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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


Private Masonry Buildings

by Brenda Dunn
[Christian Pouyez, Editor]

In Historians,
Preliminary Architectural Studies,
Volume 01, Unpublished Report HG 02
(Fortress of Louisbourg, 1972,
Report Number HG 02 01 01)

There were few private masonry buildings in Louisbourg. The Domestic Architecture File, the various views and the plans show only 16 private masonry buildings (actual or proposed) : 14 are situated in the town, 1 in the Dauphin Bastion Fauxbourg, and 1 at the lighthouse. Mich Franklin's report, 1768, divided the surviving town structures into "stone" and "wood", the latter category seemingly including the charpente buildings with masonry between the uprights; out of a total of 142 buildings, only 19 were stone, 10 of which had been King's buildings [NOTE 1].

For the purposes of this introductory report, the buildings considered are the 16 private masonry dwellings in and around Louisbourg and the Logement du Commandant in Port Toulouse, the latter because of its useful plan, profile, devis and marché. Included in the first category is the de Mezy house during its initial period as a private structure (c. 1722 - 1733), before the building became the official residence of the Commissaire-Ordonnateur and underwent major renovations, The principal official residences in Louisbourg - King's Bastion barracks, Engineers house, Commissaire-Ordonnateur's house (Post 1733) - have been analyzed in previous reports which may be consulted for a more complete picture of Louisbourg masonry buildings [NOTE 2].

The buildings under study are listed in table 1:



(A) LOCATION: Block 2, Lot A OWNER: Joseph Lartigue SIZE IN PIEDS: 62 1/2 X 24;

(B) LOCATION: Block 2, Lot G OWNER: Jacques A. LeNormant de Mezy SIZE IN PIEDS: 36 X 26;

(C) LOCATION: Block 2, Lot H OWNER: Veuve Rodrigue and Michel Rodrigue SIZE IN PIEDS: 44 X 46

(D) LOCATION: Block 2, Lot I OWNER: Nicolas Pugnant dit Destouches SIZE IN PIEDS: Unknown;

(E) LOCATION: Block 2, Lot K OWNER: Jean Baptiste Guion SIZE IN PIEDS: Unknown;

(F) LOCATION: Block 3, Lot A OWNER: Jean LaGrange SIZE IN PIEDS: Unknown;

(G) LOCATION: Block Presqu'isle du Quay, Lot A OWNER: Veuve Bottier dit Berrichon SIZE IN PIEDS: Unknown;

(H) LOCATION: Block 12, Lot A OWNER: de Bourville SIZE IN PIEDS: Unknown;

(I) LOCATION: Block 16, Lot B OWNER: Julien Fizel SIZE IN PIEDS: Unknown;

(J) LOCATION: Block 16, Lot D OWNER: Jacques Despiet de Pendens SIZE IN PIEDS: Unknown;

(K) LOCATION: Block 22, Lot B OWNER: Pierre Boucher SIZE IN PIEDS: Unknown;

(L) LOCATION: Block 33, Lot C OWNER: Unknown SIZE IN PIEDS: Unknown;

(M) LOCATION: Block 34, Lot C OWNER: Francois Vallée SIZE IN PIEDS: 40 X 34;

(N) LOCATION: Block 36, Lot B OWNER: Jean Guilleton SIZE IN PIEDS: 30 X 22;

(O) LOCATION: Fauxbourg OWNER: Jacques Cronier SIZE IN PIEDS: 40 X 25;

(P) LOCATION: Lighthouse Point OWNER: Government SIZE IN PIEDS: Unknown;

(Q) LOCATION: Port Toulouze OWNER: Logement du Commandant SIZE IN PIEDS: 58 X 30.

The names of the owners are taken from the documents in the Domestic Architecture File and cannot be placed in a specific time period. The locations are given according to plan 734-5 [NOTE 3], the first and the last buildings have been scaled respectively from plan 753-1 and 733-11.



Two of the masonry buildings in the Domestic Architecture File are described as brick: the Guion house ("un maison battie en briques")[NOTE 4], and the Fizel house ("un maison de brique")[NOTE 5]. The latter however is described in two later documents as stone ("battie en pierre")[NOTE 6] and ("construitte en pierre")[NOTE 7].

Our structural knowledge of the two buildings is very limited: both buildings had a basement and two and a half storeys - the Guion house had a mixture of single and double frame windows; glass-doors, on the second floor, opened onto a balcony [NOTE 8]. The Fizel house had a planked roof [NOTE 9].



Rubblestone masonry structures are referred to, often interchangeably as being de murailles, batie en pierre, de Pierre a chaux et a sable, de pierre, en maconnerie and en Pierre et maconne. At least one structure, a house described as "un maison entoure de pierre et couverte de plans de bois et de terre" [NOTE 10] possibly was a charpente house with masonry between the uprights.

Although the information on most private masonry buildings is rather sketchy, the documentation for two Louisbourg buildings in particular is extremely useful: a 1732 toisé exists for a house built by Francois Vallé in Block 34 [NOTE 11]; equally important are the 1737 devis and 1738 marché for a double masonry house which the widow Rodrigue and her son Michel planned to build in Block 2 [NOTE 12]. Significant information is also obtained from the 1733 devis and marché for three civil buildings constructed in Port Toulouse, one of which was a masonry residence for the commander [NOTE 13]. Unless otherwise indicated in footnotes all information provided in the following paragraphs, is drawn from these documents.


As noted in table 1, the known sizes of masonry houses varied. The longest building, belonging to Lartigue [NOTE l4] served the dual function of residence and storehouse, as did the Bottier dit Berrichon building [NOTE l5]. The average masonry building was tall: eight structures stood two storeys high with a habitable attic. Three others rose only one and a half storeys.


The foundations of masonry buildings without basements seem to have been entirely beneath the ground level - the foundations of the Vallée house were 2 pieds, 6 pouces deep and three pieds wide and supported interior (mur de refend) and exterior masonry walls two pieds thick. This method of construction is illustrated on the 1733 profile of the logement du commandant in Port Toulouse [NOTE l6]. In this case, the principal walls rose from the center of the foundations, leaving a ledge on both sides. As for the proposed Rodrigue house, the foundation walls were to be raised between two lines ("leves entre deux lignes"), this technique being opposed to the usual one of raising the walls against the side of the excavation. The interior masonry wall (mur de refend) which divided the house into two residences had its foundation in the basement, probably in the style of the Vallée house.


Less than half of the known private masonry buildings in Louisbourg had a basement. Our structural information is limited to the specifications of one building only: the proposed Rodrigue house. Some of its features were peculiar to that building for it was to be a double house: the basement was to be divided with a masonry wall (mur de refend) and separate accesses were required.

The Rodrigue basements were to measure 5 1/4 pieds under the joists; the walls were to be rubble masonry, with a roughcast finish("crépis a pierre apparente). In at least three buildings, basements extended above ground level. Openings for small windows or vents (soupireaux) and exterior doors were sometimes out through the exterior masonry walls; The four vents of the proposed Rodrigue house were to have an iron, bar (armés chacuns d'un barreau de fer) two pieds high and one pouce thick, Two double doors (a deux battans) were to provide access to the basement from the street.

We have no documentary information on the stairs used to descend from outside into a basement. In the proposed Rodrigue house, access from inside was to be gained by two trap doors in the floor and pine ship-ladders (echelles de meunier).

The finish of the basement floor, if any, is rarely mentioned. Repairs to the Destouches house in 1750 included sand and gravel for the basement floor [NOTE l7]. Although basement drains are mentioned for the Destouches and proposed Rodrigue houses our structural knowledge is limited to the fact that those in the Rodrigue house were to be covered.


Rubble masonry walls were built of fieldstone (moelon du pays) bonded with a lime and sand mortar. Among the stones used were those taken from the excavation of the foundations and/or basement. One part lime to two parts sand seems to have been the common mortar mixture. The usual thickness of the walls seems to have been two pieds, The masonry walls rose from foundation walls and/or basement walls (see above Foundation and Basement section). The exterior of the rubble masonry walls were given a roughcast finish (crépir a pierre apparente ou crépir a pierre vues), with the same mortar as that used in the bonding of the stones. Quoin stones are not mentioned in the documents. The elevations and views indicate that quoin stones were sometimes used at the corner of a masonry building located at the junction of two streets [NOTE 18]

It was not uncommon for two buildings to share a masonry wall. In the case of the proposed Rodrigue house, toothing stones had been left at the extremities of the end wall of the adjacent house so that the new walls of the Rodrigue house could be easily bonded, at right angles, against the common wall.

An interior dividing wall (mur de refend) of masonry was sometimes constructed in a masonry house. In the Vallée and proposed Rodrigue houses, the interior rubble masonry wall ran the width of the house, and rose the total height of the house from foundation/basement to the roof. The construction of the mur de refend followed the same specifications as that of the exterior walls. The interior wall strengthened the house structurally and accommodated centrally located chimneys. The Rodrigue mur de refend served the special function of dividing the house into two residences and formed one wall of a corridor through the building from the street into the yard.

(5) FLOORS [NOTE 19]

Even the more detailed documents do not usually describe how the joists were to be joined to the masonry walls. The most common method we assume to be the insertion of the Joists into joist sockets in the walls, as in the case of the upper storeys of the proposed Rodrigue house. Our only profile is that of the Port Toulouse building on plan 733- 11. In this plan the joists seem to be inserted into the rubble masonry walls. On the ground floor, the ledge of the foundation wall does not seem to have been used for support, although it is conceivable that the joists were resting on a board, not shown, on the ledge.

The joists of the proposed Rodrigue house were to be of pine, 8 pouces by 9 pouces with a square finish on the ground floors and 8 pouces square with a quarter round finish on the upper floors. These were to be laid at a distance of 3 pieds from center to center.

The specifications for the Port Toulouse and proposed Rodrigue buildings called for floors of 2 pouces pine boards, planed on one side. The Rodrigue floors were to be of tongue and groove or lapped construction, nailed with two nails on each joist. The floors of the Port Toulouse house were to be of tongue and groove construction.


As with the masonry walls, the brick or rubblestone chimneys seem to have been built on a masonry foundation. In the Vallée toisé, the foundations of the walls and the fireplaces were discussed together.

It is difficult to determine whether brick or rubble- stone was the more common building material for chimneys. Interpretation of documents is complicated by the translation of cheminée as either chimney or fireplace and also by the general use of the term maconnerie. All things considered, the majority of the views and documents seem to indicate rubblestone or flatstone masonry chimneys. Such chimneys would have had a roughcast finish.

It appears that chimneys rising from rubblestone masonry gable walls were also of rubblestone, such as seen in the Destouches house [NOTE 21] and the house by the lighthouse [NOTE 22]. The chimney is situated on the ridge with the masonry continuing unbroken from the gable wall.

The material of the chimneys on the Vallée house was not specified. Three thousand bricks were to be used in the construction of the building, probably for hearths and firebacks and either brick windows and doors surrounds or brick chimneys.

The Rodrigue marché specified bricks for the hearths and jambs of the fireplaces (cheminée). Since the stacks were not included in this specification, it is possible that they were to be of rubblestone masonry. The devis stated that the bricks of the fireplaces (cheminée) were to be 8 pouces by 4 pouces, bonded with a sand and lime mortar, which was also to be used to plaster (enduit) the inside.


The views and domestic architecture file give us few details on window and door openings. Interior wooden frames seem to hare been common. In the case of the de Mezy house, after about ten years it was reported that the frames had rotted, necessitating replacement with cutstone. All things considered, it is highly probable that this was merely an excuse to embellish the new official residence of the Commissaire Ordonnateur.

It would appear that cutstone surrounds were limited to King's buildings. Rodrigue's proposed house, whose grandeur was hoped to approach the adjoining Commissaire Ordonnateur's residence, was to have flatstone surrounds.

The Vallée toisé does not specify the kind of surround to be used for the openings. It is possible that some of the 3000 bricks, enumerated for use in the masonry, were used for this purpose.

The variety in the number and spacing of window openings can be seen on the views and elevations. The seventeen windows of the proposed Rodrigue house were to be three pieds wide and five and a quarter pieds high, with an arched lintel. It seems that the checks were to be in the wooden interior frames, and not in the flatstone.

Most masonry buildings seem to have had two exterior doors. The proposed Rodrigue house was to have doorways four pieds wide and seven and a half pieds high. In the de Mezy house, as in the brick Guion house, doors on the second floor opened onto a balcony.

(8) ROOF [NOTE 24]

There apparently was no standard roof type for masonry buildings. Hip, pitch, and a combination of the two are seen on the views, Most unusual was the mansard roof on the Vallée house.

The members of the proposed Rodrigue roof were to be of pine. A truss of the Port Toulouse building is shown on the 733-11 profile.

Three different kinds of roof coverings are mentioned in the documents: planks, shingles on planks, and plans de bois et de terre. The latter, described on the house in the Fauxbourg, seems very rough for a masonry building. Shingles were probably the most common covering.

The Vallée house had eaves through or gutters (goutiere) made from 4 pouces by 4 pouces lumber.


[NOTE 1] Mich Franklin,, "The State of the town...". Louisbourg, 26 September 1768. P.R.O., C.O. 217 (N.S.). vol. 25, fol. 135-145; [NOTE 2] R.L. and B.W. Way. The chateau St. Louis, as built,1720-1745 . Louisbourg, January 1905; Schiere, Supplementary notes to the Chateau St. Louis, as built, Louisbourg., July 1966; Linda Hoad. The Ancien Magasin and the Engineer's House , Louisbourg, November, 1967; Brenda Dunn. Block 2, lot G, property of the Commissaire- Ordonnateur, Louisbourg, September 1969; Blaine Adams. The Construction and Occupation of the King's Bastion, Louisbourg, July 1971); [NOTE 3] A.F.L., M.C. 734 - 5; [NOTE 4] Bail a loyer, Claparede a Brunet, Louisbourg, 22 december, 1757. A.N,, Section Outre-Mer, G3, carton 2045, piece 67; [NOTE 5] Vente d'une maison: Charles Dailleboust a Jean Richard. Louisbourg, 21 may 1733. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G3 carton 2038 suite, pièce 61; [NOTE 6] Inventaire des effets de feu Julien Fizel. Louisbourg, August 1757. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G2 , vol. 209, no. 508 pièce 4; [NOTE 7] Certificat de demolition fait par le chevalier de Drucour. Louisbourg, 1 July 1758. A.M. C 7, No. 89, fol. 14; [NOTE 8] For a more detailed study of the Guion house, see: Brenda Dunn, Block 2, Louisbourg, September 1971, pp. 41-45. Also: Richard Cox, "Wooden shingles from the Fortress of Louisbourg" Bulletin of the A.P.T., Vol. II, . nos. 1-2, 1970, p.65-69; [NOTE 9] Vente de Maison: Charles Dailleboust a Jean Richard, Louisbourg, 21 May 1738. A.N., Section Outre- Mer, G3, carton 2038, suite, piece-61;[NOTE 10] Vente d'une maison: Jacques Cronier a Francois Lessenne. Louisbourg, 4 december 1722. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G3, carton 2057, no. 26;[NOTE 11] Toisé de la maison mensarde de Mr Vallée a Louisbourg, Louisbourg, 6 March 1732. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G2, vol. 181, fol. 522- 527; [NOTE 12] Devis pour la maison Duperrier- Rodrigue. Louisbourg, 1737. A.N. Section Outre- Mer, G2, vol. 184, fol. 392-394. Marché et convention pour la construction d'une maison de Pierre, Louisbourg, 13 September 1738. A.N., Section outre-Mer, G3, carton 2046, pt. l, piece 55; [NOTE 13] Marché pour la construction d'un logement à Port Toulouse, Louisbourg, 28 September 1733. A.N., C11B, vol. 14, fol. 310- 317v; [NOTE 14] A.F.L., M.C., 753-1; [NOTE 15] Apposition de scellés apres la mort de la Veuve Berrichon. Louisbourg, 28 April 1732. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G2 vol. 208, dossier 476, piece 41; [NOTE 16] A.F.L., M.C.v 733-11; [NOTE 17] Bail a loyer: Marie Brunet, veuve Destouches, a Jean Claparede, Louisbourg, 13 juillet 1750. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G3, carton 2047, pt. 1, no 70;[NOTE 18] A.F.L., M.C., 731-3, 731-3a, 753-19 N.D. 7a; [NOTE 19] See also: Brenda DUNN. "A preliminary study of floors in Louisbourg". Preliminary Architectural Reports (Louisbourg, 1971), vol. III; [NOTE 20] For further discussion of chimneys see H.P. Thibault,"Heating and cooking facilities in private dwellings in Louisbourg". Preliminary Architectural Reports, vol, III; [NOTE 21] A.F.L. 739-5; [NOTE 22] A.F.L., N.D. 83; [NOTE 23] See also: Linda Hoad. "Windows; a preliminary study", Preliminary Architectural Reports, vol. II; [NOTE 24] For a discussion of roofs and roofings, see: Christian Pouyez. "Rapport préliminaire sur les toits et couvertures," Preliminary Architectural Reports, vol. III.