The Auberge Saint-Antoine, a hotel full of history in the heart of Québec City

 

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photo by Pauline Moisy

 

There are a number of hotels in Québec City where clients can work out or go to the spa.

But the Auberge Saint Antoine is the only one to offer to clients visits of its basement, where a archaeological site is located. This original Auberge is owned by not one but four English-speaking Québecois, all members of the Price family. In 1989, they bought a house and an abandoned warehouse on Rue Dalhousie in Lower Québec and transformed it into a hotel now ranked 35th best hotel in the world, according to Expedia.com.

The Hunt House and the Hunt warehouse were alternatively used as commercial ammunition stock houses in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were named after James Hunt, a ship sail maker from the 1840s.
The Price bought the buildings 160 years later. Their Welsh ancestor, William Price, arrived in Québec City in 1810 to settle his forestry business. That company is known today as Abitibi-Bowater, one of the largest newsprint manufacturer in the world. William Price co-founded the city of Chicoutimi. Later on, his grandson Sir William Price, while assuming the presidency of the company, took part in the building of Valcartier military base for training recruits during World War One. His grandson Tony Price founded the Musée du Fort in 1964. For 200 years has the Price family used the money earned in business to act in society.

Martha Bate Price - Tony's wife - and her children Evan, Llewellyn and Lucy, followed the family tradition when they bought the Hunt house and warehouse to transform them into a hotel. As history lovers, they signed an agreement with the city to start archaeological excavations while the hotel was being built. The first excavations lasted ten years. Then in 2003, an other one was organised during the extension work and items from 1600 were found. "Over 700 excavated items are now exposed in the bedrooms and showcases of the hotel. Each floor is dedicated to a historical period, with the oldest items exposed on the ground floor, and the most recent on the 6th floor", Hélène Godbout, the director of the Auberge, explains.

The Hunt warehouse has become the restaurant Le Panache, but the walls are originals. A gear wheel is still suspended to the ceiling. When the hotel was extended in 2003, some of the material used were found during the excavations, like the wooden welcome desk. It acquired its dark colour after spending decades in the mud, under the hotel. Some of the red bricks used to build walls were found in the Saint Laurent banks and the floor is made of slate from the ground under the hotel.

The bedrooms are also related to Québec City's history. Among the 23 bedrooms which opened in 1992, the suites are dedicated to a historic period. Mrs Price and her daughter Lucy decorated them with the help of a friend, Mrs Amyot. They wanted all bedrooms to be different from each other. As an example, the room 225 is called the suite "Anglais 1800". The inside recreates a 19th century English cabinet, with wooden furniture, tapestry curtains and Fleur de Lys fitted carpet.

"The Price wanted to provide the highest degree of quality to clients", Hélène Godbout says.

Auberge Saint Antoine has won 13 tourism prizes since 1994.