Place d’Youville, Quebec City, November 2010

Place d’Youville, Quebec City, November 2010

Place d’Youville is situated in the bustling square of rue Saint Jean next to Porte St-Jean, known to the Anglos of Quebec as Saint John’s Gate.

Regardless of the season, Place d’Youville is booming with activity and people. In the summer months, you’ll find street musicians playing for the locals and the tourists, outdoor shows, or skateboarders perfecting their technique. From mid-October to March, you can lace a pair of skates and glide to carefully chosen Québecois music. You can rent a pair for $7.00 or bring your own. Changing area and lockers are free and sharpening services are offered for a fee of $6.00.

If your in the mood to catch a great show,  the magnificent Capitole Theatre will definitely catch your fancy! Inspired by the Beaux Arts architectural style, and borrowing later ideas from the Second Empire style. The layout of the monumental façade and choice of exterior ornamentation are typically classical in style.


In 1927, New York architect-consultant Thomas W. Lamb is given the mandate to design the renovation project. He is considered America’s premier authority in cinema and theatre hall design. He oversees construction of no less than sixteen theatres across Canada at the time. Québec architect, Héliodore Laberge is designated to draw up the plans and estimates for the project. They will considerably change the Auditorium’s interior, modifying the rear and central areas of the building to accommodate the growing North American demand for high-class movie theatres. With its new architectural look, the building is renamed “Le Capitol” in 1930. A name which it will keep to this day, changing only slightly throughout the years, reflecting its increasing versatility: cinema, theatre, restaurant… It is essentially the same building we inherit today.

Paradoxically, Le Théâtre du Capitole complex begins its slow decline around 1970, a time when the City of Québec launches major upgrades to its infrastructures. This overhaul leads to the destruction of the old Place D’Youville and the construction of the Grand Théâtre de Québec.

Many of the great names in music, opera, theatre, dance, song and vaudeville have graced the Capitole’s stage on more than one occasion. This exquisite hall made Québec City an inevitable stop for major international tours. 
In 1929, the Auditorium was sold to Famous Players and renamed Le Capitole. A sophisticated Casavant organ was brought in to accompany silent movies. Music and theatre shared the stage with movies until 1982 when it closed its doors.

The once most stunning playhouse in Canada was abandoned, ignored by public officials, and left unattended to face the elements and squatters. But in 1992, a partnership between producer and agent Guy Cloutier and various levels of government saved Le Capitole. An investment of $12 million from the public and private sectors finally brought the playhouse back to the splendour of its early years.

The old Cinéma de Paris has been made over in blue, fire red and gold to create the warmest atmosphere, with small round tables, velvet-covered chairs, and patterned carpeting. Its Art Deco styling will charm you.

This hall, which seats 565 and adjoins Le Capitole de Québec complex, is now known as Le Cabaret du Capitole.


Got an ear for fine music? The Palais Montcalm, erected 1931-2 in Art Deco Style,

 is a first-rate concert hall with exceptional acoustics and seating for 979. This grand old theatre, erected at Place d’Youville, has entertained Québec for almost 70 years. With a diverse lineup of classical, contemporary and specialty musical acts, the stone structure allows magnificent sightlines and superior acoustics in stately surroundings. This centrepiece of Québec City’s cultural scene offers a smaller performance space, the Café-Spectacles du Palais Montcalm with seating for 125, and showcases blues and jazz acts in a cozy atmosphere. Though superseded by the Grand Théâtre (on Blvd. Réné Lévesque) in stature, the Palais Montcalm remains one of the city’s true artistic and architectural landmarks. Ticket prices vary.


Article: Elizabeth Davies
Photos: Elizabeth Davies

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