegraph station and a billiard room. 

Photo source :
Photo : Archives nationales du Québec, Fonds Livernois (P560, S1, P353)


Eugene Haberer illustration, detail

The St. Lawrence Hall.

Over the years, the owners advertised heavily in newspapers and brochures, even adding a third floor to make the hotel appear more prestigious. 

Photo source :
Drawing : Eugene Haberer, detail from a St. Lawrence Hall pamphlet of 1901, Musée du Château Ramezay Collection (Card #17, Illustrated Cacouna, 2001)


St. Lawrence Hall Main Entrance, around 1900

The St. Lawrence Hall Main Entrance, around 1900.

In 1871, 600 guests would crowd into the hotel’s 400 rooms. To offer more comfort, some dividing walls were taken down, and by 1890 the hotel had only 121 rooms and 8 suites, accommodating about 300 people. 

Photo source :
Photo : Archives Nationales du Québec, Fonds Livernois (P560, S1, P350)


St. Lawrence Hall as seen from the River

St. Lawrence Hall as seen from the River.

The beautiful beaches, salt water, energizing atmosphere and natural beauty were irresistibly attractive during this romantic era. Rich Canadian and American city-dwellers would not think twice about travelling long distances on the Saguenay line ships or in the passenger cars of the Grand Trunk Railway to come and experience the pleasures of Cacouna and St.Lawrence Hall.

Photo source :
Drawing : Unknown artist,1879  (Card #25, Illustrated Cacouna, 2001)


A Celebrity Rendez-vous

A Celebrity Rendez-vous.

At St. Lawrence Hall the guests reigned supreme … or almost. To increase the popularity of the hotel, the managers would publish their guest lists in the papers. They particularly publicised the presence of Prince Arthur of England, several governor generals of Canada, including Sir John Young and Lord Dufferin; and numerous politicians such as the Honourable John A. Macdonald and Sir Georges Étienne Cartier.

Photo source :
Engraving : Edward Jump, 1872  (Card #36, Illustrated Cacouna, 2001)


A Rainy Day at the St. Lawrence Hall

A Rainy Day at the St. Lawrence Hall.

After breakfasting to the sound of violins, the guests would consult the evening program to discover which Italian opera would be playing. The men would then adjourn to the smoking room, the barber’s, the telegraph room, or the billiard room, while the women went to the ladies’ parlour, the fancy store, or the bowling alley. Nothing was overlooked in catering for the pleasure of the guests.

Photo source :
Engraving : Edward Jump, 1872  (Card #32, Illustrated Cacouna, 2001)


Women Bowling

Women Bowling.

Elegant ladies would participate in bowling competitions organized in the basement of the grand hotel. Forgetting their dresses and skirts, both heavy and cumbersome, they would roll their bowls and score. At the two bowling alleys, the spirit of rivalry and competition were not confined merely to the skill of the players; for elegance and the latest Parisian fashions were also very much in evidence.

Photo source :
Engraving : Edward Jump, 1872 (Card #33 Illustrated Cacouna, 2001)
Photo : Bowling Alleys at St. Lawrence Hall, Quebec National Archives, Fonds Livernois (P560, S1, P360)


Outdoor Activities

Outdoor Activities.

At the turn of the 19th century, Cacouna was in competition with other Québec and American vacation resorts. In addition to bathing, the ladies and gentlemen would play croquet, cricket, tennis and golf. They also went in for archery, horse riding, canoeing, cycling or just driving around.

Photo source :
Engravings : archery, unknown artist , cricket, C. Kendrick ,1872  (Card #27, Illustrated Cacouna, 2001)


Horse Races

Horse Races.

Prior to 1903 races were held on the St. Lawrence Hall racetrack.  The Quebec Morning Chronicle  printed a typical program for a lovely August day in 1891 : three flat races and one race for farm horses in the late afternoon.

Photo source :
Engraving : Edward Jump, 1872  (Card #30, Illustrated Cacouna, 2001)


Weekend Sporting Activities

Weekend Sporting Activities.

At the end of the competitions, medals would be handed out in the grounds of St. Lawrence Hall. To the sound of brass, and under the gaze of their distinguished clientele and other vacationers, praises would be sung of the feats of adults at tennis, athletics and horse racing, and of the exploits of the children at various sack races, the bowling of hoops, etc.

Photo source :
Engraving : Edward Jump, 1872  (Card #31, Illustrated Cacouna, 2001)
Photo : Yvan Roy, original medals of the 1894 St. Lawrence Hall competitions, Mrs. Ann Shapman Collection


Destroyed by fire

Destroyed by fire.

The imposing wooden structure was destroyed by fire in 1903.  Nine years later, a Quebec businessman, Frank W. Ross, had this elegant cottage built on the former hotel grounds.

Photo source :
Insert : Ad from Le Soleil, August 27, 1903
Photo : Yvan Roy, the last St. Lawrence Hall «Guest Book», saved from fire and showing the last entry before the conflagration, Larry Peck Collection.


Arthur Buies, journalist and writer, 1840-1901

Arthur Buies, journalist and writer, 1840-1901

“Guests at St. Lawrence Hall are treated like gods, with every desire fulfilled in the blink of an eye. To liven up mealtimes and facilitate digestion – particularly for appetites whetted by the crisp country air – musicians hired for the season can be heard playing the harp, violin and flute at breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper. Like a conquering hero, I was greeted by the sounds of a brass brand upon my arrival. A waltz, a merry waltz, a waltz of love broke the air...” Extracted from: Arthur Buies, Petites chroniques du Bas-du-Fleuve, Éditions Trois-Pistoles, 2003, p.30




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