The following texts are excerpts from the books of Angéline Saint-Pierre : “C’était hier” (1994) and “Hommage aux bâtisseurs” (2003). We decided to make a free translation of those extracts so that you can appreciate the history of La Belle Époque – Auberge B&B.
“From 1891 to 1893, François Lavallée built a monumental Victorian house, with a mansard roof; the western part housed a general store.”
The rectangular square is striking, measuring thirty-seven by seventy-eight feet. The Lavallée House ranks as one of the first longhouses that make up our built heritage. This wooden structure was squared by axe, piece by piece, covered with vertical boards and on which sits the brick wall. This square rests on an imposing stone foundation. The cellar was created by excavating the tufa rock. The dormer windows mimic Palladian architecture and the main door is no less impressive than the residences of the notable inhabitants of the cities.
François Lavallée then built a storage shed, a type of hangar.
On the main floor: moulding, sheet metal, tarpaper, reinforcing mesh, lime, cement and brick. On the second floor: mattresses, kitchen sets – bedrooms sets, chairs, and sofas. The general merchant built a barn and a stable for his horses, which he traded.
Then, some time after 1903, François Lavallée built a large hangar that had three floors and was 30 feet by 90 feet; a covered bridge connected it to the store on the second floor.
Around 1910, in this hangar, which looked very much like a second general store, there were three clerks: François Cloutier, Maurice Lavallée and Maxime Fortin. What could residents buy in this hangar?
Here is an inventory, as documented in 1993 by his grandson, Jean-Luc Lavallée:
On the first floor: hardware, plumbing, paint, oil, glass, mirrors, mouldings for frames, rifles for small and big game and cartridges.
On the second floor: groceries, canned goods, tea, coffee, spices, bulk peas, flour, sugar, molasses, vinegar, ketchup, oranges and grapefruit (for holidays only because they were a luxury).
On the third floor, the men’s department: clothing; shirts, work clothes, work boots, shoes, ties, summer and winter underwear, bowler or dress hats.
The store was just beside the house and stored dry goods:
On the first floor: fabric, pharmacy: aspirins, cough syrup, Abbot Warré’s remedies, thermometers, amplâtres, iodine, school supplies, and a display case for jewellery for engagements and weddings: rings, wedding bands, bracelets and pins.
On the second floor: the women’s department: dresses, stockings, hats, ready-to-wear or made-to-measure as there was a hat maker; a Fraser woman who also worked as a clerk on that floor as well as Antoinette Desjardins of Trois-Pistoles, and finally, Germaine Caron.
Was there anything that François Lavallée didn’t sell? This wasn’t only the largest general store in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, but also in the neighbouring parishes. Around 1912, François Lavalllée hired Léo Legros; he would remain employed there for more than 50 years.
For close to a century (1893-1987), the Lavallée family did trading: François, Jean-Thomas and Guy.
In the late 60s, the general store ceased operations. Guy Lavallée, son of Jean-Thomas, demolished the hangars, built another warehouse annexed to the back and refurbished the old store which would become the first branch of the Commission des liqueurs for close to 12 years. Then, various activities took place in the commercial spaces of the building.
In September 1987, Jeannine Caron bought the Lavallée residence. She completely renovated it into a senior’s residence, which continued for close to 20 years.
In 2000, the owner decided to restore the space completely and turn it into a bed and breakfast while preserving its historical charm; the Gite de la Belle Époque was founded.
In 2007, major renovations were done to restore the entire building, to revive and share the heritage of the builders of the olden days. From that point on, the Lavallée residence no longer accommodated seniors but instead became the Belle Époque, a “b and b” style inn for tourists looking for a place to stay with a rich history."
Excerpts from “C’était hier” by Angéline Saint-Pierre (1994) and “Hommage aux bâtisseurs” by Angéline Saint-Pierre (2003).