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Grey Nuns' Convent National Historic Site of Canada

494 Tache Avenue, St. Boniface, Manitoba, R2H, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1958/11/03

General view of Grey Nuns' Convent, showing its symmetrical composition with evenly spaced paired and shuttered casement windows, 1986.; Parks Canada Agency/ Agence Parcs Canada, 1986.
General view
General view of Grey Nuns' Convent, showing elements of the site which speak to its status as the oldest convent and the first female mission house  in the Canadian West.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.
General view
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Other Name(s)

Grey Nuns' Convent National Historic Site of Canada
Grey Nuns' Convent
Couvent des Soeurs grises
St. Boniface Museum
Musée de St. Boniface

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1846/01/01 to 1851/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/05/23

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Grey Nuns’ Convent National Historic Site of Canada is a gracious two-storey hipped roof structure showing influences of Hudson’s Bay Company construction techniques in its squared log construction and European classicism in its symmetrical nine-bay facade. Sited facing the Red River and downtown Winnipeg, it is an important element in the historic Roman Catholic ecclesiastical complex of St. Boniface. The building now serves as the St. Boniface Museum.

Heritage Value

Grey Nuns Convent was designated a national historic site because:
- in 1958 it was the oldest Convent in use in the Prairie Provinces;
- it is the first mission house of this kind in the west;
- it is an outstanding example of early Red River frame construction

This convent, which housed the first group of Grey Nuns to come to the West, was constructed between 1846 and 1851 to designs of Sister Marie-Louise Valade and L’Abbé Louis-Francois Richer Laflèche of Quebec working with local builders Louis Galarneau and Amable Nault. The convent was built of white oak logs and subsequently repaired and enlarged to meet changing needs. It is an outstanding example of Red River frame construction. As a mission house, it provided facilities for the Nuns’ various works of health care, education and charity, which included caring for the aged and for orphans, treating the sick, and instructing children. It was the first institution of this kind in the west. Vacated by the nuns in the 1950s, it was leased by the City of St. Boniface (now the city of Winnipeg) and rehabilitated for use as a museum.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, May 1958 and June 1997.

Character-Defining Elements

Aspects of this site which contribute to its heritage value include:
- elements of the site which speak to its status as the oldest convent and the first female mission house in the Canadian West, namely its site and setting in relation to the river; to The Forks across the river; and to the ecclesiastical precinct in which it is situated, in proximity to the remains of the 1908 Cathedral, and across the street from the 1864 Archbishop’s residence and the unimpeded viewscapes to these structures and The Forks;
- elements of the building which speak to Red River frame construction, namely the surviving pièce-sur-pièce construction and roof structure, the volume and height of the building, the T-shaped plan, its symmetrical composition with evenly spaced paired and shuttered casement windows, central side-lit entry door, hip roof with dormers, belfry, and end chimneys, vertical facing boards evocative of the original surfacing, and interior features surviving to the original construction period.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

Federal

Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date

1958/11/03

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

n/a

Theme - Category and Type

Building Social and Community Life
Religious Institutions
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type

Current

Leisure
Museum

Historic

Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Mission
Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Religious Facility or Place of Worship

Architect / Designer

F.-X. Laflèche, L’Abbé

Builder

Louis Galarneau

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

134

Status

Published

Related Places

n/a

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