Since the purchase of the C.T. Hart Collection of photographs in 1918, Ramsay Traquair and Edgar Gariépy had significantly added to the collection over the years. In addition to photography, Traquair was involved on the Council of the Canadian Handicrafts Guild from 1918 to 1925. His interest for craftsmanship stemmed from of his mother's Arts and Crafts influence, his early scholarships to examine historical places such as Greece and Constantinople, and his formal education in archaeology.
Montreal Notary Gustave Baudoin's article "Nos vieilles eglises : la desolation des monuments historiques canadiens" (1919) in the Revue nationale, Emile Vaillancourt's book Une maitrise d'art en Canada, 1800-1823 (1920), and the Commission des monuments historiques de la Province de Québec's Secretary Pierre-Georges Roy's report entitled Les vieilles églises de la Province de Québec 1647-1800 (1925) and Les vieux manoirs et vieilles maisons (1927) were among the main sources that had inspired Ramsay Traquair to record and validate old Quebec architecture. These publications first called the public's attention to the disappearance of old churches in Quebec due to neglect, and to the forgotten craftsmen who had been engaged to design, build and decorate them. In addition, these publications helped to identify certain areas within Quebec, such as Île d'Orléans, that were particularly rich in the vernacular building tradition.
It was in 1920 that Traquair began to work systematically on the old architecture of Quebec, using his own and his students' drawings of historic Canadian buildings. His first article on the subject was published under the title which led to his seminal book "The Old Architecture of Quebec" (JRAIC Jan-Feb 1925). In the article, Traquair discusses 17th century examples of well-preserved architecture, such as the Château de Ramezay and the Ursuline Convent at Trois Rivières. Also discussed are the earliest recorded use of tin tiles laid diagonally on the roofs of churches and larger buildings. He goes on to say that the traditional style of Old Quebec ceased at about 1860, replaced by a host of revival styles, and calls to record, through measured drawings and photography, the old architecture of Quebec and of each province.
Ramsay Traquair was prolific in lecturing from 1925 to 1947, as well as publishing and recording the old architecture of Quebec. During this time, he collaborated with Charles Marius Barbeau on published studies of four Île d'Orléans churches. The studies consecrated to churches extended naturally to the examination of woodcarving traditions. Traquair developed a deep interest in old Quebec silver that began about 1930, and that later resulted in yet another seminal book, The Old Silver of Quebec (1940). Gradually expanding his research interests to the interior of the buildings he recorded, Traquair presented his first lecture in 1934 on "The Master Sculptors of French Canada" to l'Association canadienne-française pour l'avancement des sciences with a remarkable response.
Another article written by Ramsay Traquair dealing with historic buildings was "Old Cottages of Quebec" (House Beautiful, May 1928). This time he examined the evolution of the cottages of rural Quebec from 1700-1850 and how they adapted to the climate. Predominantly built of stone, early cottages were simply built and simply furnished. The model for the old Quebec houses first came from France, particularly Brittany and Normandy, was adapted to the harsher climate, and finally received a Canadian characteristic. They were described as being simple, rectangular in shape, having a simple roof line on a large roof with strong chimneys, and being painted in bright colours. The eave grew longer, known as a bellcast curve, to shelter the house from snow and the sun until it became a verandah.
In 1941, Traquair published an article in collaboration with Olivier Marault and Gordon Antoine Neilson appealing for the preservation of Quebec artifacts ["La Conservation des monuments historiques dans la Province de Quebec." Revue trimestrielle canadienne, Montréal (27 mars 1941): 1-23]. At the time of this appeal, the Cultural Properties Act did not exist and many people took precious carvings, silver and architectural details out of the country without any questions asked. Traquair et al. treated topics such as master sculptors of old churches and domestic architecture. The preservation of historic buildings was examined along with the principal causes of building loss such as demolition, negligence, and fire. Museums (the Provincial Museum of Quebec City, Château Ramezay, and the McCord), silver/goldsmith's trade, and embroidery were important essays from a historical point of view.
Since Ramsay Traquair contributed a significant body of knowledge on the historic aspects of architecture in French Canada, it was quite fitting that upon his retirement he was presented an early 18th century French Canadian cupboard. After his retirement from McGill in 1939, he left to live in Guysborough, Nova Scotia. In 1940, Traquair published The Old Silver of Quebec under the auspices of the Art Association of Montreal. His book focused primarily on the use of silver under the French and English regimes in Quebec and included 16 plates of illustrations. Traquair also provided a list of the silversmiths in Quebec from 1656-1850, with several extending past that date as recently as 1939, and illustrated markings found on silver arranged alphabetically (icon-silversmith-region-date-item). He covered the typologies of French, American and English silver, Indian silver ornaments, French-Canadian pewter, spoons and forks, with notes on the institutions that held important collections of old French, Quebec and unmarked silver.
Ramsay Traquair's chef-d'oeuvre The Old Architecture of Quebec: A Study of the Buildings Erected in New France from the Earliest Explorers to the Middle of the Nineteenth Century [Macmillan Company] was finally published in 1947. It was dedicated to the memory of his long-time collaborator, Gordon Antoine Neilson, who passed away five years earlier. For this comprehensive work, Traquair received an Honorary Doctorate in Literature from the University of Montreal in 1948, an accolade rarely seen exchanged between two universities and their professors. The publication remains a fundamental work on the subject and has been republished in facsimile in Autumn of 1996 by the McGill School of Architecture on the occasion of the School's 100th and the University's 175th anniversary.
The book is based on the survey of important buildings recorded by Traquair and his students between 1924 and 1930. Each building was measured and drawn entirely, including decorative details, which allowed comparison with similar building types. The building was also photographed in full and in detail, and together with the drawings formed a complete record. The book is broken down into 15 chapters and 179 illustrated plates: the first six chapters examine early buildings such as religious houses, cottages, manoirs, mills, and public structures. The following chapters deal with internal woodwork in hospitals, seminaries, basilicas, and other building types. The last section is devoted to the examination of churches and their wood carvings before and after the mid-eighteenth century, Montreal sculptors, pulpits and candlesticks, ironwork, sculptors and architects. In Traquair's own words: "This is a book about buildings, their form, construction and decoration, about the traditions which led to those forms, about materials and the techniques employed" (The Old Architecture of Quebec, p.xvii).
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