Morrin Centre in Quebec City, Canada

Morrin Centre: Tour this Victorian Library!

Last Updated on April 12, 2024 by Pamela MacNaughtan

The Morrin Centre, located between rue Sainte-Anne and rue Dauphine in Old Quebec (upper town), is one of those buildings we walk past without a second thought. The building is boxy and grey and old. A church sits across the small courtyard, and another (which is now Maison de la littérature) sits across the street.

The prettiness of the building is almost a distraction as it conjures equally pretty thoughts. The history of this building, however, has its share of rough edges, blood, sweat and tears

From 18th-century military barracks to a gaol to a college

Originally a military barracks in 1712, the Royal Redoubt (as it was then known) later held prisoners of war, including Esther Wheelwright who later became mother superior of the Ursulines.

In 1813 the Royal Redoubt became the common city gaol (where some prisoners were publicly hung from the balcony above the main door) which held debtors, murderers, and journalists who spoke against the government.

In 1867, the prisoners were moved to a new jail on the Plains of Abraham, and in 1868 the building was converted and used by Morrin College (the first English-language college in Quebec City), until 1902 when the college had to close its doors due to lack of students and funds.

Read more about its history: Iron Bars and Bookshelves: A History of the Morrin Centre by Louisa Blair, Patrick Donovan and Donald Fyson

A literary & historical society and English library

Seating area inside the Morrin Centre in Old Quebec

Today, the Morrin Centre in Quebec City is home to the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, which has been housed at the Morrin Centre since 1868 (it was in the north wing when the college was running).

Dedicated to the history of Quebec City, the Morrin Centre offers tours of the jail cells (yes, they kept some of them intact!), the chemistry and physics labs from when the college was in the building and the Victorian library where the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec has collected rare books and documents about Quebec (and also has an impressive collection of English-language fiction and non-fiction books).

Visit the Morrin Centre

Where: 45, chaussée des écossais • Neighbourhood: old quebec (vieux-québec) • 418-694-9147 • • Open: Wed-Fri, Sun 12h-16h, Sat 10h-16h; guided tours – fri 12h-17h, sat-sun 10h-17h • Admission: the library is 5 CAD for a day pass; guided tours 17 CAD general, 15 CAD seniors & students (18+), free for children under 8 years old • Getting there: bus 11 or 25 to stop #1134 hôtel de ville.