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Presentation Convent and School Registered Heritage Structure

Presentation Convent and School, St. John's, NL
Presentation Convent and School, St. John's, NL

Statement of Significance

Formal Recognition Type

Registered Heritage Structure

Description of Historic Place

Presentation Convent and School are 3 storey stone buildings influenced by the Classical Revival style of architecture. The Convent and School are located in Cathedral Square in St. John’s, Newfoundland. This designation is confined to the footprint of the buildings.

Heritage Value

Presentation Convent and School has been designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador due to their historic, architectural and environmental values.

Presentation Convent and School are historically valuable for their association with the Congregation of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Presentation Sisters in Newfoundland originated with the Presentation Congregation founded by Nano Nagle in Cork, Ireland. By 1833, Bishop Fleming was building the Catholic Education system in St. John’s and visited Ireland to recruit some teachers. Bishop Fleming requested a meeting with the Presentation Sisters in Galway, Ireland and as a result of that meeting four Sisters volunteered to cross the Atlantic to minister as educators in Newfoundland. During their first twenty years the Presentation Sisters moved their residence several times in order to accommodate the growing number of young girls.

Eventually, a convent and school were built on Long’s Hill in 1844 but both were razed in the fire of 1846. In 1850, Bishop Mullock laid the cornerstone for a new convent and in 1853 the Presentation Convent was officially opened. This historic building, the Presentation Motherhouse, remains today the central convent of the congregation in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Both the Presentation Convent and School are historically valuable as a symbol of the contribution made by the Presentation Sisters to Newfoundland society, and as a testament to the significant growth of Catholicism during the late 1800s in part due to their influence in apostolic endeavors.

Presentation Convent is architecturally valuable as a good example of an institutional building influenced by the Classical Revival style of architecture. With a symmetrical façade, a large tetrastyle portico with ionic columns, and quoining Presentation Convent features of a number of Classical elements. Presentation School is also architecturally valuable for its Classical Revival elements including a pediment, quoining and rounded arch windows. The Convent and School are also architecturally valuable for its association with renowned architect James Purcell and his partner, builder Patrick Keough. Purcell and Keough are well known for their work on Christ Church in Quidi Vidi, St. Bonaventure’s College and the Colonial Building among others.

Presentation Convent and School are environmentally valuable for their location in St. John’s. The Convent and School are located in the centre of the city and are two of a larger number of buildings that create a complex of ecclesiastical buildings in this area.

Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “St. John's - Presentation Convent and School - FPT 1707”

Character Defining Elements

All elements that define the buildings' Classical Revival design including:
-symmetrical facade;
-portico on main facade;
-stone construction;
-eaves brackets;
-window size and position;
-returned eaves on gable ends of convent;
-general massing; and
-orientation, location, dimensions.

All those elements that relate to the environmental value of the place including:
-location within the ecclesiastical district;
-location of the convent in relation to the Presentation School; and,
-visibility from the road.

Notes of Interest

In 1862 Bishop Mullock gave the convent the famous statue "The Veiled Virgin" by Giovanni Strazza.

Location and History

Community St. John's
Municipality City of St. John's
Civic Address 180 Military Road
Construction 1853 - 1853
Architect
James Purcell
Builder
Patrick Keough
Style Classical Revival
Building Plan Irregular
Website Link http://www.presentationsisters.ca/