St. Joseph's Preparatory School (1913-1931)


The Third Hotel Dieu vacated in 1913 became St. Joseph's Preparatory School for Boys. Boarding pupils and day pupils were received with the course of instruction from grades one to four inclusive. Mother Catherine Walsh directed the opening of the school and Sister Fenety was the principal.

The rapid increase in the enrollment in St. Michael's Academy after 1902, particularly in the High School, Commercial School, and Art Departments, made it impossible to accommodate all the students in the stone building, and it was found necessary in 1917 to give up the project of a boarding school for little boys - and convert these apartments into a High School, Commercial, and Art Departments.

On June 11, 1914, Father Louis O'Leary was consecrated Titular Bishop of Hierapolis and Auxiliary to the Bishop of Chatham by Mgr. Stagni, Apostolic Delegate to Canada in St. Michael's Cathedral. The boys of St. Joseph's Preparatory School in zouave uniform were proud to form a guard of honour at the station and accompany His Excellency to the Episcopal Residence.

On March 13, 1919, a disastrous fire leveled St. Thomas College and the old Pro-Cathedral. The classrooms of St. Joseph's Prepatory School perished with the college. The sisters in 1919 attributed the preservation of the First Hotel Dieu to a "marvelous intervention of Divine Providence." It will be remembered that between St. Thomas College and the Hotel Dieu buildings is that cherished relic of the past, the little dwelling that received our pioneer sisters - the First Hotel Dieu. The walls of the building had been extended, so that the east end of the building was joined to the western wall of St. Thomas College, thus affording communication between the two. Only a narrow alley of some ten feet separates the house from the laundry wing of the Hotel Dieu; while running back parallel to each other and connected to the respected buildings are the barns and storerooms of both Institutions.

The flames had burst, now, from the windows of the west wing; the metal roof melted and sank beneath the fiery waves, the explosions in the chemical laboratory sent heavenward volumes of flame and smoke; wall after wall tottered and fell inward, till alone the west wall of the great four-story edifice stood between the devouring flames, and the "First Hotel Dieu".

"Not only was the First Hotel Dieu almost miraculously preserved, but abandoned for college purposes, it returned to the community and was transformed into St. Joseph's Preparatory School, and the sisters returned to their labour of love - the instruction of little boys."

St. Joseph's Preparatory School had a stable existence under the sisters' care until 1931, when classes were transferred to the newly-built St. Michael's Academy.

Source: A Chaplet of Memories, 1919