%982%right%When Llewellyn Price '85 and his brother and mother bought a Québec City bed-and-breakfast, they suspected they were buying a piece of 18th-century history. They didn't know they were buying more than 5,000 pieces.
Price is co-owner of the Auberge Saint-Antoine, a chic boutique hotel that has taken on the aura of the history that had been hidden within. An expansion of the original inn, the hotel was an ambitious project that required extensive excavation of what had been an 17th-century wharf. The more than 5,000 artifacts unearthed include cannon, stoneware, and other household items. "We are sitting on top of one of the richest archaeological sites in North America," Price said.
The original boutique hotel had opened in 1992. A $16-million expansion in 2001 turned it into a much larger full-service hotel, with the rich history of the site embedded (sometimes literally) into the décor. Artifacts are displayed in each of the nearly 100 rooms, and there is even a cannon on exhibit.
The hotel has become a resounding success but the permitting process was difficult. "And frankly, it should be," Price said. "You're building in a culturally sensitive area. We wanted this place to be different and to integrate as much of the historical heritage as possible."
That history goes back four centuries, as evidenced by nearby historic sites such as the Place Royale, the headquarters of Samuel de Champlain. Price's own family goes back some 200 years in Québec City. Among his ancestors is one of Québec's first lumber barons, the builder (later knighted by the British Empire) of what was in 1912 the largest pulp and paper mill in the world. Price House, the one-time headquarters of the family's paper interests, is a Québec City landmark that now serves as the official residence of the the province's premier.
Though his roots in Québec are deep, Price spent most of his childhood in Africa and Europe, where his father, a Canadian foreign service officer, was assigned. Price returned to Québec for his last two years of high school and then decided to head south for college.
"My sister went to college at Johns Hopkins," he said. "And she suggested that I look into going to school somewhere in the States. So, since Colby was only three and a half hours away, I went down and basically knocked on the door [of Colby's admissions office].
"I wasn't prepared at all to meet with them. Yet somehow they looked at the whole picture of me, and I was accepted to Colby."
Once enrolled, Price decided to challenge himself by majoring in English literature, not his strength. "It was very different for me since I wasn't a natural reader. What a higher education like the one I got at Colby brings you is not so much what you learn on topics such as Shakespeare, but how to think, analyze, and work through a problem," he said.
After graduating, Price tried different jobs. He toiled in a French vineyard in Burgundy, worked in commercial real estate in Atlanta, and then earned an M.B.A. at the IESE Business School in Barcelona. "That's when I realized I liked business," he said.
After jointly buying the original 20-room St. Antoine with his brother and mother in 1990, he soon began to refurbish the tired property in what was then an unsightly but potential-filled part of old Québec City. "Initially the idea was to fix it up and flip it for a profit," Price said. As renovations got underway, a new vision for a hotel began to emerge. But building anew in such an archeologically sensitive place would prove to be a painstaking venture.
Price prevailed, and the Auberge Saint-Antoine now combines features like a high-end restaurant and a movie theater with all of that early Québec history. After managing the operation for a decade, Price stepped down but remains a co-owner and board member. That has left him more time for road biking and salmon fishing,and mulling what his next project might be.