This beautiful library is tucked away along one of the narrow, cobbled streets of Old Quebec.
The Morrin Centre library is located on a site that represents 400 years of Quebec history: it has been home to a military barracks, prison and college, and now an English-language cultural centre and library. The Centre is owned and operated by the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec — founded in 1824, it is the first learned society in Canada. It is thanks to their work that the building, and its history, has been preserved for future generations to enjoy.
I highly recommend taking a tour. Our engaging guide took us into dank, dark cells from the Quebec Common Gaol (1812-1868). Next, we visited a more genteel institution: the once hallowed halls of the Morrin College (1862-1902). It was like stepping back in time to see the antique books and laboratory equipment lining the walls of the science classroom, along with an original blackboard and wooden mail slots for students.
What messages do you think these mail slots might have held?
The tour ended in the library, which was (no surprise!) a highlight for me. Established in 1824, it is a breathtakingly beautiful two-story library, which is presided over by a pint-sized statue of Major General James Wolfe.
Though steeped in history, the library is very much alive: it is frequented by local booklovers, tourists, researchers and scholars. They offer a wonderful selection of English books on loan to members, reading programs for children, and literary events.
And check out this intriguing staircase to the upper level:
So appealing is the children’s corner, that my daughter quickly disappeared behind a book…
I found a chair, and settled in:
The afternoon flew by quickly. I left feeling more connected to the people’s history of Quebec City — from prisoners to pupils, political leaders to poets. They are alive and well within the walls of the Morrin Centre.
The Centre relies on donations to stay alive, and has had many generous benefactors over the years (including one of my father’s closest friends, who we called “uncle”, Dr. David Guthrie; I felt his absence and his presence here in this place he loved so much). It wasn’t much, but I happily dropped a few dollars in the collection jar. It felt good to support such a special place, and I hope to become a member one day.
The Morrin Centre is located at 44, Chaussée des Écossais. Check out their website for opening hours and tour information.
Read more about my literary tour of Quebec City here.