Peeking over the western walls of Old Quebec is McGreevy House, a stately, Italian-renaissance masterpiece that is as old as the Canadian confederation itself. Fittingly, the story of its construction is closely linked to the construction of the Parliament buildings in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa.
Thomas McGreevy was born in 1823 to Irish parents. He spent the better part of the 1840s apprenticed to a Quebec City contractor learning the construction business from the ground up. By the 1850s, McGreevy was signing large contracts of his own for buildings in Quebec’s capital city. The presbytery for St. Patrick’s Church and the customs house by the river were built by McGreevy and still grace the city today.
When a call for bids went out in 1859 for the construction of a state house in far-away Ottawa, McGreevy got that contract as well, a grand coup for the son of a blacksmith. He worked closely with English architect Thomas Fuller to build Ottawa’s first parliament buildings. Although cost overruns and scandal tainted their project, they created together the neo-gothic complex of Nepean sandstone that would host the first meetings of the Canadian legislature.
As lawmakers moved into their new buildings in 1867, McGreevy, now a member of parliament himself, turned his attentions back to Quebec City and a home for himself. He chose his former partner on the Ottawa project as architect. Thomas Fuller designed for McGreevy a four-story urban palace with 15 marble fireplaces and a ballroom. The front facade shows off the same Nepean sandstone used back in Ottawa. Grand arched windows and an elaborate cornice greet passersby.
Walk by McGreevy house today at 69, rue d’Auteuil the next time you are in Old Quebec. It is magnificent.