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Immaculata High School

The newest school in Ottawa East opened in the old St. Pat's building in September of 1994. Immaculata High School first began as a girls-only institution in central Ottawa. As the story below relates, it has survived the many changes in education over the decades and now occupies a prominent place in the Ottawa East community. With an enrollment of 1,023 students and 95 staff (2004), the school has breathed new life into the area much as the original St. Pat's did when it opened in 1929

St. Patrick's College - now Immaculata High School

Principal Tom Domica has kindly provided a brief history of the school written by a Sister Ryan, a former teacher. As well, an article from the Mainstreeter, written by Ed Cuhaci, the architect of the renovations has been included here.

The History of Immaculata High School
Sister Barbara Ryan of the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception
Immaculata High School opened in September, 1928 at 211 Bronson Ave., Ottawa - at the corner of Bronson Ave. and Lisgar St. For some years there had been a need for a Catholic High School for girls which would provide quality education for the daughters of families of moderate incomes. Dr. John J. O'Gorman, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish, was one of the leaders in the campaign for the new school; which also had the support of the English priests of Ottawa. The newly founded order (1926) Grey Sisters of the Immaculata Conception, Pembroke, Ontario, were asked to undertake the task of building, organizing and staffing the new school. The Christie property on Bronson Ave., extending from Lisgar Street to Nepean Street and about 1/3 of the block along both Lisgar and Nepean Streets, was purchased as the site for the school. The
grey stone "Christie Mansion" on the property - a large house with gardens - became the first Immaculata Convent, home to the Grey Sisters who taught in the school.

The school was designed by the architect Knoffke*, who later planned the French Embassy on Sussex Drive. This, the original building, comprised eight large classrooms, a science laboratory, a home economics room, a gymnasium/auditorium with a stage and office space. The building was linked to the Convent by a passageway.

Until the new building was completed, students attended classes at S1. Patrick' s Home - situated at that time at the corner of Laurier Ave. and Kent Street (site of today's Centennial Towers Office Complex). When the first classes were held at Immaculata, students carried their chairs to the new premises, from St. Patrick's Home. Sister Agnes of the Sacred Heart was appointed principal. She was assisted by Sister Loyola and
Sister St. Geraldine. .

Immaculata was established as a Private School. The students wore uniforms and paid reasonable, monthly fees. Later the grade 9 and 10 classes came under the jurisdiction of the Ottawa Separate Board. However, no student was ever deprived of an education for lack of money to pay fees. Many graduates repaid the cost of their education when they were employed. Over the years there were several campaigns sponsored by the archdiocese of Ottawa to aid in the extension and upkeep of the school.

During the 1930' s and continuing until the mid 1940' s Grade 9 and Grade 10 classes were also taught at Immaculata College, 312 Laurier Ave. East (now head quarters of the St. John's Ambulance Association). These girls joined the classes at the main building for special events, assemblies, concerts. They transferred to the classes at the Bronson Ave. site for Grades 11, 12 and 13.

By the late 1940's the student population had grown; the original school was becoming too small. Hence, the Kearns Memorial wing was built and opened in September 1950. A bequest from the estate of Dr. B. Kearns added eight classrooms including a double-sized commercial class area and space for a --music department. Two years later, this wing was completed by the addition of a top storey containing three classrooms and a library. Continued growth in the student population led to the construction in 1963 of the chapel-auditorium wing containing two classrooms, new commercial classrooms, a home economics sewing room, a modem science laboratory, office space and the 910 seat Chapel-Auditorium. The original convent was demolished to provide space for this addition to the school. . (New Convent quarters had been constructed at the corner of Bronson Ave. and Nepean 81. in 1952-53.) At this time the student body reached an all-time high - more than 900 students - all girls - grade 9 to13.

The final addition to Immaculata - the Separate School Board wing at the corner of Lisgar Street and Percy Street - was opened in September, 1967. This area contained five classrooms, a large home economics area, a double gymnasium, a library area, staffroom, nurse's room, and administration offices.

Several events in the late 1960' s caused a drastic drain in the student population. Immaculata had always had a number of English- speaking students from Hull and Aylmer, Quebec. The fees of these students were paid by the Quebec Government as there was no English Catholic High School for girls in the area. At this time, such an institution was opened in Hull, Quebec. Students who had formerly attended Immaculata now went to this local school. The Immaculata registration dropped. Soon afterward, St. Pius X High School went Co-ed; drawing to it students from Ottawa's West End. As a result, Immaculata' s student population dropped dramatically to around 400 students
in the early 1970's.

In 1978, Immaculata went Co-ed in an attempt to survive. Some former graduates had requested that their sons be accepted I as students. There were few male students in these years, but gradually the numbers increased, especially after Grade 7 and Grade 8 students joined the Immaculata student body in the early 1980's. The reception of Provincial Grants for grades 11,12 and 13 in 1984 gave a needed boost to the school's efforts to continue. By 1989 student numbers had increased once again and in September 1991 a new era began for Immaculata as it took up residence in its present premises on Main Street.

From 1928 until the late 1950'S Immaculata was staffed exclusively by the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. Sister Agnes of the Sacred Heart was followed as principal in 1942 by Sister Mary Christine who held that position for 25 years and under whose guidance most of Immaculata' s growth took place. Later principals were Sr. Lucille Martin, Sr. Anna Clare, Sr. Anne Q'Brien and Sr. Teresa Kelly. In 1987, Mr. Jim Shea was appointed principal. He has been succeeded by Mrs. Mary Durst and Mrs. Evelyn Kelly. Lay teachers joined the sisters on staff in the late 1950's. Today's teaching staff is comprised entirely of laymen and women.

Immaculata has always encouraged a love of drama among its students. Elocution lessons were introduced in the 1950's. An active drama club, begun under the able leadership of Miss Vera McCloy, continues as an integral part of the school. Early productions included Pride and Prejudice, Anne of Green Gables, and the musicals Brigadoon, Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahoma and Godspell.

Characteristics of Immaculata training have always been a dedication to learning, reverence for Catholic teachings and a loving, caring staff. These traditions are still being carried on although there are no Grey Sisters on staff at present.

Truly its history shows that Immaculata is a school with a difference.

* Noffke was member of an Ottawa East family. More on this family can be found here.
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