#architectureMW: Guelph Civic Museum and the Loretto Convent

Exterior of the Civic Museum

This week, we are celebrating Museum Week 2016 with cultural organizations around the world. Today’s theme is #architectureMW, and for Guelph Museums, our Civic Museum’s building is rich with history.

In 2012, Guelph Civic Museum moved from its previous location at 6 Dublin Street to the current location—at 52 Norfolk Street, the former Loretto Convent.

The Loretto Sisters arrived in Guelph in 1856 and opened the Loretto Convent and Academy situated next to the Church of our Lady on Catholic Hill. The Sisters started a day school for residents, the first Catholic school in the county. The Sisters taught the girls in the convent while boys were taught next door in the rectory. Later, the Sisters also opened a residential school and by 1859 they had 47 residents. This was the first boarding school for girls west of Toronto.

The day school became so popular that in 1883, two stone buildings were erected on either side of the church: St. Stanislaus School for the boys, and St. Agnes School for the girls. By 1882, night classes were also taught to an additional 75 students, including boys who had to work on the farm during the day. The convent later expanded, adding a chapel wing and a brick addition for more classrooms. The brick addition became Notre Dame and then Bishop Macdonell High School. While the Loretto Convent closed in 1996, the Sisters of Loretto are still working in the city, including Sister Christine of the Welcome In Drop-In Centre.

The convent is the oldest existing school building in Guelph and is recognized as an excellent example of a mid-nineteenth century limestone building. It was originally a classically proportioned three-storey building lying on a north-south access. In 1872, a substantial stone chapel was added to the north and two additional floors and the mansard roof were added by the local architect, George Bruce, in 1896. It is thought that this reconstruction was completed to bring greater symmetry with the Rectory.

Photos from before the renovation:

Loretto Convent, Guelph Ontario, before renovations that will transform it into the new Guelph Civic Museum. December 15 2008. Photo By Kyle Rodriguez kyle@artifactsforlife.com

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Photos By Kyle Rodriguez
[email protected]

Posted by Sarah Ball on March 30, 2016

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