Monday, August 23, 2010

Gladstone Sports and Health Centre part 1: History of 18 Louisa

Tune in Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week for a series of posts on the Gladstone Sports and Health Centre.

If you don't have to go South of Gladstone between Bronson and Rochester, you might not know that there's a school there.

I was surprised to first find it in early April of this year, by which time it had ceased to be a school, and was undergoing renovations. I took some photos, not realizing the connection I would later have with the building.

For reference, the former St. Agnes Roman Catholic school is located at 18 Louisa Street, in the block bordered by Louisa, Bell, Arlington and Lebreton. Here's a shot of the school from Microsoft Live Maps' bird's-eye view, taken before the renovations (click the photo to go to MS Live Maps--bird's eye view not available in all browsers). At the top-left of the image, you can see the Southernmost corner of the Bell Street apartments—also known as Fairview Towers and Peyton Place—which will soon be undergoing major renovations to the exterior.

In the aerial view above, you can clearly see the original section of the school (lower-right of the image), and the two additions, classrooms with larger windows to the North (lower-left in the image), and an elevated Gymnasium to the East (upper-right in the image).

The building is now significant to me because my office has relocated to the building—in fact, I'm typing this entry from my office inside the building! (As a corollary, my blog entries will include more Dalhousie content, in addition to the regular Centretown content.)

In this series:
(2012 note: the GSHC now has a new website)

History of 18 Louisa Street

There are scant references to 18 Louisa Street and St. Agnes School on the web, which is the extent of my research.

The Ottawa-Carleton Catholic District School Board has a comprehensive history of the School Board from 1856-1997 on their website, available in flash or PDF version.

In the School Board's History document, "St. Agnes School on Louisa Street existed as early as 1890-91 as indicated by the Ottawa city directory of that time." (p. 150)

However, this crop of a 1923 map of Ottawa shows distinctive residential-sized plots on the block, suggesting the school was either very small, or located elsewhere. (The current building wasn't built until the '50s, with an extension and gymnasium added in the '60s.) The History goes on to mention that St. Agnes worked in tandem with St. Anthony's school, built in 1925 (known as Dante Academy at the time).

Digging back a bit further to the 1894 map of Ottawa posted in this URBSite post, Louisa street had the same name at the time, but Bell Street was Lisgar Street (yes, there were two Lisgar streets within blocks of each other--one in Wellington ward and one in Dalhousie ward), Arlington was Munroe Street (with no connection to East-of-Bronson Arlington, then called Archibald), and Lebreton Street still had its generic name of Division Street.

There is little else written about St. Agnes from that point until the school reopened as a school for immigrant adults. Following amalgamation of the school board in 1998, these programs were moved form St. Andrew's adult school in the West end, with St. Agnes opening in Fall 2000. After decline in enrolment, the school closed in June 2005, and the site was sold in 2006. (pp. 46-47)

The building was purchased by the Polish community and was affiliated with St. Hyacinth Parish on the same block, operating as Ottawa Polonia Centre.

Incidentally, the Ottawa Polonia Centre has an album of images of 18 Louisa pre-construction on their website (the first few are all of the North entrance):

Back in March, Eric Darwin mistakenly attributes the renovations to the Polish community centre.

In fact, the Gladstone Sports and Health Centre was incorporated in August 2008, and by January 2009, Table Tennis Canada had already had plans underway to convert the building to their national training centre, as announced in their January 2009 newsletter (PDF):
"The National High Performance Training Centre has a new address in Ottawa. After many years of looking for a new permanent site, Table Tennis Canada, in cooperation with [the International Table Tennis Federation] and [TMS International] are now leasing a 24 hours/day, 7 days/week training facility. The gym is equipped with brand new tables, special flooring for table tennis courts and a state of the art lighting system."
The completion of renovations would later be postponed to May 2010 (PDF), and eventually to August 2010. The exterior renovations will be the subject of the next post, available this Wednesday at noon.

Throughout this time, the Dalhousie Food Cupboard has operated (and continues to operate) out of this building, serving the Dalhousie neighbourhood. I'll be profiling the Dalhousie Food Cupboard in Friday's post, along with a tour of the interior. Stay tuned...


  1. I attended st agnes school in 1935-36, 36-37, grades one and two. I am working on a book about growing up in ottawa in the thirties and am eager to find more pertinent data about my first school. It gets such brief mentions. Do you know where I could find teacher names, floor plan etc? lots of memories and I do recall a few fellow pupils names e.g. fay cullen, patsy going, jimmy brady. I was betty carroll. If you are interested I can fill you in with my recollections. thanks for any help liz carroll

  2. Hi Liz,

    Thanks for your comment; that is very interesting! I got most of my information from the Internet. You may want to try the Ottawa-Carleton Caholic School Board; presumably they have an archives.

    Since the school was expanded in the '50s or '60s, any floor plan I'd potentially have access to would be much different than what you would have known.

    I'm currently out of the country, otherwise I'd take you up on your offer of more information. Good luck writing your book--be sure to let me know when it's finished!