Construction: 1904 | Addition: 1923-1924 | Restoration and Adaptive Reuse: 1995-1997
Architects: Félix Maral Hamel | Restoration and Adaptive Reuse: Barry Padolsky and Associates Inc.
Location: 159 Murray Street, Ottawa
Named for Monsignor Joseph-Eugène-Bruno Guigues, Ottawa’s first Roman Catholic bishop, Guigues School (École Guigues) was built in 1904 to accommodate 100 boys. The building was designed by Ottawa architect Félix Maral Hamel (1851-1907) in the Neo-Classical style. Built to replace the smaller French-language school nearby, the new building included 14 classrooms, living quarters for 15 Christian Brothers and a chapel.
The modest three-storey, brick and stone-trimmed structure had a rectangular plan with a flat roof and large, projecting sheet metal cornice in a Classical style. The 11-bay front elevation had a three-bay, slightly projecting centre pavilion extending above the roof line as an ornamental stepped parapet, decorated with urns and a cross. The main entrance at the front façade was accessed by a pair of quarter-turn stone stairs, which met at a wide landing opposite the double doors. The upper floors were of solid brick, with evenly spaced narrow windows with flat lintels and lug sills of rock-faced Gloucester limestone. The limestone basement had a rock-faced finish and was regularly spaced with shorter windows which aligned with those on the upper floors. An addition was constructed on the east end of the building in 1923-1924 to accommodate six new classrooms for 250 more pupils.
The architectural qualities of the building are modest in comparision to its historical associations. Guigues School played a pivotal role in the Franco-Ontarian resistance movement against Regulation 17, a law imposed in 1912 by the Ontario government which suppressed French-language education across the province by limiting French-language instruction in elementary schools to one hour per day.
At the heart of the Ottawa resistance movement was a determined group of women referred to as “Les Dames Gardiennes.” Their most infamous protest, known as the "Battle of the Hatpins", took place in January 1916 when a large group of mothers, armed with hatpins and scissors, occupied the school lobby and front steps to protect teachers inside—who were continuing to teach in French in defiance of the law—from the authorities.
Regulation 17 was repealed in 1927.
Guigues School closed in June 1979 due to declining enrolment and increasing building maintenance costs. The remaining students were transferred to nearby École Routhier.
In 1980, the City of Ottawa designated the now vacant school building under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act. During the mid-1980s, the Shepherds of Good Hope used the basement as an emergency shelter, clothing depot and food service.
Several Franco-Ontarian groups explored adaptive re-use of the building for cultural activities, but without ultimate success.
The condition of the decommissioned school, empty and unheated since the end of the 1980s, had deteriorated to a critical state. In 1994, the Conseil scolaire sold Guigues school to the Centre polyvalent des aînés francophones d’Ottawa-Carleton for reuse as a community seniors facility. The new owners occupied the basement and first floor as offices and partnered with a contractor for the redevelopment.
Heritage Ottawa helped to keep the story alive in the news in the months leading up to this adaptive reuse plan. The president, Louisa Coates, wrote in favour of the proposal:
"Heritage Ottawa is delighted that this key heritage building, which has been vacant for over 10 years, will be put to use by the community in the form of a senior’s residence and community centre. … we support any efforts being made to maintain this valuable landmark of Franco-Ontario history."
The lower two floors of the structure were transformed as a multi-purpose community centre for seniors, while the upper two upper floors were developed as 14 condominium apartments, designed by architect Barry Padolsky.
The Centre de services Guigues was officially opened on May 30, 1997. That same year, the project was awarded the City of Ottawa's Architectural Conservation Award of Excellence for Adaptive Reuse.