This week’s WordPress challenge is Curves. I have lots of curvy photos. I couldn’t decide on what to choose or post a scattered random selection. This was one of the photos I was definitely going to include and I think I’ll just post the photo and blog about where to find it.
The Morin Centre was the first English library in Quebec City, in the province of Quebec, Canada. Quebec is very much a French city in contrast to nearby Montreal which has a larger English population. I have a friend who lives in Quebec, she is the minister for the only English church inside the old walls of Quebec City (St. Andrew’s, Presbyterian, itself a very historic church). She lives in the Victorian manse which is next to the Morin Centre and took us over there when we visited last year.
It was originally a defensive area, next to the city walls. They used it as a military barracks and also to house prisoners of war. (This would be during the 18th century).
From 1813 to 1868, the building housed a jail. The interesting thing about it is that it was the first house of correction rather than just detention, with prison reforms giving the prisoners the opportunity for education rather than regular physical punishment though that still did occur on occasion as did the occasional public hanging.
The prison grew and needed a larger space so it was moved out and an English college founded by a Scotsman was opened. It was the first English college in the city and gave out arts degrees and was also used to train Presbyterian ministers. They were also one of the first colleges to admit women in the late 1800s.
Also during the same time as its life as a college, the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec shared some of the building, setting up a library and research centre. You can visit the library but you have to be a member to borrow books. The library is filled with artifacts and posters and the upper gallery has these wonderful curved staircases. They have some rare books and papers on display in various cases and there’s also a childrens’ story area. They do guided tours where you can see the old jail cells as you find out about the history of the building and the city itself.
I like the stairs in particular because they’re also reminiscent of the staircases in Montreal outside the houses in the older neighbourhoods of the city. They’re built with outside steps to the upper flats to maximize the living space inside the buildings, I would imagine. I like that they’re a bit of a curve/spiral instead of just a plain staircase because it’s a little unusual, a bit of flair and style though they’re probably a bitch in the winter, covered in snow and ice and Quebec and Montreal are not short of that! I don’t know if these curved staircases are used in other cities but when I think of Montreal, they’re one of the “icons” that stand out in my mind like all the fire escape staircases cladding the sides of the buildings in New York City.