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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada




JANUARY 6, 1961

(Fortress of Louisbourg
Report H C 01)


The Chateau St. Louis was designed to fill completely the gorge of the King's Bastion, a distance of some 358 feet, 8 inches. Commenced in 1720, it may be said to have been completed with respect to its principal architectural elements by 1743. It is reputed to have been the largest building of its time in North America and was blessed (or afflicted) with composite functions paralleled in the contemporary, but much smaller, castle at Fort Niagara. While in great fortresses of France, the governor's residence, the officers' quarters, the soldiers' barracks and the garrison chapel were customarily separate buildings, the Chateau St. Louis provided all of these facilities within a single structure. It consisted of a massive main block, terminated at each extremity by wings projecting slightly on the town side where a dry ditch separated the Chateau from the interior place d'armes. In the main, the building comprised a basement, two full stories and an attic. The principal entrance to the Chateau was via a monumental gateway, complete with a bascule drawbridge, which gave access to a cobbled passage-way bisecting the main block. Above this entrance was erected the Chateau's most distinctive architectural feature - an elaborate clock tower and belfry rearing approximately eighty feet above the level of the ground floor.

In 1745, its walls were rough-casted rubble masonry, strengthened and embellished at basement corners with cut-stone quoins. Cut-stone was also used for the ornamental gateways of the central passageway, for window surrounds in the Governor's wing and for the surrounds of principal doorways. The Chateau was heated by sixty-one fireplaces and a number of stoves, the separate flues being incorporated in twenty brick chimneys, each projecting more than two feet beyond the ridge of its black slate roofs. Red brick plinths, inserted at the level of the ground and first floors, brick pilasters and brick surrounds for all normal doors and windows, underscored architectural features and gave the building character. As initially designed, the building was slightly asymmetrical in that the large chapel windows in the south half of the main block were not balanced by any corresponding architectural feature in the north half. After 1731, when the walls and roof of the Governor's wing were raised ten pieds above the rest of the structure, the imbalance of architectural proportions was further accentuated. 

Because the length of the building roughly follows a north-south axis, for ease of reference in this report, directional indications have been simplified in this manner: Viewed from the town side, the facade seen is the east elevation or side, the wing to right is the north wing, the wing to the left is the south wing, while the unseen elevation facing the terreplein of the bastion is the west facade. (See accompanying Plan No. 22A). 

Space within the structure was allotted functionally. The entire south wing was for the use of the Governor and contained his public and private apartments, including accommodation for his servants and the facilities used by them for the preparation of meals. In the main block, the south half - i.e. from. the central passageway to the Governor's wing - included quarters for officers, the chapel, sacristy and chaplain's room. The north half of the main block consisted of barracks for approximately three hundred and fifty soldiers (under normal conditions) and initially the ground floor rooms immediately adjacent to the central passageway constituted a corps de garde. In 1740, when a separate guard house was constructed within the interior place d'armes, these latter rooms were converted into detention wells for soldiers and facilities for the artillerymen. The area above the central passageway, directly under the clock tower, was originally fitted out as a garrison armoury to house more than eight hundred muskets. Both architecturally and functionally, the north wing was intended to complement the south wing, in that it was to provide the private and public rooms of the Intendant or Commissaire - Ordonnateur of the colony. Successive Intendants, without exception, found good and apparently - convincing reasons why they should not be required to occupy the north wing of the Chateau. While the vacuum thus created would appear to have been filled, in general, with additional soldiers' quarters, the occupational history of the so-called Intendant's wing is a confused story of unauthorized occupation, resident prostitutes and all sorts of unusual activities. 

Throughout this report the letter "G" will designate the Governor's wing, ''O" the officers' quarters, "S" the soldiers' barracks and "I" the Intendant's wing. Within the perimeter walls the structure of the Chateau was separated into modules by fourteen masonry cross-walls extending from the basement to the ridge. In addition, a longitudinal masonry separation wall bisected the entire structure with the exception of the chapel and the central passageway. The basic room spaces created by the masonry walls have been assigned arbitrary numbers from 1 to 28 on the ground floor clan. (See attached diagram No. A).

The corresponding rooms on each level have been given the same number, the letters "b", "g", "f" and "a" can being used to designate the basement, ground floor, first floor and attic, respectively. For example, the south-west corner unit of the Governor's wing will be referred to as Gb2 in the basement, Gg2 when on the ground floor, Gf2 on the first floor and Ga2 in the attic. The masonry walls enclosing room spaces will be further identified as being north, west, south or east walls by the addition of the letter "n", "w", "s" or "e". For example, the south wall of Gb2 is designated as Gb2s. It must be explained that, in the European fashion, the floor at ground level is being called the ground floor with the floor above being referred to as the first floor - not the second, as in North America. 

The specifications dealt with in this report have been prepared in the light of a policy decision of more than two years ago that the restoration of the King's Bastion complex would be focused upon 1745. Consequently, there are no references to any alterations or improvements to the Chateau known to have taken place after that date. Finally, it should be pointed out that information supplied is purely of a structural nature, designed as a guide for the reconstruction of the building. The question of room use will be dealt with in depth in a subsequent report, as will the subject of furniture and furnishings.

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