M985.230.5737 | Montreal. - The Protestant Orphan Asylum, St. Catherine Street

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Montreal. - The Protestant Orphan Asylum, St. Catherine Street
July 3, 1875, 19th century
Ink on newsprint - Photolithography
39.2 x 28.4 cm
Gift of Mr. Colin McMichael
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , building (531) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

A modern observer can learn a lot about philanthropists of the past by looking at the numerous landmarks they left-a myriad impressive buildings and parks. Although philanthropy was driven by a mixture of religious, humanitarian and social-control considerations, philanthropists were also part of a self-conscious urban elite who saw themselves as playing a major role in the development of their cities. This included the responsibility to address social problems, but also carried with it a desire to establish social and cultural institutions that would make their city proud. Architecture was important in this respect. It was for this reason that philanthropic institutions tended to be imposing structures, with at least some attention paid to architectural detail. It was the norm for such institutions to be included in the "sights" that visitors were taken to see. This created the anomaly whereby most charities were located in wealthy parts of the city, rather than within easy reach of the poor.

  • What

    This sketch from the July 1875 edition of the Montreal weekly newspaper The Canadian Illustrated News shows the Montreal Protestant Orphan Asylum at that time. The front doors were a gift from businessman Peter McGill (1789-1860).

  • Where

    The orphanage seen here was constructed in 1849 on Saint Catherine Street near Drummond Street, in the middle of the Golden Square Mile. In 1894 it moved to the corner of Summerhill Street and Côte-des-Neiges Road.

  • When

    The Protestant Orphan Asylum was founded by a committee of upper-middle-class women in 1822. The society, incorporated in 1843, still exists today in altered form.

  • Who

    Orphans were admitted to the institution throughout the 19th century. In the 20th century the society loosened its rules and accepted non-orphans as well.