St. Ann's Academy (Victoria, British Columbia)

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St. Ann’s Academy
St. Ann's Academy1.JPG
Main building
General information
Architectural style French Canadian - Quebec Provincial
Location 835 Humboldt Street
Town or city Victoria, BC
Country Canada
Construction started 1858 Chapel
1871 School
1886 & 1909 Convent
Client Sisters of Saint Ann
Official name: St. Ann's Academy National Historic Site of Canada
Designated: 1989

St. Ann’s Academy was commissioned by the Roman Catholic women’s order of the Sisters of St. Ann of Lachine, Quebec. The chapel was built in 1858 and is the oldest part of the Academy. The chapel was the original St. Andrew's Cathedral (Victoria, British Columbia). The chapel was later moved from its original location, encased in brick, and became the ’heart’ of the newly built school of St. Ann’s Academy (1871).[1] Later a Convent was added (1886) to the west side of the Academy and behind the Academy (1909). St. Ann’s Academy was an all-girls Catholic school and convent. It also functioned as a residential school for First Nations girls from 1863 until the 1970s. The girls were forcibly brought to the convent, indoctrinated in Catholicism and European customs, and forced to abandon their language and heritage. It was Victoria's largest residential school.

The Sisters of St. Ann closed the Academy and in 1974 sold the property to the provincial government of British Columbia which used it as office space for the public service for a few years, but it was in need of major repairs and had to be closed. Years-long civic debate of diverse proposals for the future of the building and site ensued.

Placed under the stewardship of the Provincial Capital Commission, the interior of the building was gutted and rebuilt, basement to attic, providing seismic upgrade and rehabilitation into modern office space. Once completed, the majority of the building was leased to the BC Ministry of Advanced Education, a use consistent with the Sisters' aims. The exterior facade of his heritage building was retained and repaired. The chapel, parlours and infirmary were retained as an interpretive centre and restored to their 1920s decor. The auditorium at the other end of the building was also seismically upgraded and restored and is used for public lectures and concerts. The building was re-opened in 1997.

The chapel was de-consecrated when the Sisters sold the property. Since the restoration of the chapel and the adjacent Novitiate Garden, these have been in great demand as a venue for weddings and other functions.

An annex behind the main building which had been occupied by the Victoria Conservatory of Music was demolished in 2000 following the Conservatory's move to the former Metropolitan United Church buildings. The cleared site became green space, blending the Academy grounds with the adjacent Beacon Hill Park.

Plaques & Signage[edit]

Andrew Petter, Minister Responsible for the Provincial Capital Commission, proposal to restore St. Ann's, at a cost of $16.7 million.[2]


St. Ann’s Academy is an excellent example of Victoria's Quebec Colonial style architecture.

The Chapel[edit]

St. Ann's Chapel was the original St. Andrew's Cathedral of the city of Victoria. The chapel of St. Andrew’s was designed by Brother (later Father) Michaud of the Clerics of Saint Viator.[3]

Other art works[edit]

The Sisters of Saint Ann had a cemetery at the Academy, where many of the first sisters were buried. In 1908, the Sisters were buried at plot in Ross Bay Cemetery. Later, the Sisters that were buried at the convent cemetery were moved to Ross Bay Cemetery upon the closure of the Academy in 1974.[5]

Many of the stained glass windows were vandalized during its time of abandonment, and had to be rebuilt during the reconstruction.[6]

Sister Mary Osithe was the painter of 'The Immaculate Conception' painting that sits in the Sisters waiting room. Sister Mary Osithe also went on to design the Little Flower Academy school in Vancouver.[7]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]