GAUVREAU, PIERRE, carpenter, mason, building contractor, architect, and civil engineer; b. 8 April 1813 at Quebec City, son of Pierre Gauvreau, a carter, and Angèle Ouvrard, dit Laperrière; m. there 8 Sept. 1835 Marie-Luce Simard; d. 16 May 1884 at Quebec.
After studying at the Séminaire de Québec between 1825 and 1835 Pierre Gauvreau learned carpentry and masonry on building sites and in the workshop. In this activity he was carrying on family tradition since his ancestors Guillaume and Girard-Guillaume Deguise*, dit Flamand, became recognized as masons during the French régime, and his cousin, Jean-Baptiste Roy-Audy*, worked as a carpenter and artist. Gauvreau’s career went through three stages. He acquired experience as a carpenter, mason, and contractor from 1835 to 1844. He then became an architect, and from 1848 to 1867 held the post of architect and engineer in the Department of Public Works of Canada East. From 1867 to 1882 he performed the same duties in the office of the commissioner of agriculture and public works for the province of Quebec.
Gauvreau is first listed as a contractor in 1837 when he secured the contract to rebuild the church of Notre-Dame-de-l’Annonciation in Ancienne-Lorette; the following year he and Jean-Baptiste Paquet undertook to demolish the walls of the Château Saint-Louis in Quebec City which had been destroyed by fire. Then, with Joseph and Toussaint Vézina, Jean Patry, and other builders, he constructed some 20 houses and edifices in or near Quebec City, the most important being the stone building on the corner of Rue Sainte-Famille and Côte de la Fabrique (1838) (later occupied by a branch of the Provincial Bank of Canada), Bishop Joseph Signay*’s school on the Chemin du Foulon (1841), and William Sheppard*’s house at Sillery (1843). With few exceptions most of these buildings reflected either rudimentary design (being erected without benefit of an architect) or a more elaborate conception (because of the use of plans by such architects as the partners Frederick Hacker and Edward Taylor Fletcher, Goodlatte Richardson Browne, or Richard John Cooper).
From 1844 Gauvreau, working as an architect, prepared plans and estimates for other building contractors or sometimes for himself. He was from this time using a style with more sober, austere lines suited to the architectural traditions of Quebec; however, his buildings have a few ornamental features in the style fashionable in the 1840s. In five years he designed in this manner more than 30 houses and a few commercial buildings.
When in the employ of the Quebec Department of Public Works from 1848 to 1882, as already noted, Gauvreau supervised a number of government building projects. At the outset his services were mainly used in the improvement of existing public buildings; then in the 1850s and 1860s he was asked to put up many wharves and a few lighthouses in the tiny settlements scattered along the St Lawrence from Rimouski to Montreal. During this period Gauvreau directed the building of some 12 court-houses from plans drafted by architect Frederick Preston Rubidge*. By 1870 he began to draw up the plans of certain public edifices in Quebec City; the post office on Rue Buade (1870), with a 108-foot façade in the French neo-Renaissance style, and the observatory in the park of the Champs de Bataille (1873) have been attributed to him. From 1877 to 1879, together with Eugène-Étienne Taché, he prepared the plans for the Quebec Parliament Buildings (Édifice A).
As an architect Gauvreau seems only once to have worked with a religious institution. In 1846 the parish council of Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies turned to him after the plan submitted by Charles Baillairgé* for a new church was judged too similar to that of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière (La Pocatière, Que.). Hence it was under Gauvreau’s direction that a neo-Gothic church was erected in 1849–50. This building, as is true of Gauvreau’s work as a whole, has certain features in common with the work of Charles Baillairgé. There is every indication that each in turn drew on Thomas Baillairgé*’s legacy and that they perfected their skills as architects and engineers at the same time.
Although rarely innovative from the point of view of form, Gauvreau was a good builder who apparently was more concerned with the structural qualities of a building than with its lines. It was probably this preoccupation that led him in 1854 to patent a cement he had just invented. “Gauvreau cement,” made with stone from Cape Diamond, was used especially in stonework exposed to water and humidity. It was employed in the three forts at Lévis built about 1870 and subsequently in various public works projects across the country. The factory disappeared with the advent of American cement factories at the beginning of the 20th century.
Gauvreau was active in civic affairs in Quebec City. He was a councillor for Saint-Jean Ward (1856–62), chairman of the aqueduct committee during his term as councillor, and a member of the Board of Trade (1864). He had eight children. Three sons engaged in building operations: Louis-Petrus was to succeed his father as architect in the Department of Public Works; Théophile-Elzéar and Théophile-Alfred took over the cement factory and also manufactured plaster of Paris at Quebec. The Gauvreau family lived in the suburb of Saint-Jean on Rue d’Aiguillon, where the cement factory was located. Paralysed for the last 18 months of his life by an apoplectic seizure Gauvreau died on 16 May 1884 at Quebec.
A public servant for a long time, Pierre Gauvreau was primarily an architect working on site, participating more often in the actual task of construction than in the creation of designs. The few buildings he planned were only copies modelled on traditional architecture. Gauvreau was conservative and scrupulously careful; as his annual reports to the office of the commissioner of agriculture and public works confirm, he made few innovations in civil architecture.
ANQ-Q, État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Québec, 8 avril 1813, 8 sept. 1835; Minutier, Henri Bolduc, 9 oct. 1866; E. G. Cannon, 18 oct. 1845; 14 août, 14 oct. 1847; 21, 28 févr., 6 juill., 7 sept. 1850; 14 avril 1851; C.-M. De Foy, 9 janv. 1844; Josiah Hunt, 30 janv. 1830, 2 avril 1839; Alexandre Lemoine, 27 oct. 1849; C.-S. L’Espérance, 24 avril 1862; E. B. Lindsay, 9 août 1849; Joseph Petitclerc, 27 févr. 1839; 24, 25 avril, 8 mai 1857; J.-B. Pruneau, 10 mars 1866; A.-B. Sirois-Duplessis, 8 oct. 1864; Félix Têtu, 17 juin 1844. AP, Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies, Reg. des délibérations du conseil de la fabrique, 1846, 1849. AVQ, Procès-verbaux du conseil, 1856–62. PAC, RG 11, A1, 8, no.1017. Can., Parl., Doc. de la session, 1883, VI: no.10; VII–VIII: no.10a. Qué., Parl., Doc. de la session, 1870, no.17, app.11; 1882, I, no.2. L’Événement (Québec), 19 mai 1884. Canadian biog. dict., II: 164–65. Quebec directory, 1853–84. P.-G. Roy, Fils de Québec (4 sér., Lévis, Qué., 1933), III: 181–82. M. Hamelin, Premières années du parlementarisme québécois, 103. Gérard Morisset, Peintres et tableaux (Québec, 1936), I: 241–42. Marcel Plouffe, “Quelques particularités sociales et politiques de la charte, du système administratif et du personnel politique de la cité de Québec, 1833–1867” (thèse de ma, univ. Laval, Québec, 1971). “Le ciment Gauvreau,” BRH, 47 (1941): 216–17.