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Past And Present Come Together

A longer story for today, but worth it if you stick to the end!

For my latest “Mini Vacations” miniature painting, I selected another Québec City subject from a recent travel photo of Rue Sainte-Anne from the leafy Place d’Armes park.

#70 – Along Rue Sainte-Anne, Québec City (ink and watercolour, 2.5″ x 3.5″)

I love the two buildings in this particular view – the red-roofed building and the Palladian/Colonial building. I even own a painting by another painter of this view! But other than knowing one is now a hotel-restaurant (where I had a lovely breakfast), and the other is a tourist information centre (where I found a free clean restroom), I didn’t know much about these historical-looking structures.

So I went on a research hunt to find out something about their history, and I discovered much more than expected!

Quickly about the tourist info building at 12, Rue Ste-Anne – It was built as the Old Union Hotel in 1805, then became a men’s club for the rich & famous, then went back to being a hotel again under several names, until in the 1940’s, it became a Tourist Information Centre. I found lots of cool pictures that showed its structural changes over the years – man, did they mess with this building until it was finally restored to its mid-19th century self.

Quickly about the red-roofed hotel-restaurant at 20, Rue Ste-Anne – In 1640, it was just a small timber structure and was home to a fur-trading group called the Company of 100 Associates (an interesting bunch to read about if you’re a history buff). Then in 1713, a one-story stone structure was added to it by a French land surveyor. But then I came to a dead end – I couldn’t find anything more about how or when these 2 buildings became the red-roofed building of today.

It came to me to search Google Images for visual histories of the street that might yield some clues. I found this ink and watercolour painting from 1832, where you see the red-roofed building merging with another along Rue Ste-Anne beyond the then- treeless parkette of Place d’Armes.

View of the Place d’Armes, Robert Auchmuty Sproule (1832) Photo from McCord Museum online archive

And here’s where it gets a little nutty! I got curious about this painting and did some more research about it and its Irish-Canadian artist, Robert Auchmuty Sproule, and found out:

  1. He was primarily a painter of watercolour miniatures.
  2. In 1836, he  lived in the small city, Cornwall Ontario, where I was born and raised.
  3. In 1838, he moved to the small town of Williamstown, where my grandparents had their farm.


I stopped my research because I was reeling from this discovery of a kindred watercolour miniaturist who lived in my hometown almost 200 years ago! And who obviously liked to paint the same things!

I feel a great sense of connection now to his work and his vision. I’ve looked up more of his work and hope to visit the McCord Museum in Montreal where some of them are held. And I feel even more excited about continuing on this newfound Cornwall legacy of watercolours and miniatures!


My 3 Québec City minatures:

8 replies »

    • Lol, don’t think we’re related! But it was an amazing discovery! My mother remembers a local doctor with that name, so perhaps this generation of his family contains an artist.

  1. It’s amazing how one thing leads to another as we travel down a path and find striking resemblances/ coincide to our past. It excites the mind and imagination. Your work is beautiful. Stay inspired.
    I’m currently documenting family “treasures” (old hand crafted items, collections, kitchen tools from the past, toys etc) in a journal. I write about theses items and pass the history along. This way I can pass the items along without any regrets and still have the memories. The bonus is no maintenance. A great way to scale back and downsize.

  2. Your paintings are always so beautiful and breathtaking . I enjoy the commentary and the passion that inspired you.
    Thank you for taking the time to share your stories

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