Jan 31 2012

Vivian Maier in Quebec, Part 2

Last week I wrote about Vivian Maier and how I had determined the exact location of a photograph she made in Quebec City at some point in the 1950s. I indicated that I know of another Vivian Maier photograph also taken in Quebec City, but that I could not determine the exact location. Well, dear readers, with a bit of additional digging, I have located that one too!

A bit of background: Terreau & Racine was a well known and very successful metal foundry, established in 1850 in Quebec City. They made, among other things, the stoves that were widely used to heat houses and cabins through the cold Quebec winters. The foundry was destroyed by a huge fire in 1919 but they rebuilt and continued to be successful until another fire destroyed the building in the 1950s. The site remains vacant of buildings to this day; it’s the parking lot at the corner of Quai Saint-André and rue Saint-Thomas.

The Vivian Maier photograph in question is below. You can clearly see the Terreau & Racine warehouse (entrepôt) in the background.

Photo by Vivian Maier, Copyright The Maloof Collection Ltd.

Martine, who first spotted this photo on the official Vivian Maier web site, did some research and found that Terreau & Racine’s warehouse was in a separate building, on the next street over from the one that burned. That street is the tiny Côte de la Canoterie, which is less than 300 metres in length. If you take a Google Streetview drive down Côte de la Canoterie you’ll see that none of the buildings on the north side look anything like the Terreau & Racine warehouse, although they are all quite old, meaning they would have been there looking more or less the same, when the Vivian Maier photo was taken.

So that leaves the south side, where we find only a handful of buildings and a few parking lots. The obvious candidate was this place:

31 Côte de la Canoterie

The proportions look right, but there are a lot of details in the present day building that are not there in the Vivian Maier shot. That’s easy enough to explain: renovations. The sidewalk is also very different, but that too could be due to municipal renovations.

This is where I had given up, as I figured there’s not much else I could do. The most likely scenario, I thought, was that the Terreau & Racine warehouse was probably torn down and the site is now one of the parking lots.

Then I started digging into the maps at the National Archives, thanks to a link provided in a comment in the original Vivian Maier blog post. Bingo!

Below you’ll see an “insurance map” from 1957 that firmly places the Terreau & Racine warehouse at 57 Côte de la Canoterie. Under that you’ll see the same location from Google Satellite view. You can see that the Terreau & Racine warehouse seems to be in the exact location as the building I’ve circled, which is the building at 31 Côte de la Canoterie (in the Streetview image, above).

1957 insurance map

Present day, via Google Satellite View

A confounding factor: in Streetview, we clearly see that the building is marked as being at 31 Côte de la Canoterie (you can’t see it in my screenshot, but if you go there in Streetview you’ll see it). Well, sometimes municipalities do re-numbering of street addresses, which seems likely in this case, as the numbering in the 1957 map seems sort of random, and in Streetview we can see that it is linear (which is how most street numbering is these days).

But the location looks exactly right. To prove it, I superimposed the satellite image on top of the 1957 map and got a perfect match:

1957 insurance map and present day satellite view mashup. (Click here to see it bigger.)

I think the visual matching trumps the number mis-match. So there you have it. We can pinpoint to within a few feet where Vivian Maier stood when she took that photograph of the Terreau & Racine warehouse: in front of what is now 31 Côte de la Canoterie.

The next challenge is to figure out when she took those photos.

Categorized under Culture,Photography

8 comments so far

8 Comments on “Vivian Maier in Quebec, Part 2”

  1. Bonnie Blytheon 31 Jan 2012 at 11:25 pm

    Love that Gemini spirit of curiosity that leads to such sweet discovery. Love Vivian Maier as well – just bought the amazing book Street Photographer. Thanks for this, Blork. By the way, we’re heading back (again) to the City of Light for my 60th this June!

  2. blorkon 31 Jan 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Awesome! Great birthday present! :-)

  3. Frabjous2001on 01 Feb 2012 at 1:08 am

    I thought she was only in Canada twice, once in 1951 just after she came back from France and a second time in 1958. In 1958, she was in Churchill, Manitoba and Vancouver as can be seen on some of the dates and locations on pictures in the TRAVEL portfolio on the Official Vivian Maier website. So I thought she was in Quebec in 51. But the car behind the two girls looks like a ’59 Oldsmobile? So was she in Canada a third time? Or just late enough in 58 that she was able to snap a spanking new dented Olds. I thought the schoolyard picture looked like ’51 because of the cars. But the closer car might just be another one of those 59 rocket finned cars that were so all pervasive in the 60s.

  4. the millineron 01 Feb 2012 at 1:14 am

    Loving this detective work…keep it coming!

  5. The Blork Blog » Vivian Maier in Quebecon 01 Feb 2012 at 11:41 am

    [...] Blork Blog « Previous: Leonard Cohen Must Not Die! Next: Vivian Maier in Quebec, Part 2 [...]

  6. Harryon 01 Feb 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Headed to Quebec City also this spring for a long weekend. Let me know if you need any “gumshoe” work done. Once again, a great piece!

  7. Roshanon 07 Feb 2012 at 3:22 am

    Awesome two part post. I love the research that you took for this. She took some amazing photos.

  8. Mikeon 24 Feb 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Quebec is a beautiful place. Thanks for the share.