Prison Saint-Vincent-de-Paul

Sauvons la Vieille Prison de Saint-Vincent-de-Paul

The Gazette editorial of July 14th 2010 promoting the demolition of the Old St-Vincent de Paul Penitentiary, suggested by the M.P. for the district in which it is situated, with respect, is an example of faulty, one-dimensional thinking. Here is how that reasoning goes:

"It's underused. Nobody is making money. It occupies prime real estate. A smart business person can produce housing easily here. Everyone will make money, especially patronage friends of the Government. We'll all be rich, and merry, and gay !"

Isn't that the refrain ?

Oh, I almost forgot - "Jobs ! Jobs ! Jobs !" and "New Taxes !"

The Old St-Vincent de Paul Castle is a unique feature on the local landscape of Quebec. It was built high up so that it would be a highly visible symbol, reminding would-be criminals of the Power of the Government and the prison system of its day. As such it serves as a historic reminder of how the social systems of its day controlled various parts of the population.

Social history can be learned through old buildings, their urbanism and their architecture much more generally and much more easily than through lecturing to a college class-room or by reading a textbook.

The Old Prison of Quebec City, also built on a high place, is now a highly successful part of the Musée de Beaux Arts de Québec. The Prison de Patriotes is part of the head office of the SAQ. Other such buildings throughout the world also help make excellent museums and public buildings.

If someone wants to promote the use of parts of this building, even for private profit for -say - a small speciality hotel, several of which have been developed in several old castles in Portugal and Spain, this without destroying its use as a movie set, that might make sense.

Several important films have been turned on the site. This alone justifies its future preservation, even without other uses.

A measure of the simplistic nature of the proposition of the Bloc Member of Parliament to destroy this unique building, is perhaps best illustrated by the example that he uses to promote his idea - The Demolitions and Redevelopments of the Benny Farm in NDG.

All of the Benny Farm projects subsequent to 1985, and they were many such, were all entirely wrong- headed schemes, criticised by everyone without a direct political or financial interest in its demolitions, its extensive, ill-fitted partial replacements, or its unnecessary over-renovations.

Without speaking of the aesthetics of the significant original urbanism which was irretrievably lost, or the cruelty to many of its elderly veteran residents, what was done to the Benny Farm resulted in the removal from use for twenty years, while the community fought over the very idea, 385 habitable, modern, family-sized apartments - built to high standards that were only 40 years old.

These were then subjected in series : to demolition and expensive replacement, some with somewhat higher density buildings; some with lower density homes. The majority of the remaining buildings were subjected to expensive, unnecessary, modernization, the curse of sensible historic and socially valuable building conservation.

All of this work was highly subsidized by taxpayers.

Sensible practical concrete proposals to keep the 1946 buildings and to add to the density of the site with one or more higher-rise buildings, in the relatively large open areas of the site, were stonewalled, falsely criticised, and serially refused, despite the obvious public profits that would have resulted. Moreover, there were many overwhelming, convincing, disinterested, expert opinions that supported these conservationist proposals.

Demolish the Old Pen like The Benny Farm - Bad Example !

Keep the Old Pen ! Save the Saint-Vincent de Paul !

Never Forget The Old Benny Farm –

Or what it could have been !

The author, with others, submitted many offers to purchase the Benny Farm over a period of years. The objective was to make the minor renovations to bring the buildings to code, and to sell them to a series of Resident Co-operatives as was done in a project of identical buildings in the Petite-Patrie and as was done in Milton Park and elsewhere. One or a few higher-rise buildings could have been built on the relative open space of the original urban plan.


latest posts

The LaFontaine House and the Man

The LaFontaine House - the essential witness to our memory - slated to become condos for some people. Is this the best we can do ?

Windsor Station

New Buildings on and around the Windsor Station site –


The Status of Listed Buildings in Any Municipality

Omar Khadr