By Dick Nieuwendyk –mtltimes.ca
Recalling a bygone era, children born outside marriage, orphaned, or rejected by their families, were mostly supported by religious, philanthropic, and charitable organizations, dedicated to social assistance.
One of these was the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, founded in 1737 by Marguerite D’Youville, also known as the Grey Nuns, whose major mission was to meet the needs of the poor and the rejected.
The Nuns founded hospices, asylums, sanatoriums, boarding schools, schools, institutes, and orphanages. Orphanages and nurseries took in children, seeing to their day-to-day needs and education until such time as they were adopted by a new family or reached the age of majority.
In 1907 the Grey Nuns acquired a parcel of land which belonged to William Tait in what was known as Côte Notre-Dame-de-Liesse, an agricultural area south-west of Montreal, that would become their self-sufficient community with a farm, orchards, and an orphanage, designed by architect Alphonse Piché and built between 1912 and 1914. The building of reinforced concrete was the first of a project which would also include a nursery to be built next to the orphanage, also designed by architect Piché. The Mission style building, inspired by Spanish Colonial architecture features arches, columns, consoles, loggias, and ornaments, stucco finish and terra cotta Spanish roof tiles.
In 1972, after having hosted more than 64000 orphans, the Notre-Dame-de-Liesse orphanage and nursery D’Youville closed since Quebec had passed legislation and a Bill which stated that everything possible should be done to keep children with their families. Up to the 1970s abandoned, neglected or delinquent children had always been “placed” in institutions.
After closure, the buildings remained empty for many years, until 1989, when the orphanage was completely renovated. New windows were installed on all sides, however the building remained empty. In 1992 the D’Youville nursery was demolished and replaced by an industrial building.
Since 2012 the former orphanage is home to Vanguard School, a specialized private school for students with learning disabilities, which offers programs for grades 1 to 11. Founded in 1973, Vanguard School offers an educational program at both the elementary and secondary levels and within two sectors : English and French. Our mission is to enable students with learning disabilities to achieve their full potential through an education that fosters academic success, self-esteem and harmonious intergration into society.
The building is located at 5935 chemin de la Côte-de-Liesse, Saint-Laurent.