Although Joseph-Ferdinand Peachy was a descendant of English-speaking settler John Peachy, who came to Quebec in 1773, his primary language was French. Contemporaries pronounced his name “Piché”.
Peachy began studying architecture at age 19 under eminent architect Charles Baillairgé. His early work was classical like Baillairgé’s, but he was soon influenced by the French Second Empire style. Peachy left behind more mansard-roofed structures than any other architect of his time. He blended styles to create an eclectic mixture that was characteristic of the late Victorian period.
Joseph-Ferdinand Peachy left his mark on Quebec’s landscape in the 19th century. He designed over 200 residences, nearly 30 churches and a dozen convents and monasteries. Quebec City contains many buildings designed by Peachy, namely the François-Xavier Garneau house (1862), the church of Saint-Sauveur (1862), and the chapel of the Séminaire (1888). His masterpiece is the church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste (1882), lying in the heart of the neighborhood the architect called home.
Peachy’s conversion of the Quebec City Common Gaol is an early example of a building’s reuse for another purpose. Few changes were made to the building’s exterior, but the interior was almost completely remodeled. Spaces were opened up and eclectic decorative elements were installed; Peachy created the elegant library reading room with its cast-iron gallery.