MAILHOT (Maillot, Malhiot), NICOLAS-FRANÇOIS, innkeeper; b. c. 1776 at Quebec, son of Joseph Maillot and Madeleine Levasseur; d. there 11 Feb. 1834.
At the time of his marriage, which was solemnized at Quebec on 10 Nov. 1801, Nicolas-François Mailhot was a servant in the town; he had no personal possessions and could not write his name. His wife, Marie-Marguerite Roussel, a maidservant from Saint-Michel, near Quebec, brought as her entire dowry a bed, bed-linen, and clothes. Four years later Mailhot was keeping a tavern on Rue Saint-Jean, in Upper Town. In 1812 he opened a luxurious hotel, which also served as a coffee-house and tavern, at no.40 of the same street. The three-storey stone hotel, which had been built in 1810 and 1811 by contractors John, Laurence, and Edward* Cannon and carpenter Jean-Baptiste Chamberland, cost more than £3,000.
In December 1818 Mailhot expanded his enterprise by putting up behind the hotel a house with public baths, a novelty that caused a sensation at the time. Frequented by the hotel’s guests as well as by townspeople, it had three baths on the first floor and sitting-rooms and bedrooms on the second. Four years later Mailhot converted another house behind his hotel into an exhibition hall called the Royal Circus. In October 1824 a troupe under the management of William West and William Blanchard of Montreal began giving performances, putting on equestrian displays and a melodrama. The public paid from 1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. to attend the various entertainments – theatre, ballet, opera, and acrobatics. The enterprise was not a success, however, and in the autumn of 1826 Mailhot turned the hall into a theatre, in which several companies performed. Plays by Shakespeare, Sheridan, and Sir Walter Scott, concerts, pantomimes, and equestrian displays were put on.
For 20 years Mailhot’s hotel was one of the best of its kind at Quebec. It was famous for the way it was run, the quality of the various services it provided, and its table. Many notable events were held in it, particularly balls, banquets, shows, and concerts of classical music. The Quebec Education Society met there, and auctioneers used it to display and sell their merchandise. In the summer of 1831 the public could view the living skeleton Calvin Edson, the Canadian giant Modeste Mailhot, an exhibition of live snakes, and even a performing goat.
Despite this reputation, Mailhot had difficulty making his hotel and theatre pay. On many occasions he had to appear in court. He took action against insolvent clients and was himself sued by numerous suppliers whom he could not pay. In 1829 he put a notice in the Quebec Mercury stating his intention to retire from business and lease his enterprise, but the endeavour proved unsuccessful. It was announced in March 1832 that “this sound, comfortable, and elegant building known as ‘Mailhot’s Hotel’” and the bath house would be sold by the sheriff of the district of Quebec to meet his creditors’ demands. Chief Justice Jonathan Sewell* acquired it for £3,025 in order to secure his debt. The sale followed that of the Royal Circus, which had taken place in September 1831 under similar circumstances.
Nicolas-François Mailhot probably retired to the property he had bought at Jeune-Lorette (Loretteville) in 1823. He died at Quebec on 11 Feb. 1834 and was buried two days later in the Cimetière des Picotés. By his marriage with Marie-Marguerite Roussel he had had three daughters and a son, Robert-Léonard, who became a lawyer and practised at Quebec.
ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 10 nov. 1801, 13 févr. 1834; CN1-178, 6 févr., 3 oct. 1810; 23 nov. 1811; 8 févr. 1814; 21 févr., 19 oct. 1815; 21 avril 1823; 22 juin 1824; CN1-230, 8 nov. 1801; T11-1/3553: 677; 3556: 249, 343, 506; 3563: 134, 1er févr. 1822; 3564: 336; 3567: 235; 3583: 1577; 3584: 1966, 2180, 2193, 2394. “Les dénombrements de Québec” (Plessis), ANQ Rapport, 1948–49: 204. Le Canadien, 24 oct. 1819; 16 mai, 20 juin 1821; 20 oct. 1824; 7, 14, 28 mai, 30 juin, 20 juill., 3, 6 août, 21 sept. 1831; 17 mars 1832. Quebec Gazette, 19. 26 March 1812;13 April 1815, 31 Dec. 1818. Quebec Mercury, 3 Feb. 1829. P[-G. Roy, Les avocats de la region de Quebec. George Gale, Historic tales of old Quebec (Quebec, 1923). P[-G. Roy, “Le Cirque royal ou Théâtre royal (Royal Circus ou Royal Theatre),” BRH, 42 (1936): 641–66; “L’hôtel Malhiot, rue Saint-Jean, à Quebec,” BRH, 42: 449-52.