Report to/Rapport au :


Ottawa Built Heritage Advisory Committee

Comité consultatif sur le patrimoine bâti d’Ottawa


and / et


Planning and Environment Committee

Comité de l'urbanisme et de l'environnement


and Council / et au Conseil


09 March 2010/ 09 mars 2010


Submitted by/Soumis par : Nancy Schepers, Deputy City Manager, Directrice municipale adjointe,

Infrastructure Services and Community Sustainability, Services d’infrastructure et Viabilité des collectivités


Contact Person/Personne-ressource : Richard Kilstrom, Acting Manager/Gestionnaire intérimaire, Development Review-Urban Services/Examen des projets d'aménagement-Services urbains, Planning and Growth Management/Urbanisme et Gestion de la croissance

(613) 580-2424, 22379


Kitchissippi (15)

Ref N°: ACS2010-ICS-PGM-0065













That the Ottawa Built Heritage Advisory Committee recommend that Planning and Environment Committee recommend that Council approve the designation of the Soeurs de la Visitation Monastery, 114 Richmond Road, under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act in accordance with the Statement of Cultural Heritage Value, attached as Document 6.




Que le Comité consultatif sur le patrimoine bâti d’Ottawa recommande au Comité de l’urbanisme et de l’environnement de recommander à son tour au Conseil d’approuver la désignation du monastère des Sœurs de la Visitation, situé au 114, chemin Richmond, en vertu de la partie IV de la Loi sur le patrimoine de l’Ontario, conformément à la déclaration de valeur ou de caractère sur le plan du patrimoine culturel, ci-jointe en tant que Document 6.





The Soeurs de la Visitation monastery, 114 Richmond Road, is a large property, located on the south side of Richmond Road in the Westboro neighbourhood.  It is surrounded by a tall fence (see Location Map, aerial photograph and street view, Documents 1 to 3) The oldest part of the structure was probably built in 1864-1865 as a private residence in the Gothic Revival style for James Dyke, a hardware merchant.  By 1865 the house had been sold to George Eaton.  Eaton lived there briefly; the house was later sold to James Skead, a politician and then to Allison Hilson Holland, the wife of George Holland, a publisher and editor, with interests in many areas, including early cinema.


In 1910, Holland and his wife sold the property to the Soeurs de la Visitation, a cloistered order, founded in 1610 in Annecy, France, who arrived in Canada in 1910.  By 1913, a large addition to the house, consisting of three wings was complete. 


The Soeurs de la Visitation recently sold the property and will be moving out.  A developer has purchased the building and its grounds and it is anticipated that planning applications, including site plan and rezoning, will be processed in the near future.  Any proposed new development on the designated parcel will also require an application to alter under the Ontario Heritage Act if City Council approves the staff recommendation to designate the building. The new owner of the property and the development team working on plans for it are aware of the heritage significance as the Richmond Wellington Community Design Plan (CDP) identifies as being on the City of Ottawa Heritage Reference List. In addition, the CDP identifies the adaptive reuse of the structure as an option.




The Soeurs de la Visitation monastery is included on the former City of Ottawa Heritage Reference List. The home of the Visitandines since their arrival in Canada, the property has been surrounded by a wall virtually since its establishment, in keeping with its role as a monastery.  Inside the wall, the sisters lived their lives, rarely leaving the premises. 


Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act gives municipalities the authority to designate properties of cultural heritage value.  In order to be designated, the Ottawa Built Heritage Advisory Committee (OBHAC) considers the designation and makes a recommendation to Planning and Environment Committee (PEC) and City Council.  Council’s decision can be appealed by any member of the public.  If there is an appeal, a Conservation Review Board hearing is held and its decision is referred back to Council.  At that point, Council has the choice either to uphold or withdraw the designation.


Official Plan

The Official Plan has heritage provisions in “Cultural Heritage Resources,” Section and These policies provide for the designation of individual buildings under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act, stating that:


Individual buildings, structures and cultural heritage landscapes will be designated as properties of cultural heritage value under Part IV of the Heritage Act,” and that


The City will give immediate consideration to the designation of any cultural heritage resources under the Heritage Act if that resource is threatened with demolition.


Provincial Policy Statement

Section 2.6.1 of the Provincial Policy Statement (2005, PPS) contains policies regarding the conservation of cultural heritage resources: “Significant built heritage resources and significant cultural heritage landscapes shall be conserved.” Research conducted by staff confirmed that the Sisters of the Visitation Convent has cultural heritage value and is worthy of protection under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act.  Designating the property will be consistent with the PPS.


Regulation 09/06

Regulation 09/06 (Document 4) sets out criteria for designation under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act.  It states that, “A property may be designated under Section 29 of the Act if it meets one or more of the following criteria for determining whether it is of cultural heritage value or interest …” These criteria are organized into three groups; design or physical value, historical or associative value and contextual value.


The Soeurs de la Visitation monastery meets the design criteria in the regulation.  The structure was constructed in two phases; the house is a good representative example of the Gothic Revival, demonstrating a high level of craftsmanship in its detailing.  The wings constructed with its conversion to a monastery are typical of that building type and feature the lay-out around a central courtyard, tall stone walls, dormer windows and an attached chapel. 


The Soeurs de la Visitation monastery also meets the criteria for “historical or associative value” because of its association with the early history of the area, early owners, long-time owner George Holland, a prominent early Ottawa communications pioneer, and the Soeurs de la Visitation order.  It is likely that George Eaton purchased the property from James Dyke after it was built, as its assessment doubled between the time that Dyke bought the property in 1861 and 1865 when he sold it, indicating that construction has taken place. The property passed through a number of hands until 1887 when it was purchased by Alison Hilson Holland, wife of George Holland, an Ottawa communications pioneer. Holland’s contributions included the introduction of the typewriter and an early dictaphone to Canada. He and his brother Andrew were also cinema pioneers and were involved in some of the first North American movie screenings. In 1894, the brothers used an Edison Kinetoscope to screen early movies in New York City and downtown Ottawa. In 1896, they built “West End Park” on Holland Avenue for screenings using the Kinetoscope’s successor, the Vitascope.  The events in Ottawa were enormously popular and hundreds flocked to the “West End Park” park by streetcar to see the movies (see Document 5, Historic photographs, Document 6, Statement of Cultural Heritage Value and Document 7, Heritage Survey Form).



The Soeurs de la Visitation Monastery is a site of considerable cultural heritage value and meets the criteria under the Ontario Heritage Act.  The original house around which the monastery was constructed is an excellent example of a stone Gothic Revival structure and the three 1913 wings are typical of monastery architecture not only in Quebec but also in Europe. The owners of the house prior to its conversion were members of Ottawa’s early elite, and George Holland, who owned it for many years, was a communications pioneer, active in the early days of moving pictures in Ottawa, the long-time publisher of the Senate Hansard, and, at one-time, the owner of the Ottawa Citizen.








The vendors of the property marketed the property as a building of significance and the current owner is aware of the City’s interest in its designation.  




The Ward Councillor, Christine Leadman, is aware of the proposed designation of the Sisters of the Visitation and supports it.




There are no legal/risk management implications associated with this report




Objective E8: Operationalize the Ottawa 2020 Arts a Heritage Plan

Section 2.1.2 Identify and protect archaeological and built heritage resources.
















Document 1    Location Map

Document 2    Aerial View

Document 3    Contemporary view, facing southeast

Document 4    Regulation 09/06

Document 5    Heritage Survey and Evaluation Form

Document 6    Statement of Cultural Heritage Value

Document 7    Historic photographs




City Clerk and Solicitor Department, Legislative Services Branch to notify the property owner and the Ontario Heritage Trust (10 Adelaide Street East, 3rd Floor, Toronto, Ontario, M5C 1J3) of Council’s decision to designate the Soeurs de la Visitation Monastery, 114 Richmond Road.


Planning and Growth Management Department to advertise the Notice of Intention to Designate according to the Act and subsequent Notice of the passage of the designation by-law.


Planning and Growth Management Department to include the property on the municipal heritage register.


Surveys and Mapping to prepare an accurate survey of the lands to be designated.


Legal Services to prepare the designation by-law, submit it to City Council for enactment, serve the by-law and register it on title following passage by Council.



LOCATION MAP                                                                                                  DOCUMENT 1


Note: This does not indicate the extent of the parcel proposed for designation.
AERIAL VIEW OF BUILDING                                                                          DOCUMENT 2



CONTEMPORARY VIEW                                                                                  DOCUMENT 3



REGULATION O9/06                                                                                           DOCUMENT 4




Consolidation Period: From January 25, 2006 to the e-Laws currency date.

No amendments.

This is the English version of a bilingual regulation.


1.  (1)  The criteria set out in subsection (2) are prescribed for the purposes of clause 29 (1) (a) of the Act. O. Reg. 9/06, s. 1 (1).

(2)  A property may be designated under section 29 of the Act if it meets one or more of the following criteria for determining whether it is of cultural heritage value or interest:

1. The property has design value or physical value because it,

i. is a rare, unique, representative or early example of a style, type, expression, material or construction method,

ii. displays a high degree of craftsmanship or artistic merit, or

iii. demonstrates a high degree of technical or scientific achievement.

2. The property has historical value or associative value because it,

i. has direct associations with a theme, event, belief, person, activity, organization or institution that is significant to a community,

ii. yields, or has the potential to yield, information that contributes to an understanding of a community or culture, or

iii. demonstrates or reflects the work or ideas of an architect, artist, builder, designer or theorist who is significant to a community.

3. The property has contextual value because it,

i. is important in defining, maintaining or supporting the character of an area,

ii. is physically, functionally, visually or historically linked to its surroundings, or

iii. is a landmark. O. Reg. 9/06, s. 1 (2).






HERITAGE SURVEY AND EVALUATION FORM                                      DOCUMENT 5











114 Richmond Road


Building name


Soeurs de la Visitation Monastery




Construction date

1864-5, 1913


Original owner

James Dyke









Potential significance
































Phase One Score

8/ 9



Design or Physical Value



prepared by: Sally Coutts



month/year: September/ December 2009



Architecture (style, building type, expression, material, construction method)




The Soeurs de la Visitation monastery is a large stone structure, consisting of an 1860s house, “The Elms,” and three wings that were added in 1913 when the building ceased to be a private residence and became a monastery. 



The house that forms the original part of the convent is a good example of a Gothic Revival structure and was built in 1864-5. The Gothic Revival for residential architecture became popular in Canada in the 1860s.  Initially houses built in the style were simple, classically proportioned dwellings with simple gothic details such as bargeboard and pointed windows, but in Ontario they became more elaborate due to an emerging group of wealthy landowners anxious to demonstrate their position in society, the existence of a small group of British trained architects familiar with the style and the increased publication and distribution of architectural periodicals and pattern books devoted to domestic architecture.


Features of the original portion of the house that identify it with the Gothic Revival as expressed in 1860s Canada include, an irregular plan, the steeply pitched gable roof, the bay window on the front façade, the decorative verge boards in the gable ends, large windows with Gothic design elements, and stone quoins and voussoirs. 


1913 Addition

In 1910 the Soeurs de la Visitation purchased “The Elms” from the Holland family to become their Ottawa home.  Construction of the new building, three wings around a central courtyard with the house forming the northwest angle of the square, began immediately. It is similar in form and layout to other monasteries and convents across Canada, built from the era of the French Regime to the 20th century, which themselves were inspired by the great monastic buildings of Europe, particularly those of the Cistercians.  Other features shared by monasteries and convents include steeply pitched roofs, thick walls, classical proportions, dormer windows in the attic and a Chapel.


The interior organization of the monastery is similar to monasteries worldwide and follows the principles of monasticism that dictate life within monasteries, specifically that they be “closed to the world, but open to the sky.”  Like all such institutions, the building includes a Chapel, an infirmary, a Refectory, rooms for the sisters, an office for the Mother Superior, and workrooms, all arranged around the central courtyard. The entire property, not just the building, is encircled by the “clôture papale.”




Craftsmanship/Artistic merit



The Soeurs de la Visitation is an extremely plain structure with few exterior or interior embellishments. It was built by local Ottawa builders Nazaire and Oscar Poirier.




Technical/Scientific merit










The Soeurs de la Visitation Monastery is a remarkable building, comprising two excellent  examples of two distinct building types, the Gothic Revival house and the monastery. The original house form portion is a exemplary example of the Gothic Revival style as expressed in Canada in the 1860s and features decorative bargeboard trim in the gable ends, a steeply pitched gable roof, quoins and voussoirs, a bay window and an irregular plan associated with the style. 


The monastery wings, which enclose the central courtyard, are similar of monasteries throughout Europe and North America.  The inward facing plan, the stone walls, hipped roof with gable dormers, and chapel are noteworthy features of buildings associated with this building type.





See below for sources.






Historical and Associative Value



prepared by: Sally Coutts


month/year: September 2009

Date of construction (factual/estimated)

Early 1864-5, 1913



The Soeurs de la Visitation monastery was built in two stages; the original house, built in1864-65 and the monastery addition (1913). Each phase represents a different theme, event, person etc.


“The Elms”

The house portion of the Soeurs de la Visitation monastery was probably built in 1864-65.  James Dyke, a hardware merchant, purchased the six-acre property in 1861, the first person to own the smaller, recently surveyed, property. In 1863 and 1864, it was worth 100 pounds according to the assessment tolls. In 1865, the year the property was purchased by George Eaton, the assessment had doubled to 225 pounds, indicating that the house was probably built in that period.  Most sources name Dyke as the builder, and thus it probably can be assumed that Eaton purchased a recently-completed house. By 1867, the assessment was recorded in dollars and the property was valued at $6,000, the highest assessment for a lot of less than 10 acres in the entire township of Nepean. 


At the time of Eaton’s purchase of the six-acre lot from Dyke, there were a number of similarly sized lots along the Richmond Road, which were intended to be the site of the estates of country gentlemen.  Eaton owned the house until 1880, when it was purchased by the Honourable James Skead, a local politician and businessman. Skead was experiencing financial difficulties at this time and, by 1887, had sold it to Alison Hilson Holland, wife of George Holland.  The Hollands lived in the house until 1912 when it was sold to the Soeurs de la Visitation.


Deeds and title documents refer to the house as “The Elms” for most of the 19th century, although at least one deed, dated 1880, refers to it as “Linden House.” It can be assumed that it became “The Elms” when the Holland Family, as the City Directories list “”The Elms” as their address on Richmond Road.


George Holland was a prominent member of the Ottawa community who, with his brother Andrew undertook a number of enterprises in the late 19th century. They owned the Ottawa Citizen from 1872-75, when they became the publishers of the Senate Hansard.  They also brought the typewriter and advocated for the phonograph to Canada.  Their most important contribution was the introduction of Edison’s Kinetoscope, an early movie projector to the United States and Canada in the summer of 1894 when the screened the first movies seen in Ottawa. They also developed a park at the corner of present-day Ruskin Street and Holland Avenue in 1896 where they showed movies and featured other entertainments, such as circus acts.  


Soeurs de la Visitation

The Soeurs de la Visitation bought the house from the Hollands in 1910 to become their first convent in Canada. Founded in 1610 in Annecy, France, the Visitandines are a contemplative order, expressly founded for those women whose vocation was prayer, as opposed to more active vocations such as teaching or nursing. The Order’s founders, St. Francis de Sales and Ste. Jeanne Francois de Chantal, have both been beatified.  Spreading throughout Europe during their first centuries of existence, they first arrived in North America in 1808. The convent in Ottawa was the site of their last new monastery in North America. Its construction was funded by the monastery in Wilmington, Delaware and by 1920; the sisters had repaid the debt to them.


  As a cloistered order, the Soeurs de la Visitation surrounded the property with a fence.  Within its boundaries, the Sisters live a life of prayer, receiving few visitors. In keeping with their long-established traditions, a portion of the day has always been devoted to outdoor recreation and the large grounds and spacious verandas provided opportunities for this. The Chapel has also offered religious services to community members for many years.


Community History

“The Elms,” as it was known for most of its history as a private house, was one of a number of grand houses on large lots, five to six acres in size, constructed by wealthy members of the community in the latter part of the 19th century. These lots were laid out as early as the 1850s and were associated with the paving or “macadamization” of Richmond Road in 1853 that made the road passable. Among them, were Thomas Fuller, the architect of the original Centre Block, Judge Armstrong, and James Skead, who also later owned it. Fuller designed an Anglican church, All Saints Westboro (designated  under Part IV )  to serve the needs of the community.


When the use of the building changed to a convent from a single-family dwelling, the west end of Ottawa was sparsely settled.  Within 30 years of its construction, the area had been extensively developed with single-family houses.  The Sisters of Visitation, as a cloistered order, housed behind high walls, were largely unaffected by the urbanization of the surrounding neighbourhood.



Neither the builder nor architect of the original house is known.  Its design may have been inspired by one of the pattern books of Gothic cottages popular in North America in the mid-19th century, such as “The Architecture of Country Houses” by Andrew Jackson Downing.   


The monastery wings were built by the Ottawa builders Nazaire and Oscar Poirier. The Sisters have blueprints for the original structure, but there is no signature on them. Although these plans are not identical to the building as built, there are only minor differences between the drawings and the building.  The Sisters also had drawings of other monasteries and it can perhaps be assumed that the plans informed the final layout for the 1913 addition. Aspects of the plan are shared by Christian monasteries and convents around the world and are symbolic of monasticism. The Archbishop of Ottawa in 1913, Charles Hugues Gauthier, approved the plans with his signature in 1913.  



The Soeurs de la Visitation illustrates the history of this part of Westboro, the life and work of George Holland, communications entrepreneur, cinema pioneer, newspaper publisher and one-time owner of the “Ottawa Citizen” and the history of the Soeurs de la Visitation in Canada. 



Elliott, Bruce The City Beyond  (Nepean, City of Nepean, 1991) Professor Elliott also supplied primary source material and provided invaluable advice about sources.

Drawings, Soeurs de la Visitation

Assessment Rolls, Nepean Township, Library and Archives Canada, MG9, D8-44, Vols. 11 and 12

Deeds and Mortgages, Photocopies on file at City of Ottawa Archives, donated by the Soeurs de la Visitation.

Ottawa Citizen, newspaper articles, death notices,

“Cinquantenaire de l’arrivée des Vistandines au Canada, 1910-1960 (Ottawa: M.J. Lemieux, 1960)

Tepperman, Charles “The Perfect Order of a Canadian Crowd: Cinema in Ottawa, 1894-1896

Web-site, “Les Vistandines au Canada”




Contextual Value



prepared by: Sally Coutts


month/year: September 2009



Community Character



The Soeurs de la Visitation monastery occupies a very large lot fronting on Richmond Road, however, as the home of an order of cloistered nuns since 1913, it is surrounded by a tall fence and has not played a role in the community or contributed to its character to any great extent since then. It is, however, a well-known institution, despite its secluded character.



Context/Links to Surroundings


Religious services for the local community are held in the Chapel at the northwest corner of the building. Aside from these service, this site has few links to the community as it is an enclosed compound, occupied by an order of nuns who do not play a role in the community,





The Sisters of the Visitation is a well-known site because it occupies a large tract of land, however, because walls surround it, the building is not a visible landmark community landmark.









The Soeurs de la Visitation is a well-known local landmark, despite its 100 years as the home for a cloistered order of nuns.






Photographs, Soeurs de la Visitation




Facing southwest, showing bell tower, rear wall of Chapel.



Original house, constructed 1864-65








Rear view of building





STATEMENT OF CULTURAL HERITAGE VALUE                                   DOCUMENT 6



Description of Property – Sisters of the Visitation, 114 Richmond Road

The Soeurs de la Visitation Monastery is a large stone structure located on Richmond Road in the Westboro neighbourhood of Ottawa.


Statement of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest 

The Soeurs de la Visitation monastery consists of two parts, a Gothic Revival house built in 1864-1865 and three additional wings completed in 1913 to transform the structure into a monastery. Its cultural heritage value lies in its being an excellent example of both an 1860s Gothic Revival House and an early 20th century monastery.  The complex has historical value not only for its association with George Holland, a successful publisher and innovator, but also with the Sisters of the Visitation.


The original house portion of the monastery structure was built in 1864-1865.  James Dyke, a local hardware merchant, is thought to have built the house prior to selling the property to George Eaton, a lumberman. It was one of a number of properties built on larger lots laid out along Richmond Road for members of Ottawa’s emerging elite class.  Features of the house associated with the Gothic Revival style include the steeply pitched gable roof, the dormer and bay windows, gables with bargeboard trim, and stone quoins and voussoirs.  The longest owner of the building prior to its purchase and conversion to a monastery in the early 20th century was George Holland, a prominent local newspaperman and communications entrepreneur.


In 1910 George and Alison Holland, sold the entire property to the Soeurs de la Visitation, a cloistered order of nuns founded in Annecy, France in 1610.  The order, whose members devote themselves to prayer, established monasteries across Europe in the centuries following its establishment.  The Order’s founders, St. Francis de Sales and Ste. Jeanne Francois de Chantal, have both been beatified. By 1913, the monastery was complete.  It consists of three wings, arranged around a central courtyard or cloister, a plan followed by the monasteries of medieval Europe, and used for Roman Catholic convents and monasteries around the world.  The features of the 1913 wings that express the building’s role as a cloistered convent include its inward-facing plan with the wings arranged around a central courtyard or cloister, the tall, two storey construction with regularly spaced rectangular windows, a high basement and an attic lit by spaced dormer windows, the chapel and its associated pointed arch windows, the steeple and the galleries and verandas.  


Description of Heritage Attributes


Key attributes that embody the heritage value of the Sisters of the Visitation as an excellent example of both a large Gothic Revival house and a monastery include:



·         Steeply pitched roof with narrow gable-roofed dormers

·         Front veranda

·         bay window  with wooden pointed arch details

·         decorative bargeboard

·         tall chimneys

·         stone quoins and voussoirs


1913 Monastery addition

·         tall stone walls with evenly spaced windows

·         high hipped metal-clad roof with gable and triangle dormers

·         open steeple

·         veranda and galleries

·         Chapel and its interior volume

·         The plan, including central courtyard/ cloister enclosed on four sides

·         picturesque setting


The post-1913 additions to the building are not included in the designation.  The rear or southern-most portion of the property, from the base of the small hill to the rear lot line, is not included in this designation.

HISTORIC PHOTOGRAPHS                                                                              DOCUMENT 7




From “Ottawa Citizen,” March 2, 1907