The Academy

The central section of St. Ann’s Academy, constructed in 1871, was the first four-storey masonry building in Victoria. Designed by Joseph Michaud, C.S.v, and built in red brick by Charles Vereydhen, it featured neo-classical detailing such as pilasters, a balustraded parapet and a pedimented gable roof, and was finished with grey, sand-embedded paint to resemble stone.

By 1886, the Academy had expanded again with the “east block,” built by John Teague in harmony with the original Michaud scheme. Classically inspired additions included a relocated main entrance with an impressive curved double stair and a pedimented gable pavilion. Tripled in size, the Academy now housed dining rooms, dormitories, recreation rooms, parlours, a music conservatory, library, infirmary, dispensary, classrooms and administrative offices.

The Academy’s remarkable Chapel, also added in 1886, was originally built in 1858 by Father Michaud to serve as Victoria’s first Roman Catholic Cathedral. Featuring simple main classical details common among the small parish churches of Quebec, it was constructed of logs and timber from Vancouver Island and redwood from California, with hand-carved ornamentation on ceiling, pillars and altars. Outgrown by its congregation, the little former Cathedral was raised onto log skids, hauled by horses, moved into position over the main kitchen of the Academy and encased in brick. Of particular interest in the Chapel are the original oil paintings behind and beside the main altar, art glass windows dating from 1913, and the magnificent Casavant pipe organ made in 1913 in St-Hyacinthe, Quebec.

The third and final section of the Academy, “the west wing,” was designed and built by Thomas Hooper in 1910. Unlike the earlier sections, Hooper’s wing included a fifth storey topped by a mansard roof with dormer windows. This was reminiscent of the Second Empire style, a popular feature of the Church’s institutional buildings across Canada late in the 19th century. The combination of architectural styles incorporated into the Academy over its 39-year construction period reflects the influence of Renaissance Revival, Baroque Revival, Second Empire and traditional building practices of rural Quebec. These were common features of convent buildings at the time, both in Quebec and in the newly settled West. St. Ann’s Academy is especially notable because it incorporates an historic chapel. One of the oldest religious buildings in British Columbia, the Chapel is, like the structure which houses it, of local, provincial and national significance.

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