VALLIÈRE, PHILIPPE (baptized Philippe-Édouard), cabinet-maker, furniture manufacturer, and politician; b. 15 Sept. 1832 at Quebec, son of Jean-Olivier Vallière and Luce Trahan; m. there 28 Jan. 1856 Ann Scott in St Patrick’s Church, and they had six children; d. there 17 Jan. 1919.
The third of seven children, Philippe Vallière learned the rudiments of his trade from his father, a chair maker who had set up shop at 28 Rue Saint-Vallier in Quebec. On 6 Nov. 1853 he entered into partnership with his father under the company name of Jean Olivier Vallière et Fils. He then went to Europe to perfect his skills as a cabinet-maker. While there, he recruited several French and Belgian workmen who were considered true artists in their own countries. In 1866 Vallière became the sole owner of the family firm, which by that time had 12 employees. A series of expansions enabled him by 1871 to employ about 100 men, 30 of whom worked at home putting the finishing touches on fine pieces. During the last quarter of the 19th century he owned one of the biggest furniture factories in Canada and the largest east of Toronto. His most important market was at Quebec, where he supplied the furniture for numerous residences, for the Château Frontenac, for many religious and educational institutions, including the Université Laval, and for a number of public buildings. He had customers in other regions as well, particularly in Montreal, the Eastern Townships, and the Maritimes. His factory produced mainly expensive furniture of high quality, especially in neo-rococo style. Most of it was made of walnut, although other woods, such as mahogany, rosewood, ash, and even rattan, were used. In 1912 Vallière turned the enterprise over to his son Édouard, who divested himself of the last share in the factory at the beginning of January 1919. The building finally fell to the wreckers’ ball on 14 April 1967.
Among Vallière’s most important achievements are the pieces produced for parliament buildings, especially those of the province of Quebec, of which he can be considered the principal supplier. By the time the capital of the Province of Canada was moved from Quebec City at the end of 1865, Vallière had been commissioned to do joinery and cabinet work for the new building in Ottawa [see Thomas Fuller*]. In 1867, with the constitutional changes that gave provincial status to Quebec, he was awarded the contract to manufacture most of the furniture for the legislative building on Rue de la Montagne (Côte de la Montagne). From 1880 to 1897 he did joinery and cabinet work for the new buildings near the Saint-Louis gate, which for many years housed all the government departments as well as the legislature [see Eugène-Étienne Taché]. Other projects in which he was involved included furnishing the halls and offices of the assembly and the council, the library, and the restaurant. In 1872 Vallière had also supplied furniture costing $3,882 for the governor general’s residence at the Quebec Citadel. He produced other items in preparation for the Duke of York’s visit in September 1901.
Among the pieces Vallière created for religious institutions was the altar for the Jesuits’ private chapel at Quebec, which he made himself in 1882 and donated to the community. The pews and confessionals for their church, which were delivered in 1888, also came from his factory. Two years earlier the archbishopric of Quebec had called on Vallière to furnish the hall of honour for the ceremony to confer upon Archbishop Elzéar-Alexandre Taschereau* the title of cardinal – the first in Canadian history. To complete the ensemble, which consisted of the bishop’s throne, 24 chairs, and 12 armchairs, Vallière donated a magnificent carved sofa to the archbishopric.
In 1883 furniture was ordered from Vallière for the courts and tribunals set up temporarily in the military hospital on Rue Saint-Louis after the court-house burned down. He was also involved in furnishing the new Quebec court-house, which was officially opened in 1889, and the one in Montreal when it was enlarged in 1891. That year he won the contracts to supply furniture for the new Montreal district jail, the McGill Normal School in Montreal, and the École Normale Laval at Quebec. For an exhibition being held in Jamaica the same year, he also made the provincial pavilion that the government had asked him to build using woods from the various species of trees growing in Quebec. It was said at the time to be a genuine work of art.
In 1892, however, a controversy arose over the $150,000 contract awarded Vallière for some joinery in the Montreal court-house. The provincial Conservatives, under Charles Boucher de Boucherville, accused the former premier Honoré Mercier* of favouritism towards his friend, who was believed to have given him $50,000 for the Liberal party. Furthermore, they considered that the luxurious furniture intended for the room where the Superior Court judges deliberated as well as for other places was beyond the means of the province. While the work of enlarging the building was stalled and his warehouses were crammed with furniture, Vallière concentrated his efforts on another important contract, for the École Normale Jacques-Cartier in Montreal. Later, the government of Louis-Olivier Taillon* agreed to use some of the surplus items for the court-houses in Hull and Bryson, and in 1894 and 1895 Vallière even received additional orders. Moreover, on 25 Nov. 1895 he contracted to do the joinery and cabinet work for the council rooms and the chamber of the Recorder’s Court in the Quebec city hall, agreeing to keep within the estimates of the architect, Georges-Émile Tanguay*.
Philippe Vallière won many prizes and several honourable mentions at provincial exhibitions in Montreal and Quebec. Despite his business activities he took part in municipal life as the representative for Palais ward from 1874 to 1878 and 1882 to 1884. In recognition of the distinctions awarded him, his contribution to the economy, and his work as a councillor and alderman, the city of Quebec in 1890 named one of the streets near his place of business after him.
A photograph of Philippe Vallière, taken in 1874 while he was a city councillor, is preserved at Arch. de la Ville de Québec, Coll. iconographique, H 7313, négatif 713. A portrait of Vallière executed in Rome in 1876 by Ippolito Zapponi is now held by the Musée du Québec (Québec), 46–171; a black and white copy of it is reproduced on the cover of the Bibliothèque de l’Assemblée Nationale, Bull. (Québec), 21 (1992), nos.2–3, which contains, on pp.10–13, an article by Suzanne [Fournier] Vallière, “Philippe Vallière, fournisseur d’ameublement pour les édifices parlementaires.” The Musée de la Civilisation (Québec) holds a collection of furniture attributed to Vallière.
AC, Québec, État civil, Catholiques, Cimetière Notre-Dame de Belmont (Sainte-Foy), 20 janv. 1919; Minutiers, Joseph Allaire, 25 nov. 1895. ANQ-Q, CE1-22, 16 sept. 1832; CE1-98, 28 janv. 1856; E25/761, /1054, /1735, /1787. NA, RG 11, 305: 26740; 720: 82242; 783: 60758; 1890: 232075. L’Action catholique (Québec), 17 janv. 1919. Le Canadien, 20 févr. 1884, 3 nov. 1890. Le Courrier du Canada (Québec), 13 mai 1893. L’Événement, 3 janv. 1871, 21 févr. 1884, 13 mars 1897, 17 janv. 1919. Le Journal de Québec, 11 avril 1888. Quebec Chronicle, [special sect.:] Ancient Quebec and modern, January 1900: 26 (copy at Arch. de la Ville de Québec, Coll. textuelle). Le Soleil, 17 janv. 1919. Annuaire du commerce et de l’industrie de Québec . . . (Québec), 1873. Canadian album (Cochrane and Hopkins), 2: 334. F.-X. Chouinard et al., La ville de Québec, histoire municipale (4v., Québec, 1963–83), 4. Qué., Assemblée Législative, Journaux, 1894–95: 250. Rumilly, Hist. de la prov. de Québec, 6: 14, 155, 269–70; 10: 60–64. Suzanne [Fournier] Vallière, “Philippe Vallière, ébéniste et manufacturier de meubles,” Cap-aux-Diamants (Québec), 2 (1986–87), no.1: 25–27.