Revitalization and expansion tabled for Montreal’s Youville Mother House
At a time when there is widespread concern over the future of religious heritage buildings, the congregation of the Grey Nuns of Montreal is pleased to present a major conservation project for the former Hôpital Général de Montréal, located in Pointe-à-Callière, known today as the Youville Mother House.
This heritage-designated building complex includes architectural elements that date back to the 17th century. The project spearheaded by the Grey Nuns — along with PARA-SOL Architecture et développement — is aimed at breathing new life into the existing site by giving it a new heritage, cultural and educational mission.
Developed by the Grey Nuns, Espace Marguerite d’Youville is the result of many years of work in collaboration with heritage and archeology specialists. The project grew out of an extensive reflection on the future of the congregation’s properties and the legacy it wished to leave to the community and to future generations.
The project will provide unique access to heritage buildings that bear witness to the New France era. Future visitors will be able to explore places like the Room for the Poor, which has survived virtually intact from the 17th century and where the needy could find a meal and comfort. A vaulted cellar from the New France era, unique for its size and housing an original bread oven, will now be accessible.
Espace Marguerite d’Youville will also attest to the invaluable contribution made by Marguerite d’Youville and her congregation to the development of Montreal.
“At a time when many heritage buildings in Quebec are in a tenuous position, we wanted not only to protect this historic site but also to breathe new life into the Youville Mother House. It’s important for us to contribute actively to ensuring that our legacy carries on,” said Sister Aurore Larkin, congregational leader of the Grey Nuns of Montreal.
Espace Marguerite d’Youville will be home to the Université de Montréal’s citizen archeology lab, also known as the sustainable archeology lab.
This new lab would bring archeology teaching and research closer to the public, popularize the work being done by researchers and raise UdeM’s profile at home and abroad.
The project includes a public area for exchange and presentations. Here, visitors would be able to learn more about the collections being studied by researchers. These collections, which would continually enriched with new objects and archeological finds, would make the public area an exceptionally vibrant place.
With state-of-the-art equipment, the laboratory will provide a unique opportunity for UdeM to conduct collaborative research and training projects with Pointe-à-Callière. Together, they would launch innovative projects, for example, a program of activities aimed at high school and CEGEP students, as well as the general public, to familiarize them with research methods in archeology and how these discoveries can benefit society.
Espace Marguerite d’Youville will also serve as a place where Pointe-à-Callière’s archeological collections, currently conserved in various locations, can be housed under one roof.
“This partnership with the congregation of the Grey Nuns and Pointe-à-Callière will enable our researchers and students to take advantage of an outstanding heritage site, located near the very spot where Montreal was founded—a rare gift,” said Frédéric Bouchard, dean of UdeM’s faculty of arts and science.
The redevelopment of the historic buildings, which date back to 1693, will require an investment of $35.2 million and will span 24 months.
“Our congregation is asking for financial support from governments and the Ville de Montréal so that this unique heritage site can continue to bear witness to the founding of our city and our congregation. In light of the enthusiasm sparked by our project, we are convinced we will receive the financial aid we seek. We have solid partners in the Université de Montréal and Pointe-à-Callière, and an exemplary project,” added Sister Larkin.