home Blog A stroll through Trois-Rivières history

A stroll through Trois-Rivières history

December 15th, 2017 | by Émilie Sirois

The rich history of Trois-Rivières, the second oldest French-speaking city in North America, is proudly on display throughout the city. For example, a walk through the old part of town will allow you to discover the beautiful reminders of times gone by. As you take in the architecture, read about the many Trois-Rivières milestones on the historical panels and view the city’s monuments, you’re bound to be charmed. So let’s get started: it’s time to take a stroll through the past in Trois-Rivières! 

Harbourfront Park
Head to Harbourfront Park to begin your adventure. This broad promenade offers a breathtaking view of the St. Lawrence River, port and Laviolette Bridge, a Trois-Rivières landmark. 
Le Platon
Turn your gaze to the huge staircase leading to “Le Platon.” Each step traces a milestone in the growth and development of Trois-Rivières, from politics to religion and from the arrival of the Native Peoples in 6,000 BC to the city’s designation as a cultural capital of Canada in 2009. At the very top is Le Platon, a strategic lookout point. In fact, it was here that Laviolette built the first Trois-Rivières trading post, which also served to protect the city. It offers a view of the St. Lawrence River like no other!
Place Pierre-Boucher
Make your way back up Rue des Casernes and you’ll find yourself at Place Pierre-Boucher, named in honour of the militia captain who distinguished himself during a major Iroquois attack in 1653. To your left, Sacré-Cœur marks the location of the community’s first chapel, while the Monument des Braves to the right is dedicated to the soldiers who gave their lives in World Wars I and II. In the centre is the Flambeau monument, a legacy to the young people of Trois-Rivières and erected to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the city’s founding. The illuminated water jets put on a show for visitors and are worth watching!
Galerie d'art du Parc
As you retrace your steps, you’ll reach Rue des Ursulines, which will take you to the old district of Trois-Rivières. You’ll want stop and appreciate the architecture of these ancestral homes, which exude charm. The stately white building to your right is Manoir de Tonnancour. Designated as a historical monument in 1966, it was built in 1723 for René Godefroy de Tonnancour. Over the years, it has served as barracks for military officers, a rectory and diocese, a religious house and a school. Today, it is home to the Galerie d’art du Parc, a modern art exhibition centre that has retained the building’s sense of history. You’re welcome to come in and discover the art on display—admission is free!
Église St. James
A little further along your walk you’ll find St. James Church, a rare reminder of Les Récollets, who arrived in New France in 1692. They first built a rectory (1742) then a chapel (1754), before abandoning both in 1776 for lack of succession. After serving a number of purposes, the buildings were passed on to the Anglican Church, who renamed the church St. James. With renovations now completed, the art centre will open soon, enabling visitors to enjoy a variety of exhibitions and the historical aspects of the buildings. If you’re so inclined, plan on attending one of the upcoming intimate concerts in the chapel. They promise to be very special!
EMA : Expérience métiers d'art
Cross the road to discover Maison Hertel-de-la-Fresnière, which is home to EMA: Expérience métiers d’art, an exhibition centre and boutique that features artisans from the region who work with wood, leather and many other materials. One room is reserved exclusively for exhibitions, which change each month. As you enter, pick up a brochure that recounts the history of the building. Its name comes from the illustrious Trois-Rivières family of Joseph-François Hertel de la Fresnière, nicknamed “the hero” for his brave deeds. You’re sure to be charmed by the urban architecture of this home whose design was in vogue in the 1820s.
Musée des Ursulines
Continue your walk and you’ll come first to the monastery then the Musée des Ursulines, named for the nuns who arrived in 1697 with a mission to teach and care for the sick. They initially founded a convent and in 1699 took ownership of what is today the monastery. Over the years, the building has been enlarged a number of times, as is evident in its façade, which displays elements of various eras. Look up and admire the dome on top of the chapel, then contemplate the sundial that adorns the west wall. Right next door, the Musée des Ursulines presents many themed exhibitions about this first female community to establish itself in Trois-Rivières. The former dining hall for boarders also hosts exhibitions, and the old chapel is definitely worth a guided tour. Take a break and take in the view at Parc des Ursulines across the street!
A detour to Boréalis is a must. It tells the fascinating story of the pulp and paper industry that has defined much of the history of Trois-Rivières. Within the walls of this bygone factory, you’ll view captivating exhibitions about the key aspects of the industry, from the Saint-Maurice River and surrounding forests to the log drives, loggers and their lifestyle. The entire experience is a treat for the senses. Don’t forget to delve into the vaults, where an ultraviolet light effect showcases the past of this industrial gem.
Manoir Boucher de Niverville
Meander through the neighbourhood, taking in its charm, until you reach Rue Bonaventure and Manoir Boucher de Niverville, a witness to the French colonial style of architecture. The oldest building in Trois-Rivières, this manor house is named for Joseph-Claude Boucher de Niverville, officer, seigneur, superintendent and recipient of the cross of Saint-Louis, who inherited it upon the death of his father in 1761. The tranquil gardens will beckon you. Indoors, explore the many surprising aspects of the lives of this well-to-do couple, Marie-Josephte Chastelain and her husband Joseph-Claude Boucher de Niverville. Each year, a new archeological exhibition is presented at the Manoir.

Cathédrale de l'Assomption
As you continue along Rue Bonaventure, you’ll arrive at the Cathédrale de l’Assomption, mother church of the Trois-Rivières diocese since the 19th century. Designed by Montreal architect Victor Bourgeau, the Neo-Gothic cathedral drew its inspiration from Trinity Church in New York and also incorporates features reminiscent of Westminster. The stained glass windows by Guido Nincheri are among the most beautiful in North America. Come in and marvel at the effects of the light filtering through them!
Old Prison of Trois-Rivières
The Old Prison, which opened in Trois-Rivières in 1822, was the oldest prison facility in Canada upon its closure in 1986. A designated historic monument, today it provides visitors with a fascinating glimpse of history and Canada’s prison heritage. The guides, some of whom are former inmates, will take you behind the scenes to witness life and the extreme conditions prisoners had to endure. It’s an experience unlike any other!

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