Home / Accueil

Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Penitentiary National Historic Site of Canada

160 Saint-François, Laval, Quebec, H7C, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1990/02/23

General view of the north wing (left) and Northeast wing (right) of the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Penitentiary showing the caged gate apertures.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, n.d.
General view
General view of the main cellblock at Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Penitentiary showing the high, surrounding stone wall which provides the distinctive public face of the institution.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, n.d.
General view
General view of the joining point of the south wing and the dome of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Penitentiary showing its abundant use of stone materials and their skillful craftsmanship.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, n.d.
General view

Other Name(s)

Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Penitentiary National Historic Site of Canada
Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Penitentiary
Pénitencier Saint-Vincent-de-Paul

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/06/18

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

A monumental stone prison with a severe, forbidding presence, Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Penitentiary National Historic Site of Canada is located in Laval, Québec. Opened in 1873 in a facility previously constructed as a reformatory, it was Canada’s second federal penitentiary, and served as the country’s sole francophone correctional facility from 1873 until it closed in 1989. The designation refers to the penitentiary buildings on the legal lot.

Heritage Value

Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Penitentiary was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1990 because of:
- its important place in the social history of Québec.

Originally built in 1873, most of the present institution was constructed in the 1930s and 1940s. The architecture of the original facility, which planned for only an administration building and cellblock, was unimpressive, and the penitentiary has been altered so significantly that it has lost its original Greek cross cell block configuration.

The heritage value of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Penitentiary National Historic Site lies in its witness to over a century of criminal justice in Canada in general and, particularly, Québec. Heritage value resides in the recognizable public presence of the institution which includes its exterior appearance, its site and its setting. It can also be found in the stories and the relics of life within the institution’s walls.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, 1990.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include:
- the high, surrounding stone wall which provides the distinctive public face of the institution;
- the penitentiary’s large scale, cohesive form, and distinctive flat topped profile broken only by guard towers with turrets, its severely regular proportions and severe formal tone created by a mixture of restrained classical elements, including a heavy cornice supported by regular brackets, faux pillars to mark gates, detailed pediments over the gates, arched second storey windows, and utilitarian details, such as barred windows and caged gate apertures;
- its abundant use of stone materials and their skillful craftsmanship;
- remaining fragments of the prison’s early form, design and materials inside the walls, specifically the rotunda and parts of the two wings;
- the consistently low height of facilities within the penitentiary wall;
- graffiti on the interior and exterior walls, rotunda and original wing areas recalling the penitentiary’s long-term role;
- archaeological evidence of prison life (buried and above ground) inside the boundaries of the wall;
- the penitentiary’s location on the historic outskirts of Montreal;
- its status as a visual landmark.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

Federal

Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date

1990/02/23

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1873/01/01 to 1989/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Governing Canada
Security and Law
Building Social and Community Life
Education and Social Well-Being

Function - Category and Type

Current

Government
Correctional Facility

Historic

Architect / Designer

n/a

Builder

n/a

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

632

Status

Published

Related Places

Exterior view

Towers

The Towers are prominently located at the four corners of the enclosing walls at the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Penitentiary. Each of the four towers is composed of a concrete shaft…

Detail view

Main Cellblock

The Main Cellblock is located within the walls of the compound of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Penitentiary. It is an imposing, stone structure built of enormous blocks of limestone with…

SEARCH THE CANADIAN REGISTER

Advanced SearchAdvanced Search
Find Nearby PlacesFIND NEARBY PLACES PrintPRINT
Nearby Places