Street Views: The story behind Avenue James-Lemoine

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Photo: Bill Cox

Located near the present-day Parc du Bois-de-Coulonge and Villa Bagatelle, Spencer Grange Villa, where James MacPherson Lemoine lived and died, is located on Avenue Duquet. The street that bears his name encircles Avenue Duquet. 

Avenue James-Lemoine is named in honour of James MacPherson Lemoine (1825-1912), a lawyer, ornithologist, folklorist and historian. Born in Quebec City of a Scottish mother and French-Canadian father, Lemoine was only three years old when his mother died. He was raised by his maternal grandparents, the MacPhersons, in the manor on Île-aux-Grues and in Montmagny. He studied at the Petit Séminaire de Québec and was called to the Bar of Lower Canada in 1850. Until 1858, he practised law in Quebec City and from then on he worked as a collector of inland revenue, eventually becoming the inspector of the department.

In 1856 at St. Andrew’s Church, Lemoine (also spelled Le Moine) married Presbyterian Harriet Mary Atkinson. The couple moved to Sillery in 1860 and took up residence in the Spencer Grange Villa (near the present-day Parc du Bois-de-Coulonge) owned by Henry Atkinson, his wife’s uncle. The Lemoines gave sumptuous parties at the villa for politicians and persons in the arts, letters, and sciences. 

 Well-versed in local history and in flora and fauna, Lemoine took a great interest in the people, sites and monuments that marked Quebec over the centuries. He wrote several books, including Ornithologie du Canada (two vols.), Maple Leaves (seven vols.), Quebec Past and Present and Picturesque Quebec. Greatly respected by his peers, he presided over organizations such as the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec in 1871, 1879-1882, and 1902-1903, and of the Royal Society of Canada from 1894 to 1895. In 1897, he was knighted by Queen Victoria.

Sir James lived out his life in Spencer Grange, which is still standing, in Sillery on Avenue Duquet near the corner of the roadway named for him. He was buried in Mount Hermon Cemetery.