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THEN & NOW: St. Joseph’s Convent

The first Sacred Heart of Mary Church opened in 1850 and was turned into a three-room school in 1872

This ongoing series from Barrie Historical Archive curator Deb Exel shows old photos from the collection and one from the present day.

St. Joseph’s Convent – 90 Mulcaster St.

The first Sacred Heart of Mary church, a frame building located on the east side of Mulcaster Street, opened on May 30, 1850.  

Five years later, in 1855, the church opened a school in a log building on the southwest corner of Mulcaster and McDonald streets. It was replaced the following year by a frame schoolhouse on the east side of Mulcaster, but even as early as 1856, the school was already showing signs of overcrowding. Same thing for the burial ground next to the 1850 church: by the 1860s, a plan was needed for it, too, prompting the purchase of 50 acres on Sunnidale Road for new burial grounds.  

The Sisters of St. Joseph arrived in Barrie in 1857 to teach the children at St. Mary’s School.  

A glorious new St. Mary’s church designed by Shearman Bird was dedicated on Dec. 15, 1872. A good view of the new church and deanery can be seen here. Originally a red brick building with yellow brick accents, it was later painted the grey colour most of us remember.

Incredibly, this beautiful church on Court House Hill was once the target of violence. One hundred years after it opened, St. Mary’s church relocated to their current Amelia Street location, on the site of a former monastery.   

Once the new church on Mulcaster Street was open in 1872, the old frame church was converted to a three-room school for about 175 students. By 1881 the school building had been expanded and the building of a four-room brick school east of the current one was in progress.

In 1884, two acres that had previously belonged to the Church of England, were purchased and used for a school yard. In 1951, the new St. Mary’s School opened at Berzcy and James (Codrington) streets, replacing the one built in 1918.  

The Sisters of St. Joseph built their convent at 90 Mulcaster St., in 1885. It remained a convent until 1946, when it became St. Joseph’s High School.

The Sisters moved farther up the hill to their new Berzcy Street home, just a few doors down from where the Knights of Columbus  hall is located. In 1951, 13 students graduated from the new St. Joseph’s High School. That same year, an addition was added to the back of the building, as well as an auditorium.

In 2003, Barriston Law occupied the former convent at 90 Mulcaster St., later earning a Heritage Award from Heritage Barrie for their conservation of the historic convent.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is the current owner of this heritage building.