A Calling to Serve Those in Need
After years of lying abandoned, Maison Loyola recently reclaimed its former splendour and original vocation following beautiful renovations. Since 2012, Œuvres de la Maison Dauphine has been using the building as a drop-in centre for street kids to help them reengage with society. Two centuries ago the building housed an organization dedicated to educating orphans and poor children.
A school for those in need
In 1819 the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge founded its first primary school for orphans and poor children in Québec. The initiative, supported by Jacob Mountain, the first Anglican bishop of Québec, stemmed from and was aimed at the anglophone community. The new institution was based on the model of Great Britain’s free national schools, where upper year students assisted their younger schoolmates.
The National School, as it was known, was initially housed in an old guardhouse on rue Sainte-Famille, near the Hope Gate, which was demolished in the 19th century. However, the committee wanted a building that was better suited to its needs. One of its members, the merchant Benjamin Tremain, drew up plans for a building that was constructed in 1823 on a plot of land on rue D’Auteuil, which was ceded by the government of Lower Canada. Some twenty years later, the school was extended with an addition and raised another floor to accommodate a growing clientele and other charitable organizations.
Québec’s first neo-Gothic building
The building’s design was neo-Gothic, an entirely new look for Québec. The style, inspired by the architectural forms of the Middle Ages, became very popular in Canada, especially among residents of British decent. Its pointed windows grouped in threes and gabled portico with pointed opening are typical features of neo-Gothic architecture.
Tremain’s building is nevertheless laid out according to the rules of classic architecture, particularly its symmetrically arranged front windows and bell turret centred on the roof. The bell was used to mark the start and end of classes.
Once hundred and fifty years of charity work
For nearly 150 years the building housed a string of community organizations, first Anglican, then Catholic—the Female Orphan Asylum, the headquarters of the Odd Fellows Mutual Society, and the Catholic Commercial Academy of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. The National School occupied the bulk of the space until it closed in 1883.
The Jesuits whose chapel was located right next door at the top of the hill acquired the building in 1904. They renamed it Loyola House after the founder of their order, Ignatius of Loyola. In the decades that followed, they operated a social and cultural centre there including a community hall and a “Bibliothèque de l’Apostolat des bons livres,” a library that strictly complied with the Catholic Church’s List of Prohibited Books. During the First World War, the Jesuits shared the building with the Society of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, which provided shelter and support to soldiers garrisoned in Québec City at “The Soldier’s Home.”
In 1969 the building was acquired by a businessman who rented it out to a variety of establishments, including dance schools, performance companies, and bars.
Renewing a charitable mission
When part of the historic building’s façade crumbled from lack of maintenance in 2001, it became a boarded up blemish on the otherwise lovely face of rue D’Auteuil. It would take years to develop a viable renovation project.
Eventually, thanks to a very generous contribution from Fondation Famille Jules Dallaire as well as public funds, the building was fully restored between 2010 and 2012. The Jesuit Œuvres de la Maison Dauphine took possession of the restored building for use as a shelter for homeless youth. It now offers street kids meals, a return to school assistance program, and legal and healthcare services. This is both a return to the building’s roots and an exemplary rebirth for one of Québec City’s exceptional heritage buildings.