Although it was the people of St. Ann's Academy in Victoria that created the institution and worked to heal and educate, learn and create, it was the building itself that became the centre for these activities; it is the place where visitors can still go today, to try to imagine, or to reminisce, about what life was like at the Academy.
The architecture of the buildings can tell us many things about the history of the school, from what sort of impression the Academy wanted to display to visitors and the parents of students, to the French Canadian origins of the Order, to the tastes of architects working in Victoria in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is important to remember that, for many people in the community of Victoria, the name "St. Ann's" was not associated with going to school or praying in the chapel, but with the tall, grey, dignified structure on Humboldt Street.
These impressions have given a lasting presence to the work of the Sisters, because their history can be centred on the building. When the Convent and later the school closed their doors, there was an awareness that the grounds and buildings of the Academy would no longer be the home of the pupils and their teachers. What had brought them together was seen to be a piece of architecture, as much as a common purpose. St. Ann's was a meeting place, both for Sisters coming west from the Mother House in Quebec, and for the women who continued north, to work in Alaska, the Yukon and parts of northern British Columbia.
People continue to meet at St. Ann's today, but for different reasons. Now that the building is restored, teachers and students continue to walk through the halls, but it is as visitors, exploring the historic past. The classroom areas are now offices, full of computers, filing cabinets and ringing telephones. The busy chapel is chosen by many couples as the place to exchange their wedding vows. The grounds are used by the people of Victoria, who enjoy the restful walks amongst the trees and the orchard, which still bears fruit. Remember, as you take the Virtual Tour of the Academy, that it was the people who made St. Ann's the place that it was and the place that gave them the opportunity to influence the lives of thousands of people.
Click here for information on the restoration of St. Ann's Academy.