Street Views: The story behind Impasse Webster

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Photo: Wikimedia Common Domain

Senator Lorne Campbell Webster (1871-1941) helped preserve the former Wesleyan Methodist Church in Quebec City. It is now known as the Maison de la littérature.

This rather insignificant “impasse” or alley in Old Quebec City was named after Senator Lorne Campbell Webster who was born in Quebec City on Sept. 30, 1871. He was educated at Commissioners’ High School (on Rue Saint-Denis), and following a year at a French-language college in Montmagny, he joined his father’s coal business in Quebec. 

Webster displayed an unusual talent for business and, over the next two decades, he expanded into other fields, ending up in Montreal as one of Canada’s most prominent businessmen. He owned a number of companies, notably the Quebec Gas Company and the Canadian Import Company, and he was President of Holt, Renfrew & Co. Ltd., Canadian Fur Auction Sales and the Quebec Railway Light & Power Co. The crowning honour of his life was when he was appointed to the Senate in 1920 by Prime Minister Robert Borden. 

Senator Webster died in Montreal on Sept. 27, 1941. Just before his death, he donated $25,000 to ensure the preservation of the former Wesley Methodist Church on Rue Saint-Stanislas in Quebec City, of which he had been a trustee.

The congregation of the Wesley Church had merged with Chalmers United Church on Rue Sainte-Ursule in January, 1931, and that church was renamed Chalmers-Wesley United Church. Many artefacts from Wesley Church, including the stained-glass windows, were later installed in Chalmers Church.  

The Ville de Québec acquired the former Wesleyan church in 1944 to house the Institut Canadien de Québec which installed a library and a concert hall. The conversion of the church to a public building was one of the first ever conceived in Quebec. It closed again in 1999, and after being empty for many years, the building was again restored and reopened in October 2015 as the Maison de la littérature. 

Sources: Ville de Quebec toponymy, Wikipedia and Remember All the Way: the history of Chalmers-Wesley United Church, by George. W. Crawford.
Impasse Webster is a short alley running north from Rue Sainte-Anne between Rue Sainte-Ursule and Rue d’Auteuil. It is only a few blocks from the former Wesleyan Methodist Church and the Morrin Centre.