LAJOÜE, FRANÇOIS DE, surveyor and geometrician, master mason, architect and contractor, merchant, bourgeois, engineer; b. c. 1656 in the Paris region (Saint-Giruault), son of Jacques de La Joue, master surgeon, and Madeleine Guerin; died in Persia in 1719 or shortly before.
François de Lajoüe practised his surveyor’s trade in Paris, before coming to settle at Quebec in 1689 or shortly before, when he was about 33 years of age. He lived in the home of Pierre Ménage, whose daughter, Marie-Anne, he married on 3 Nov. 1689. Of their marriage were born several daughters; one of them, Marie-Agnès, married Pierre-Noël Levasseur*: another, Marie-Thérèse, married an engineer, La Guer de Morville. The Lajoües lived on Rue Saint-Louis, near the Ménage home, until about 1700; then they had a house built for themselves across from the Fontaine Royale on Rue du Garde-fou. It was in this stone house, with a mansard roof, that Bégon* and his family took refuge when they were driven out of the palace on the tragic evening of 5 or 6 January 1713.
La Joüe’s career in Canada lasted barely a quarter of a century, about the same time that Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban was active in France, and the engineers Jacques Levasseur de Néré and Dubois* Berthelot de Beaucours were working in Canada. On 22 Dec. 1689 Lajoüe received his commission as royal geometrician and surveyor, at the same time as Bernard de La Rivière. Subsequently his activities were split between surveys, measuring, and building jobs, interspersed with a short-lived commercial venture. The first big order we know him to have received was the plan for a building 100 feet long which he started constructing for the Nuns Hospitallers in 1691 and of which he made a small model in relief. This building was not finished until 1698. In 1692 he submitted the plans for the construction of the château and the new fort. Frontenac [Buade*] declared of the château that “it is not without some sort of miracle that I have not been crushed under the ruins of the old building,” although he considered it at the same time to be an ornament to the town. This building was not completed until 1700. In 1693, in collaboration with his colleague La Rivière, Lajoüe built the Saint-Jean gate, following Beaucours’s plans. Pierre Janson, dit Lapalme, and Jean Le Rouge were the creators of the Saint-Louis gate. The two gates were built on the same model. Lajoüe went to France that year to inquire into the property titles and inventory of one Lebœuf.
In 1700 he directed the construction of the château and the new surrounding wall, and he became a shareholder in the Compagnie de la Colonie. He made recommendations in 1702 for the restoration of the church at Sainte-Famille on Île d’Orléans. In 1703 he submitted the plan requested by the seminary for the building of a new presbytery, and the following year he was busy with the Jesuits’ church at Sillery. Around that time he ordered from Hulot, the Duc d’Orléans’ wood-carver, “a handsome tabernacle,” which he wished to offer to the nuns of the Hôtel-Dieu, whose regular architect he was. He paid 400 francs in advance, but was unable to settle the whole amount, as his business affairs had gone badly. The nuns had to have recourse to court action in order to regain the ornament, which had been seized, and it was not until 12 years later, on Assumption Day, that it was placed in the church, at a time when restoration work was being carried out.
In 1708 he presented a project for a system of distributing water to the Hôtel-Dieu. The project mentions specifically “places where it is desired to bring the water furnished by the town of Quebec and which has been granted by M. Talon*.” The work was postponed. In 1710 Lajoüe turns up as one of the owners of the African, a ship of 431 tons stowage; when it went bankrupt, Lajoüe quarrelled with Denis Riverin, whom he accused of having drawn him into a bad business deal and of having cheated him. He did work for the Recollets in 1714 and 1715 and perhaps for the Ursulines, for whom he is supposed to have prepared the plans of their church. (In this matter we are dealing with hypotheses which it has been impossible to verify.) There still exists a drawing by him of the seminary which also shows the cathedral and the bishop’s palace.
Around 1715 Lajoüe left Canada, placing his belongings in the care of the nuns of the Hôtel-Dieu. In 1717 and 1718 he was mentioned as being absent. A letter from the bishop of Babylon dated 30 July 1719 informs us that he died in Persia, where he was working as an engineer. The inventory of his papers, dated 3 April 1721, is of little interest except for the mention of 16 survey reports “drawn up by La Joue in his capacity as a sworn surveyor.” The settlement of Lajoüe’s estate, which was without claimants, dragged on until 1743.
Lajoüe’s career benefitted from the energetic administration of Governors Frontenac, Callière, and Vaudreuil [Rigaud], and of intendants such as Champigny [Bochart]. The failure of the attack by Phips* against Quebec and the treaty of Ryswick were favourable to great projects: it was then that Quebec was enclosed for the first time by a regular wall and received its adornment of buildings and steeples. For this construction a group of soldiers, selected for their abilities in this type of work, were backed up by the group from the seminary; this institution had an art school which included Baillif*, Denis Mallet, and Jacques Leblond de Latour, and around them moved people such as Lajoüe, Ménage, and La Rivière. After Baillif’s tragic and premature death in 1699, Lajoüe played a leading part in construction activity.
The work of the architects was moreover paralleled by that of the carpenters and the artisans who were concerned with decorating the interiors. The limitations imposed on the architects did not apply, however, to the master decorators, whose retables, tabernacles, and baldachins constitute so many imaginary temples drawn from the great models. But the fact is that the kind of building material available and the lack of real opportunities prevented the architect from fully demonstrating his capabilities. Building in Quebec during this period cannot therefore be assessed in terms of personalities and grandiose achievements; it was above all the result of many and various contributions. A multitude of craftsmen persisted, with unequal means, in employing at Quebec old practices imported from France and in adapting them to new conditions. This architecture is characterized by the full use of the site and the utilization of simple elements.
Lajoüe’s Parisian origins, his many activities, his orderly form of art, his mysterious death in Persia, all contribute to the legend which grew up around most of our craftsmen.
AJQ, Greffe de Jacques Barbel, 3 mai 1728; Greffe de Louis Chambalon, 3 nov. 1693, 18 sept. 1701, 22 avril 1703; Greffe de François Genaple; Greffe de Jean-Claude Louet, 3 avril 1721; Greffe de Gilles Rageot, 18 févr 1690, 1 déc. 1691; Greffe de Pierre Rivet, 7 avril 1715. Juchereau, Annales (Jamet), 281, 421, 442. Jug. et délib., I, II. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Maçons, entrepreneurs, architectes,” BRH, XXXV (1929), 135. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, III, 292. J.-É. Bellemare, Histoire de la Baie-Saint-Antoine, dit Baie-du-Febvre, 1683–1911 (Montréal, 1911), 18. P.-G. Roy, Les cimetières de Québec (Québec, 1941), 110; La ville de Québec, I, II. Ramsay Traquair, The old architecture of Quebec (Toronto, 1947), 93.