St. Ann’s Academy
835 Humboldt Street
Date of construction: 1871
St. Ann’s Academy is comprised of a monumental brick-clad building and former gardens which occupy approximately 6.25 acres of land within Victoria’s original urban core. The garden contains a formal processional allée created with tree rows and hedges, an orchard containing approximately 100 original fruit trees, a novitiate garden, a formally landscaped area containing several historic trees, structural remnants, formal gardens, hedges, historic paths and walkways, and additional plantings established by the Sisters of St. Ann around the Academy building and along sections of the site perimeter, and a perimeter wall and gates.
Arriving in Victoria in 1858, the Quebec-based Sisters of St. Ann responded to the educational and nursing needs on the West Coast by opening a succession of convents, hospitals and mission schools throughout British Columbia, Yukon and Alaska. Their success created a demand for larger accommodations in Victoria which was met by construction of the first section of the present building in 1871, then by further additions in 1886 and 1910. From 1871 until its closing in 1973, St. Ann’s retained its stature as an important educational institute, and continues to symbolize the Sisters’ contribution to education and social service in Western Canada.
The distinctive architecture of St. Ann’s Academy reflects the strong influence of French Canadian religious orders during a formative period in the history of British Columbia. It was the largest building in the province in 1871, and remained the tallest masonry building in Victoria for most of its history. While the 1871-86 and 1910 sections of the building embody the neo-baroque characteristics of 19th-century Quebec convent design, the chapel is a unique transplantation of traditional 17th- and 18th-century Quebec ecclesiastic design tradition to the west coast. Built as the original Roman Catholic cathedral in Victoria in 1858 by Brother Charles Michaud, the original timber framed building was moved to its current site and incorporated into the academy complex in 1886. The heritage value of the chapel resides in its well-preserved interior massing and design features.
The building was rehabilitated in 1997 with the main portion of the building seismically upgraded and converted for office use. The original chapel and the 1871 portion were restored as an interpretive centre and administrative offices for the national historic site.
When the streetcar made its journey in 1907, we can catch a glimpse of the original building with its 1886 addition as the streetcar makes its way past the Empress Hotel building site.
This Hallmark Society project has been funded by the Hbc Foundation and the BC150-Heritage Legacy Fund
Project manager and researcher: Helen Edwards
Principal Photography & Consultant: Ron Bukta, West Ventures Photography