JOURDAIN (Jourdain, dit Labrosse), CHARLES, master mason and contractor; b. 8 May 1734 in Longue-Pointe (Montreal), son of Charles Jourdain, dit Labrosse, a tailor, and Marie-Joseph Aubuchon, dit L’Espérance; d. some time after 1823, probably at Quebec.
The Jourdain, dit Labrosse, family of the Montreal area was related to the Jourdains of Quebec, a family already active in the construction field when Charles came to set himself up there, probably after the conquest. He had spent his youth among craftsmen working in wood and stone; Paul-Raymond Jourdain*, dit Labrosse, a well-known wood-carver in the Montreal region, was his uncle.
As more building was being undertaken at Quebec in the early years of the British régime, mason Jourdain understandably thought it worth settling there; as well, in the Quebec region he was joining his cousins Augustin and Michel Jourdain, who were also masons. In 1818 the census of the town mentioned the presence in his house on Rue Saint-Jean of a woman named Henriette Jourdain, aged 28; presumably she was his niece, since no marriage contract involving Charles has been found.
From 1798 Jourdain signed many contracts with the new business élite for construction at Quebec. He apparently specialized in masonry for industrial buildings. For example, in 1800 he undertook for the firm of Lester and Morrogh the masonry of the Cape Diamond Brewery, which comprised a brewery 74 feet long, 64 feet wide, and 20 feet high, a shed 65 feet by 40 with two chimneys, and a store 26 feet square. In 1802 he also built the stone foundations, ovens, and chimneys for George Miller’s bakery in the Saint-Roch district. His services were sought seven years later by Christian (Christianna) Ainslie, John Young*’s wife, to enlarge the malt-house at the St Roc Brewery, a contract being signed for £300. On 22 Feb. 1810 he undertook to put up an immense warehouse for merchant John Mure on Rue Saint-Pierre.
Although Jourdain did take on jobs for the fabrique of Notre-Dame de Québec and the Séminaire de Québec, his principal accomplishments were secular buildings. Thus, in 1815 he received a contract to enlarge the court-room of the Court of King’s Bench in accordance with François Baillairgé’s plan; these alterations entailed two new wings including a vaulted cellar with windows. Under the contract Jourdain was to supply all the materials, including the stone which was to be taken from the quarries at Beauport. Payment was to be on the basis of £3 10s. a “toise” up to a maximum of £1,850. The work was completed in July 1816 and had required 674 “masons’ days” at 7 shillings a day, 439 “labourers’ days” at 5 shillings a day, and 336 loads of mortar at 8 shillings each.
Jourdain’s competence had also been noted by Jean-Baptiste Bédard*, an important Quebec carpenter who had entrusted him in 1809 with building his house at the rate of “40 shillings per ‘toise’ of masonry work on the walls, the measurements being verified by Pierre-Florent Baillairgé[*].” Jourdain also acted as an expert for judging the quality of work in case of disputes, a common role for building craftsmen of recognized experience. The last mention found of him is dated 22 Dec. 1823, when the Quebec Gazette noted that he was a director of the Quebec Savings Bank.
It is difficult to evaluate Charles Jourdain’s contribution to the stylistic evolution of buildings in his time. An examination of his career reveals that he only carried out the ideas of others at a period when the construction industry was making great strides as a result of the increase in Quebec’s urban population and the growth of new districts and services. It is to architects and military engineers that one must look for creativity.
ANQ-M, CE1-23, 9 mai 1734. ANQ-Q, CN1-16, 31 janv. 1807, 23 juin 1809, 22 févr. 1810, 17 oct. 1816; CN1-26, 5, 10 mars, 5 avril 1804; 23 mars, 27 avril, 21 juin 1805; 11 nov., 31 déc. 1806; 29 juill., 3 déc. 1807; 9 juin, 20 juill. 1808; 31 janv., 28 mars, 15 mai 1809; 5 oct. 1810; 15 juill., 1er août 1811; 10 juin, 6 oct. 1812; 10, 11 janv., 6 déc. 1814; 21 juill. 1815; 22 janv. 1816; 16 févr. 1819; CN1-171, 10 sept. 1818, 9 sept. 1820; CN1-178, 4 juin 1808, 24 avril 1809, 26 mai 1814; CN1-230, 27 juin 1800, 20 mai 1807, 11 mai 1812, 13 mai 1815, 16 mai 1817, 13 févr. 1823; CN1-253, 25 avril 1812, 29 sept. 1813, 26 juill. 1823, 5 mai 1826. AP, Notre-Dame de Québec, Cahiers des délibérations de la fabrique, 1777–1825: 234–37. ASQ, C39: 21, 38, 41–43, 65, 82, 87, 113–14, 134, 155; Séminaire, 121, nos.403–10. Quebec Gazette, 10 July 1794, 14 May 1801, 19 March 1812, 22 Dec. 1823.