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Notre Dame Convent – Then and Now

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Starting in 1684, the Sulpicians, Seigneurs of the island of Montreal, conceded about fifty land grants on the shores of Lake St. Louis between Lachine and Sainte-Anne-du-Bout-de-l’Îsle. The coast of St. Clair was one of those concessions. Under the seigneurial system, the Sulpicians had to build a mill for the colonists, who in turn had to grind their grain there at a set fee. The mill located on the point was built around 1708. In 1713 a parish was established in the name of St. Francis de Sales, and dedicated to St. Joachim in 1714. The church was replaced by a larger one around 1755.

Notre-Dame du Vieux Moulin convent ca 1880

In 1784 the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame moved from Lachine to Pointe-Claire.Their first convent was a one-storey wooden building located behind the church in 1787 and sisters were allowed to move in on the condition they educate the young girls in the region. In a 1831 report the school was described as “one of the best primary schools that you can find for its teaching of reading, writing, grammar and arithmetic, along with modesty and good manners.”

Notre-Dame du Vieux Moulin convent in 2015 Photo Dick Nieuwendyk

In the early 1860s, the convent was badly damaged during the construction of a new church. Bishop Bourget proposed to the parish to buy the land of the point from Julie Legault dit Deslauriers, the widow of Benjamin Dubois and give it to the congregation in exchange for the construction of a new convent. The Congregation accepted and a new convent was built near the windmill in 1867-68 by Octave and Louis Bourgouin, according to plans by Henri-Maurice Perrault. The rectangular stone building is constructed in the neoclassical style, with a basement, ground floor, upper floor and attic. The ridge roof with dormer windows had a pinnacle turret in the centre. In 1962, two perpendicular wings, designed by architect Louis-Napoléon Audet, were added, using the same materials and architectural style as were used in the original building. The double chimneys have disappeared. A covered porch with a balustrade and wrought iron railing has been installed in the front and the windows have been replaced and have lost their shutters. The interior was completely modernized.

The convent was used for teaching purposes until the late 1950s. While it was then used to board students and house teaching sisters, by the 1960s, the convent became a retirement home for the nuns. However, they continued to be involved in the community by helping students with school work and offering spirituality classes until well into the 21st century. In the fall of 2014, 230 years after the Congregation first came to Pointe-Claire, the last 19 sisters moved to other convents.

Source: CDN / Patrimoine Pointe-Claire / the Canadian Encyclopedia / ancestry.com

 

By: Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca

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