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The Plains of Abraham is a historic area within The Battlefields Parkmarker in Quebec Citymarker, Quebecmarker, that was originally grazing land, but became famous as the site of the Battle of the Plains of Abrahammarker, which took place on 13 September 1759. Though written into the history books, housing and minor industrial structures were still erected atop hundreds of acres the fields. Only in 1908 was the land ceded to Quebec City, though administered by the specifically created and federally run National Battlefields Commission. The park is today used by 4 million visitors and tourists annually for sports, relaxation, outdoor concerts, and festivals.

Name and features

The plains are named after Abraham Martin (1589-1664), a fisherman and river pilot called The Scot, who owned and used for his livestock to graze a plot of land near the site of the present park. Abraham's name appears in the toponymy of Quebec City at the time of the French regime, the deeds of the 17th and 18th centuries referring to the coast of Abraham, and a 1734 plan even precisely locating an Abraham Street. Later, the journals of the Chevalier de Levis and the Marquis de Montcalm referred to the Heights of Abraham, as did the diaries of British soldiers, who also employed the phrase Plains of Abraham.

The park itself presently occupies an approximately 2.4 km (1.5 mi) long by 0.8 km (0.5 mi) wide, 43.7 ha (108 acre) area that extends westward from the Citadelle of Quebecmarker and the walls of Quebec City along a plateau above the Saint Lawrence Rivermarker, and forms a part of The Battlefields Parkmarker. An interpretive centre and walking trails have been built on the site, and monuments commemorate the Battle of Sainte-Foymarker and James Wolfe, the latter being an astronomic meridian marker raised in 1790 by the Surveyor-General of Canada, Major Holland, on the site where Wolfe was said to have died. In 1913, the National Battlefields Commission placed a column identical to one that had been built on the site in 1849, and a Cross of Sacrifice was constructed on the plains to commemorate soldiers who were lost in World War I; it continues to be the location of Remembrance Day ceremonies every year.

History

On 13 September 1759, the area was the scene of the Battle of the Plains of Abrahammarker, part of the French and Indian War, which was itself part of the Seven Years' War. On that date, British soldiers under the command of General Wolfe, climbed the steep cliff under the city in darkness, surprising and defeating the French. Both Wolfe and the French commander, the Marquis de Montcalm, died of their wounds, but the battle left control of Quebec City to the British, eventually allowing them to take control of Canadamarker the following year.


The plains thereafter remained nondescript fields, with only a monument to Wolfe as a reminder of the events that took place. As Quebec City grew, development of the area took place unabated, and hundreds of acres were built over. Only in 1901 did government intervention come, when the proposed subdivision of 88 acres of the region was halted by the purchase of the land by the Dominion Crown. At the same time, however, another area of the plains was taken and, despite public protest, covered by a Ross rifle factory, which included a water tank built upon the existing Martello tower. A movement to preserve the site continued, nonetheless, and by 1904, the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec was permitted by the federal government to put up plaques at various significant spots around the vicinity. The following year, a proposal for the establishment of an Historic Landmarks Association was placed before the Royal Society of Canada, and Governor General The Earl Grey initiated his plan to preserve the battlefields, having visited the site and stating that he "would never rest until such sacred ground became the heirloom of all Canada and the Empire."

The Mayor of Quebec City, Jean-Georges Garneau, in 1908 appointed a Landmark Commission under the chairmanship of Chief Justice of the Quebec Superior Court François Langelier. Amongst its recommendations for permanently recording the celebrations for the 300th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City, the group called for a nationalization of the Quebec battlefields and the construction of a museum of Canadian history. The federal Prime Minister at the time, Wilfrid Laurier, suggested, however, that a preservation of the plains themselves would be a more fitting tribute, thus falling in line with the desires of The Earl Grey, who in January had travelled to Quebec to see whether the site could be dedicated as a part of the tercentenary celebrations. By 17 March, the park was created, becoming the first National Historic Site in Canada, and was placed under the auspices of the newly and specifically formed National Battlefields Commission, a group that, following the lead of King Edward VII, began to collect historical data relating to the plains and the battles that took place on them. Finally, on 24 July 1908, the King's eldest son, Prince George, Prince of Wales, dedicated the Quebec Battlefields Parkmarker at the Plains of Abraham, then presenting the title deeds of the lands to The Earl Grey.

The site has become an urban park within Quebec City, the National Battlefields Commission comparing its use to that of Central Parkmarker in New York Citymarker and Hyde Parkmarker in Londonmarker. It has thus seen various events staged on it, most regularly during the Fête nationale du Québec, the Quebec Winter Carnival, and the Quebec City Summer Festival. Throughout 2008, a series of concerts took place in the park, including performances by Sir Paul McCartney and Celine Dion.

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