MAtv launch documentary on Château Frontenac’s 125th anniversary

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Photo: provided by MAtv

Architectural historians France Gagnon Pratte (left) and David Mendel (right) pose with former Château Frontenac general director Robert Mercure at the launch of the MAtv documentary series Iconique Château Frontenac.

On the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the Château Frontenac, former general manager Robert Mercure proposed to MAtv Québec that it produce a documentary series relating the history of the famous hotel, including the prestigious site where it is located.

MAtv assembled a team to respond to Mercure’s proposal. For the local community television station, this was the most important project it had ever undertaken. Production and program manager Carl Rousseau co-ordinated the work of the filmmakers. Director Mario Demers handled the camera that wandered throughout the hotel. Olivier Auriol composed the music. Journalist Pascal Evans, by far the busiest member of the group, did the research and created the scenario.

Evans spent nearly a year researching the information. His work required inquiries in five countries and consultation of the archives of three governments and many private companies. He interviewed 22 specialists in architecture and in history, including Quebec City historian David Mendel. Finally he assembled all this material into a presentation in French divided into six 30-minute episodes. Iconique Château Frontenac is the overall title of the documentary series.

MAtv will present the six episodes over a period of a month and a half. The first documentary was aired on Nov. 11 at 9:30 p.m. and is repeated at various times during the rest of the week. Consult the television schedule or the MAtv website to find out the actual time of showings. The second episode will follow on Nov. 18, also at 9:30 p.m., and during the following week. The remaining four will follow the same pattern.

The first of the series “Naissance d’une icône” (birth of an icon) is oriented toward the architecture of the building and shows the various styles that inspired American architect Bruce Price in the design of the hotel. The demolition of the Château Haldimand, which occupied the site in 1893, is addressed by Shirley Nadeau of the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, the only newspaper at the time that demonstrated interest in covering the construction of the Château.

The second episode concentrates on the enlargement of the hotel and emphasizes how the new wings were well integrated in the original style.

The third covers the years 1960 to 1970, when the city underwent an important transformation with the appearance of new buildings on Parliament Hill and such constructions as the Grand Théâtre. The Château seems to have been relegated to a lesser position.

The fourth part of the documentary presents the important contribution of the hotel to the city’s food and restaurant culture.

In the following episode, another QCT representative relates the most important events in the history of the Château Frontenac, the 1943 and 1944 wartime conferences, which brought Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt to the capital.

The final show, starting on Dec. 16, focuses on the place of the hotel as a monument of worldwide significance.

MAtv programs are available exclusively to Videotron subscribers. However, anyone with Internet access can watch the series on the MAtv website. The entire series is also available on Illico.