In 1668, three years after his arrival in Quebec, the Intendant Jean Talon purchased the lot, from Mrs Couillard, — a widow. It was to become the site of the present Ilot des Palais.

At first, he decided to pursue the activities of a shipyard that had started around 1650. Then, in 1668, a brewery was built at the foot of the Côte du Palais, and later a potash plant was established to fill the needs of the soap and glass industry in Paris.  And so, it is with the shipbuilding industry and the brewery that begins the fascinating history of this section of the city located below the Côte du Palais.

Although the manufacturing of beer was aimed at blocking the transfer of money outside the colony, the failure of the enterprise became evident less than five years after its establishment.  The brewery was then sold and transformed into a palace to lodge the Intendant then in office. Gradually various lines of work settled in the surroundings of the palace that came to bear the name «the palace’s quarter» before being called the St. Nicolas neighbourhood.

With the development of the grounds of the Intendant’s palace and the restoration of houses along the neighbouring streets during the 1980’s, the area was coined Ilot des Palais or otherwise Ilot St. Nicolas.  The Ilot and its surroundings, as well as the sectors that were broken during the 1960’s and 70’s, are now interesting sectors to visit, with more and more people settling.


L’îlot des Palais is the name given to the ancient lots, located close to the outfall of the St Charles River, where three palaces were successively built to lodge the Intendants of New France.  The Intendant was the person in charge of the judiciary system and of the commercial activity in the colony.  The first palace, was in fact the transformed brewery of Jean Talon.  It held the first meeting of the Sovereign Council. Facing the St Charles River, it was destroyed by fire in the morning after a windy night in January of 1713, causing several deaths. The year after a second palace was built further north, exactly where the Vaults of the Palace are now located.  These are the vaulted caves of this second palace. According to plans dating back from that period, it housed several services and part of it, now under the macadam of what is now the rue des Prairies, the archeological excavations have revealed what was a kitchen then.

The stewardship in Nouvelle-France

The intendant Jean Talon lived in Quebec from 1665 to 1668 and from 1670 to 1672. He was followed in these functions by several remarkable men who came to develop the colony. They did not have the prestige of the Governor but they were, however, very influential. The Intendant overlooked all the various aspects of the civil administration and his decrees were read out loud by the town crier. According to the annalist of the Hotel Dieu, Jean Talon is remembered as an unsurpassed intendant.

At the end of the French regime, the colony was ruled very differently by the «intendant François Bigot, who infuriated the population with his embezzlement. Jailed at the Bastille (Paris prison) in1761, he was then exiled from France and died in Switzerland in 1778. In the Quebecois’ memory, the ruins of the Intendant’s Palace were often associated with Bigot, the last Intendant whose main accomplishments were associated with the cons of corruption that lurk the authority.

During the first quarter of the 18th- century, the colony was developing quite well, and, after the 1713 fire, the Intendant Begon, then in office, took ths opportunity to build a second palace that would be more suitable to his function and the power he had. The building façade was turned south, thus facing the city, and a paved road was built to link it to the St Louis’ castle, whose ruins are now visible underneath the Dufferin terrace.  Although magnificent, it was destroyed by fire in 1725. A third palace was then built ny Chaussegros de Lery, the king’s engineer.  This time, all the necessary steps were taken to protect the new building from the damage of a fire.

The third palace survived the British conquest and became a refuge for the American troops, who besieged the city in 1775.  In order to get them out, the British troops bombed the palace whose remains, illustrated by Georges Heriot, were identified by the archeologists.

The vaults of the second and third palaces have survived to this day. They are the largest vaults of the French regime that can be found in Quebec.  They have been in use for a long time, by the Joseph Knight Boswell Brewery, which purchased the land in 1853.  Boswell, an Irishman from Dublin, who had learned the brewing process in Edinburg, Scotland, turned his establishment into a very prosperous industry. Several buildings were erected on the site and some of them are still standing:  the refrigerated stockroom as well as the garage west of Valliere Street. This important brewery became the Daw Brewery in 1952, which stopped its production in 1968.  The installations were partially demolished in 1971.

In the 18th-century vaults, a new immersive exhibition is now offered.  Titled Ilot des Palais: Revelation, it will take you through the turmoil of what is now an exceptional historical and archeological site where the history of Quebec, since the 17th century, is told through artifacts revealed by archeological excavations since 1983.