Nestled on the Canadian prairie in the town of Gravelbourg – sits an architectural jewel.
A convent – erected in 1917 the convent of Jesus, Mary and Joseph has seen its share of uses uses in it’s history. The building is a municipal heritage property – having been designed by prominent French Canadian architect J.E. Fortin. The structure itself was commissioned to be built by the Sisters of Jesus-Mary under the direction of Mother Sainte-Emilenne during the settlement of Saskatchewan. A building was needed to manage the areas growing need for education.
The physical structure is comprised of bricks from Claybank Saskatchewan, and our province’s famed Tyndall Stone – making it a quintessentially Saskatchewan building. With the convent approaching it’s 106th birthday – the building is understandably in need of some repairs, and now an effort is being put forward to find a developer who might be able to breathe new life into the aging structure.
The town purchased the building from the school division in 2016 – which has allowed it to be used by numerous organizations, including a yoga studio and artists from the community.
Late last year building was vandalized which was a blow to the community, and those who work at their organizations within the walls of the convent,” Toos Giesen-Stefiuk, chair of the Gravelbourg museum.
“The chapel was sealed – but somehow people managed to break windows and do some damage to statues that they threw down from the balcony and destroyed. It was heart breaking to see that someone would do this to irreplaceable items.”
Historic buildings are the heart and soul of Gravelbourg – with the convent being one of the most important buildings in the community says Giesen- Stefiuk. “I see great potential for this building. It could be used for many different things,” the occasional event is still held at the convent.
Sitting at 70,000 square feet the convent has numerous rooms that aren’t currently being used – the possibility of turning the building into a seniors community center was discussed at the point that the town purchased the building. A committee known as “the Friends of the Convent,” lead that study – and Giesen-Stefiuk feels that may still be the best use.
“we were very excited about the possibility. It would be the perfect fit. the building sits on the edge of town, the rooms are large, the ceilings are high and the hallways are wide. It’s filled with so much history.”
It was estimated the cost to fund that project would require close to 15 million dollars – which the community was unable to come up with.
Gravelbourg is not short on amenities, or a multicultural fabric. With a bustling downtown, and the French college complete with indoor swimming pool.
“The town is so beautiful,” says Giesen-Steiuk. “But this building has become a concern.”
The deadline for interested parties to express interest in development is February the 24th. But the community is willing to wait in order to find the perfect fit.