Story by Barbara Angelakis
Photos by Manos Angelakis
Auberge Saint-Antoine Rendering courtesy of the hotel.
8 Rue Saint Antoine
Québec City, Canada , G1K 4C9
In 1992 Mama said “let’s go into the hotel business!” With that declaration a new concept of museum-hotel was birthed with the opening of Auberge Saint-Antoine, a 5 star luxury property in Québec City, Canada.
The “Mama” is Martha Bate Price, the doyenne of the prominent Price family which for over 200 years has played a significant role in the development of Québec City. William Price was the first to arrive from Wales in 1810. He was drawn to the abundant untapped resources in the Province of Québec - previously New France - which in 1763 had been acquired (sic) from France. His mission was to supply the Royal Navy with the urgently needed pine logs for their ship masts which, due to Napoleon’s infamous blockade, had cut off traditional sources of supply.
After four generations of success in the lumber industry, the Price family moved on to pulp and paper developing one of the largest mills in the world. All the while, this socially conscious family contributed to the development of Quebec, so much so that William’s grandson - also named William - was knighted after the First World War for his service to Canada and the British Empire; while Sir William’s grandson Tony, was awarded the Order of Canada in 1998 for his lifetime contribution to the country.
Tony’ wife Martha – the above mentioned Mama - along with her three children, Evan, Llewellyn and Lucy - the 6th generation of the Price family - embraced the hospitality industry, initially with a 20 room Auberge (a small inn) created in a 17th century property on the old-harbor site where once ships docked and unloaded their cargos. The building fronts the Saint Lawrence River with awesome views of the Laurentian Mountains in the distance.
In just a few years, in 1996 to be exact, the 18th century James Hunt house was incorporated into the inn and over the years other historical buildings were added such as the 19th century warehouse where once cargo was stored. That building was converted into the hotel’s restaurant, leaving intact many of the atmospheric artifacts of hoist and pulley apparatuses of the original structure.
Due to the age and historical significance of the area, before undertaking any construction, archaeologists were brought in to excavate and catalog their findings. On display behind a glass wall in the hotel’s lobby bar Artefact, are the remnants of the old French harbor retaining stone wall along with one of the only two known French canons still existing from the 18th century.
Also on display is a canon ball from the same conflict uncovered while excavating the site. While the French were known to build out of stone, the English built out of wood, providing material for the reception desk which was constructed out of the 1820 British wooden dock.
This discovery was the first of many artifacts, mostly decorative and household items that currently adorn display showcases distributed all over the museum-hotel. On the wall leading up from the entrance into the lobby are three dioramas that illuminate the footprint of the hotel overlaying the changing site that existed since 1608.
In fact so many items were unearthed that a small glass enclosed window next to the doorpost of each guest room displays an artifact with a companion piece located inside. The Price family, understandably proud of their heritage, has made the Auberge Saint-Antoine a living testament to the past while embracing all the modern accoutrements expected in a luxury hotel.
Auberge Saint-Antoine is a must-stay hotel for history buffs as well as lovers of contemporary luxury. It is an award-winning boutique hotel and a member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux Group. Currently there are 95 individually themed rooms and suites, each one a delightful surprise, incorporating the three original landmarked buildings into unique configurations with design and decoration overseen by nonagenarian Martha and her daughter Lucy.
The dinning venues in the hotel are presided over by three co-executive chefs and offer an ample breakfast and dinner with exceptional dishes featuring the bounty of the sea and dale. Since they don’t currently offer lunch at Chez Muffy, the hotel’s main restaurant, an exception was made due to our limited schedule and a three course meal was prepared especially for us with paired wines, so that we could experience the creativity of the culinary team. And we definitely were not disappointed!
Chez Muffy's crab meat appetizer adorned with radish matchsticks is a culinary masterpiece that tantalizes the taste buds and delights the senses.
The large bathrooms offer every modern convenience from heated floors, to large stall rain shower, deep European style bathtubs, smart toilet, large make-up/shaving lighted mirror and a luxury amenity package produced by local artisans. Lush towels along with bathrobes and male and female sized slippers are also provided. Our room had a comfortable king sized bed, a seating area, safe, a fully stocked Nespresso coffee machine, plus an outside porch reached through French doors with seating overlooking the river. It is a dog-friendly hotel, has a private dining room above the restaurant, a gym and sauna, plus the unusual addition of a 100 seat auditorium.
The hotel is located next to the fascinating Musée de la Civilization and a few steps from the charming cobble-stoned streets Québec is known for, with their old-world French-style buildings, restaurants, shops, the Funicular and/or stairway to the upper town; the area is a photo-op galore.
This privately owned and operated landmark luxury hotel is clearly a family affair with son Llew taking a hands-on approach to running the business and overseeing the handling of the artifacts and antiques uncovered during excavations. This is an ongoing labor of love and a commitment to the history of this extraordinary city. A major expansion project is already under way with an anticipated opening late in 2025. The hotel will incorporate the historic 1860 building next door to the property and will feature 25 ultra luxury rooms; a full-service destination spa on the ground level; ballrooms and meeting rooms; plus a rooftop restaurant and a boutique featuring Lucy’s award winning shoe and accessory line.
Could far-sighted Mama’s decision back in 1992 have envisioned such an addition to Québec’s hospitality industry… clearly so as after all these years, at the age of 93, she is still involved in the project showing up on a daily basis to make sure all is going according to plan.
© May 2023 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.
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