Buildings’ Historical Significance
Ecole Guigues was constructed in 1904 and was, at the time, one of the largest schools in Ottawa. The plot of land in which Ecole Guigues was erected has been the home to Francophone Roman Catholic schools since the mid-1800’s. The building today stands as a symbol of Francophone language rights in Ontario due to the unique historical events that took place in and around Ecole Guigues in the early 1900’s.
Only a few years after the school opened its doors, the Ontario Government passed ‘Regulation 17’ restricting French language instruction in the classroom and simultaneously, withheld funds to Francophone schools. This led to major protests between the French community and Provincial Government which were held on the front steps of Ecole Guigues- led by a determined group of women who were referred to as, “Les Gardiennes”. The school was non-operational for a year, yet with the determination of the French community, the school reopened its doors in 1915. Jean Yves Pelletier, a historical consultant with the Provincial Government of the time, was quoted in an “Ottawa Citizen” article (1993) describing the building as, “One of the most powerful symbols in French Ontario today.”
Heritage Designation and Architectural Design
Ecole Guigues was designated as a heritage building on October 9th, 1980. Under the ‘Statement of Reason for Designation’ within the bylaw of 1980, it states, “It was on the front steps at the entrance to the school that the most serious confrontation between the officials of the Government of the Province of Ontario and the members of the Ottawa Francophone community took place” (Bylaws-1980, p1446). The building serves as a reminder of the French struggle for language rights in Ontario.
From an architectural standpoint, the building is a prime example of Richardsonian Romanesque style design. The large protruding stones used in the foundation set the stage for the red brick, flat roof and decorated cornice. The four-story building reveals an architectural statement, as well as, a reminder of Francophone language struggles in the early 1900’s.
Ecole Guigues was converted into condominium lofts between 1995-1997. Architect Barry Padolsky was the recipient of the ‘Award of Excellence’ for restorative and reconstruction in 1997. The units boast 12 foot ceiling heights, large open spaces and 8 foot windows providing ample natural light.
Keeping to its historical Francophone roots, the first floor of the building serves as the Centre de jour des aines Francophones d’Ottawa-Carleton.