Architectural Study of the Building
at 2330 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal

By Marie-Josée Morin and Élise Thierry
Photo search: Josée Sarrazin and Samantha Etane


Construction period: 1911-1913
Architects: Marchand & Haskell
Contractor: Martineau and Prénoveau

 

Photo of the building in 1913

At 2330 Sherbrooke Street West, the edifice built to receive the École normale Jacques-Cartier – girls sector (renamed École normale Notre-Dame-de-Montréal in 1957) is a fine example of the Beaux-Arts architectural style in Montréal. Today it houses the eighth Mother House of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame.

Architectural Style: Beaux-Arts

The building was designed by the Marchand & Haskell architectural firm, headed by Montrealer Jean-Omer Marchand and American Samuel Stevens Haskell.

Jean-Omer Marchand was an important figure in Montreal’s architectural scene. He was the first Canadian architect to graduate from the École supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris. When he returned in 1902, he broke with the monotonous use of gray stone and introduced Montreal to yellow Kittaning brick. He designed over one hundred buildings throughout Canada.

 

Saint-Sulpice Library (today National Library and Archives of Quebec). Year: 1936. © Ville de Montréal, Documents and Archives Management, Z-176

The Beaux-Arts style made its first prominent Canadian appearance in Richard Waite's design for the Ontario Legislature (1886-1892). In Montreal, Saint-Sulpice Library, built in 1914 on Saint-Denis Street, is renowned as a masterpiece of this style of architecture. This style is characterized by a more or less explicit reference to a group of compatible older styles, such as Neo-Classical, Neo-Renaissance or Neo-Baroque and, inspired by the Louis XIV style, its constant quest for balance in forms and shapes. The decorative symbolism often recalls Greco-Latin imagery. The abundance of architectural details is also quite typical: balustrades, statues, columns, garlands, pillars, grand staircases, wide arches. Façades are often polychrome.

 

Digitized plan

The École normale measures 81,978 square feet. It was built in the centre of a site measuring 88,591 square feet located between Sherbrooke Street West to the north and Lincoln Avenue (formerly Comte Street) to the south, between Atwater Avenue to the west and Lambert Closse Avenue to the east. The building is 196 feet in length by 131 in width and rises 56.7 feet above Sherbrooke Street. It includes a basement, a ground floor and two upper floors.

 

Generally, religious communities prefered Neo-​Roma­nesque style buildings as they recalled the convents of the Middle Ages. Also, the symmetrical U-shaped design made up of a main central structure measuring 116 feet by 51 and of two perpendicular wings measuring 40 feet by 131, was quite original, as was Marchand’s light coloured façade.

Overall, the building is quite simple and only slightly ornate when compared to two other buildings which Marchand designed for the Congregation: the sixth Mother House (pres­ent-day Dawson College) and the Institut pé­dagogique (the seventh Mother House from 1985 to 2005; present-day Marianopolis College). For the building in question, exact symmetry was used on the four sides, each of which was subjected to a very thorough architectural treatment.

 

Construction work on the sixth Mother House
 

 

The Institut pédagogique (the seventh Mother House from 1985 to 2005; present-day Marianopolis College)

The façade has a central entrance. Large scrolls with plant motifs sculpted in stone enclose each side of the staircase. At the back of the porch, two wrought iron doors open onto a ves­ti­bule situated at a level mid-way between the basement and the ground floor. The exterior stone porch is formed by two columns with their capitals and two pillars supporting a barrel vault covered by a tympanum. A bas- relief sculpture represents Marguerite Bourgeoys with children and is framed, on the left, by the towers of the mountain fort1 and, on the right, by the stable-school, the first Congregation Mother House. The structure is crowned by a prominent cornice with a pediment dec­o­rated with the Virgin Mary’s monogram (the intertwined letters A and M2), and above it an eagle encircled by scrolls. Once, the words École normale were engraved above.

 

Main entrance
 

 

A bas-relief sculpture representing Marguerite Bourgeoys with children is framed, on the left, by the towers of the mountain fort and, on the right, by a representation of the stable-school

 

The building is crowned by a prominent cornice. Once, the words École normale were engraved above

 

The façade’s windows become progressively smaller with every floor, the largest ones being on the ground floor and measuring 48 inches by 120. The basement and second floor win­dows are rectangular while the ones on the ground and first floors are arched. On the ground floor, the thin sash above the arched windows extends to the base of the next window to rest on a shield shaped cul-de-lampe. On the building’s upper corners, relief sculptures rep­re­senting the cross recall the religious nature of the building.

 

The thin sash above the arched windows extends to the base of the next window to rest on a shield shaped cul-de-lampe

 

On the building’s upper corners there are relief sculptures representing the cross

The two sides of the building, made up of seven rows of paired windows, and the back pres­ent exactly the same architectural elements as the façade. Noteworthy are the variations at the back: the windows at the two extremities of the ground and first floors found nowhere else; doors that open on the long galleries of these two floors.

 

The back of the Mother House

The building has a wide band of stone which separates the foundation from the buff brick part of the structure. Also made of reinforced concrete, the building was designed to be completely fire proof. The building’s exterior has not changed very much over the years.

 

The Interior Transformed to Meet New Needs

Inside, the classrooms, study hall, science area and bed rooms symmetrically line either side of a central corridor, which allows as much light as possible to enter through the windows.

 

Chapel

In the past, a chapel was located in the east wing’s first floor. A statue of Notre-Dame-des-Écoles was placed there on July 19, 1915 and the chapel was consecrated on the following October 7. Stained glass windows were installed on March 30, 1958. Each one represented a symbol of the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary. A hammered iron communion rail decorated with bronze ornaments was installed in 1960. The altar and the pulpit were made of white walnut and decorated with ceramic sculptures by Sister Cécile Marois. The altar designs re­pre­sented the sacrifices of Melchisedech and the Last Supper while the pulpit depicted the Sword of the Word. In 1965, the first organ, which had been in the building on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Street, was replaced by a Casavant organ. In the mid 1970’s, the chapel was changed into office space.

 

Reception Hall

The west wing’s first floor was occupied by a reception hall with a small stage. The ground floor served as a recreation hall and refectory.

 

Recreation Hall

Over the years, the building’s vocation changed. The École normale Notre-Dame-de-Montréal closed in 1969. Important renovations were undertaken to receive, in 1970, Notre Dame Secretarial School (whose name changed to Collège de secrétariat Notre-Dame Secretarial College in 1980). In 1973, the Generalate, made up of the General Administration and its var­i­ous services, such as, printing and archives, also moved into the building. Because the original chapel was converted into office space, a former classroom was consecrated and became the new chapel. The classrooms were also transformed into offices and conference rooms.

Since 2005, the building houses the eighth Mother House of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame. Most of the rooms are still used as offices and the former rooms for the boarders are now used in various ways: libraries, living rooms, etc. One of these living rooms has become a small oratory where one can come to pray before the ashes of the heart of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys. A new elevator was added in 2012-2013.

The eighth Mother House is also the residence of a group of Sisters who form an international community. It also welcomes Sisters from everywhere in the Congregation who are passing through Montreal or are participating in international meetings.

 

Oratory

 
 

100 Years Young

A building’s history can often be deciphered through its physical transformations. However, the exterior of the structure at 2330, Sherbrooke Street West has not changed very much through the years. It is therefore, still today, an eloquent example of the Beaux-Arts archi­tec­tural style in Montreal. It is also part of the history of the Congrégation Notre-Dame and of its importance in the history of Montreal from 1913 to today. The building may be celebrating its centennial this year, but it certainly does not look its age!

 

Recent photo


References

  1. Standing on Sherbrooke Street, two stone towers, part of the Montreal’s early fortifications, recall the Mountain Mission where the Sisters taught the Amerindians in one tower and lodged in the other. [retour au texte]
  2. The letters A and M are the acronym for the Latin expression Auspice Maria meaning “under the protection of Mary.” See: http://www.cnd-m.org/100/en/coat_of_arms.php [retour au texte]
 

Bibliography

Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada, “MARCHAND, Jean Omer (1872-1936)”: http://dictionaryofarchitectsincanada.org/architects/view/1463 (page consulted January 18, 2012).

Bisson, Pierre-Richard, “J.-O. Marchand: le goût Beaux-Arts”, Continuité, no 31, 1986, p. 15-19

Bisson, Pierre-Richard, “Un monument de classe internationale : La maison-mère de la Congrégation Notre-Dame”, ARQ Architecture Québec, no 31, 1986, p. 14-21.

Paré-Julien, Jérémie, Façades of Jean-Omer Marchand’s Buildings for the Notre-Dame Congregation in Montreal : Influence and Collective Memory in Architecture, Master’s Thesis, Art History Department, Concordia University, 2011: http://spectrum.library.concordia.ca/36313/1/Par%C3%A9-Julien_MA_S2012.pdf (page consulted January 18, 2012)

Pérusse, Johanne, J.-O. Marchand, premier architecte canadien diplômé de l’École des Beaux-Arts de Paris et sa contribution à l’architecture de Montréal au début du vingtième sièclesiècle, Master’s Thesis, Art History Department, Concordia University, September 1999: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk2/ftp01/MQ43680.pdf (page consulted January 18, 2012).

Pinard, Guy, Montréal, son histoire, son architectures, Montreal, Éditions du Méridien, 1991.

Documents from the Archives Services of the Congrégation Notre-Dame:

 
 

What are
the Sisters of
the Congrégation
de Notre-Dame
doing in 2019?