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Lévis Forts National Historic Site of Canada

Between 1865 and 1872, a line of three detached forts was built in Lévis to defend the harbour of Québec against a possible American invasion by land
Lévis Forts National Historic Site of Canada, Lévis, Quebec, Canada
Lévis Forts National Historic Site of Canada, Lévis, Quebec, Canada
© Parks Canada

BACKGROUND
Located on the heights of Pointe-Lévy, Fort No. 1 is the last link in a chain of three forts built between 1865 and 1872 under the supervision of British military engineers. This line of forts completed the City of Québec’s defence system and was meant to oppose a possible American invasion by land.

In 1861, at the beginning of the American Civil War, the frontiers of the City of Québec were vulnerable. As it was linked to Maine by a railroad, Lévis would have been unable to keep the Americans away from the port for long; hence the necessity of fortifying the heights of Pointe-Lévy.

By 1862, all reports were unanimous: Lévis must be fortified. In 1864, defending Québec’s port was clearly more of an imperial than a colonial issue. British authorities wanted to protect the movements of their ships through this port in case of an American invasion. London therefore sent William Drummond Jervois to the colony to design a new defence strategy. Convinced that the Yankees were planning to invade Canada, this assistant inspector-general of the fortifications believed time was running out. In the event of a retreat, the port of Québec could be the last refuge for British troops.

The original plan for the fortifications included four forts, all of which faced towards the United States. The construction of the fourth fort, which would have served as a rearguard, retreat, and command post for the structures to the east, was eventually dropped from the plan. The three forts are positioned in an arc, with 1800 metres between one fort and the next. Fort No. 1 is further east than the others, overlooking Île d’Orléans and the port of Québec. It was meant to assist the Citadel of Québec in defending the river.

Once a military outpost of Québec, Fort No.1 is a powerful witness to British strategies on Canadian soil.

REASONS FOR NATIONAL HISTORIC IMPORTANCE

The Lévis Forts were designated as a national historic site in 1920. The reasons for their designation are the following:
  • They are an integral part of Québec’s defense system.
  • They had strategic significance.

Québec Field Unit: Commemorative Integrity Statement: Lévis Forts National Historic Site, 2004, p. 7.

William Drummond Jervois
William Drummond Jervois
© Musée de la Civilisation, Séminaire de Québec library, Antiquarian Collection / The Illustrated London News / April 10, 1875

MILESTONES
1855
A Grand Trunk railway links Lévis to Maine.

1861
Beginning of the American Civil War.

1864
London sends William Drummond Jervois to the colony to establish a new defence plan.

1865
Construction of the three forts begins.

1869
Construction of Forts No. 2 and No. 3 is completed.

1871
Treaty of Washington and departure of British troops.

1872
Construction of Fort No. 1 is completed.

1878
The forts are armed.

1920
The Lévis Forts, which then belonged to the Department of Defence, are officially recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada.

1947
The Department of Defence transfers the forts to the Department of Mines and Resources.

1972
Parks Canada undertakes major stabilisation and restoration work on Fort No. 1.

1982
Fort No. 1 opens to the public.

LOCATION
The Lévis Forts National Historic Site of Canada is located on the heights of Pointe-Lévy in Lévis, on Québec’s South Shore.

Map showing the way to the Lévis Forts National Historic site of Canada


© Parks Canada

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT
Lévis Forts National Historic Site of Canada
41 Chemin du Gouvernement
P.O. Box 10 Station B
Québec, Quebec
G1K 7A1
Telephone: (418) 835-5182
Toll free: 1-888-773-8888
TTY: 1-866-0558-2950
Fax: (418) 948-9119
Email: parcscanada-que@pc.gc.ca
Internet Site: http://www.pc.gc.ca/levis