CBC Digital Archives

Quebec City at 400: The narrowest street in Canada

The Algonquin called it Québec, or "where the river narrows." On a rocky point high above the St. Lawrence, French explorer Samuel Champlain founded the first permanent French settlement in North America on July 3, 1608. In 2008, Quebec City celebrates the 400th anniversary of Champlain's feat, and the CBC Digital Archives takes a walk through the city's storied streets and its remarkable history.

Underneath a canopy of overhead walkways and fluttering clotheslines runs a street scarcely wide enough for a single car. This is Sous-le-Cap Street, a curving laneway in the Lower Town of old Quebec City, and it's a popular draw for tourists. A gaggle of children tags along behind any visitor, demanding pennies and singing on request. In this clip, a local shopkeeper tells CBC Radio's Canadian Snapshots about the history of Sous-le-Cap Street.
• A 1929 book, The Storied Streets of Quebec, says of the street: "Queer, thick walls, and crooked doorways line Sous-le-Cap since the days when its only footing was on the narrow strand between the rock and the river. Little is there here to recall the days of its old time splendour when highborn ladies and officers of the garrison shopped and gossiped between its grey walls."

• Some time in the 1940s, a sign was posted on the street reading: "Notice. Please refrain from giving money to children in order to avoid accidents. By order of police."
• In 1946, economist Maurice Lamontagne described Quebec's Lower Town as the worst slum in the city. Residents were few, most having left for the Upper Town, and those that remained lived in poverty.

• Another streetscape unique to Quebec City is L'Escalier Casse-Cou, or Breakneck Stairs. This narrow 170-step staircase links the Upper and Lower Towns on Petit-Champlain Street.
Medium: Radio
Program: Canadian Snapshots
Broadcast Date: Feb. 21, 1940
Guest(s): M. Mercier
Duration: 5:43

Last updated: June 18, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

The Joy of Toys and Games

From the hula hoop, tabletop hockey, Spirograph and toy guns to Cabbage Patch Kids, Elmo, GI J...

Cold Cases: Unsolved Crimes in Canada

They are the heartwrenching stories that shock whole communities, bringing waves of fear and s...

Child's Play: Popular CBC Children's Show Hos...

They come into our living rooms via the radio or TV set, speaking directly to the kids with a ...

CBC Kids' Patty at toddler music class

The CBC Kids' host Patty Sullivan, better known to Canadian children as Princess Patty, takes ...

Old Quebec City named one of Canada's seven w...

Tourists flock to see some of North America's oldest buildings in what is now officially one o...

Davis Inlet: 'I'll never stop sniffing gas'

The Innu children use solvents to escape their hopeless reality.