Description of Historic Place
Stella Maris Convent is located on Denoon Street in Pictou, Nova Scotia. This large, three-storey, brick building began construction in 1876 and was completed in 1880. The building and property are included in the provincial designation.
Stella Maris Convent is valued as the oldest convent school of the Congregation of Notre Dame in Nova Scotia and as an excellent example of a brick building with Second Empire style elements used for Roman Catholic teaching institutions to symbolize culture and order.
The Congregation of Notre Dame founded the Stella Maris Convent in 1880 at the initiative of Father Ronald MacDonald, the resident priest of the Stella Maris Church. The Congregation's origins as a teaching order go back to the early days of New France and the work of its founder, Marguerite Bourgeoys. The Congregation was active at Louisbourg, both before and after the 1745 siege and capture of the fortress. After the successful British attack in 1758, the sisters at Louisbourg returned to France. It was not for another one-hundred years that the Congregation returned to the Maritimes. In 1856, a group of sisters began a school at Arichat on Cape Breton Island, and three years later they moved into a convent where girls could be boarded. It was well attended and known as the Young Ladies' Academy at Arichat.
Father Ronald MacDonald then began construction of the Stella Maris Convent in Pictou in 1876, and by 1880 the building was completed. In September of that year, the sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame began classes with forty-three students, including nine borders. Three years later the Congregation opened a second school at Antigonish which developed into Mount St. Bernard's College for women. As the school at Arichat closed in 1900, the Stella Maris Convent is considered the oldest convent school of the Congregation of Notre Dame in Nova Scotia.
In 1950, the Stella Maris Convent ceased taking borders and twenty years later closed. The classrooms were converted into the headquarters for the Provincial Council of the Congregation. In 1989, the Congregation moved into a new building and gave the building to the Parish of Stella Maris.
Stella Maris Convent is a large three-storey building of red brick masonry with sandstone quoins. The most distinguishing architectural feature is the mansard roof with gable dormers. This roof profile is a major element of the Second Empire style, which in turn was closely associated with late nineteenth century institutional architecture.
Stella Maris Convent is closely associated with the adjacent property, the Stella Maris Church. Both were named Stella Maris, which means "Star of the sea," to pay tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary as Stella Maris is frequently applied to the Virgin Mother; in Hebrew the word for Mary is Miriam, which means star.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property files, no. 150
Character-defining elements of the Stella Maris Convent include:
- three-storey brick construction;
- large form and massing;
- sandstone quoining;
- Mansard roof;
- gable dormers;
- lugged sills;
- location in close proximity to Stella Maris Church.