Father Myrand’s connection to Lowertown started in a house on St. Patrick Street, near the Cathedral. His father, Jean Baptist Myrand, worked as postmaster with the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada and after Confederation performed the same tasks with the Senate of Canada. Myrand took great pleasure in telling people that he was ordained in the same place where he was born, the building having become, by 1892, the Monastery of the Sisters of the Precious Blood.
Monsignor Joseph Alfred Myrand, circa 1940After Myrand was appointed parish priest (curé) to Ste-Anne’s in 1903, he made the parish a central part of francophone and Catholic activity, not only in Lowertown and Ottawa but also in the wider provincial and national sphere. In addition to building the new rectory, he oversaw renovations to Ste-Anne’s church and the construction of a new Ste-Anne’s hall. Along with the ongoing religious focus, this complex of buildings provided space for ferocious political meetings and gentler cultural events. Education was a big issue for Myrand and he was a major participant in the protests against the Ontario provincial government’s Regulation 17 (Règlement 17) ordering that French as a language of instruction cease after the first two years of schooling.
It was in the rectory that Myrand provided advice to parishioners on personal and church matters. This was where baptisms, marriages and deaths, as well as the success of the newly formed neighbourhood caisse populaire were discussed. It was also the place where he hosted visitors from outside the parish. Henri Bourassa, Quebec nationalist leader, visited before he gave an inflammatory speech on the issue of Regulation 17 at Ste-Anne’s Hall. Lionel Groulx, well-known Quebec priest and historian, stayed at the rectory during Ottawa visits when researching the experience of francophones living outside Quebec. He described Myrand’s residence as “the echo chamber where all the political and ecclesiastical news reverberated.”
In March 2015, with the assistance of architectural historian Shannon Ricketts, the Lowertown Community Association succeeded in getting City Council approval for a heritage designation of this building. The Ste-Anne Rectory is described as “a two-and-a-half storey, rectangular plan, Beaux-Arts style building” with notable architectural features that include a “raised main façade, pedimented main entrance with a double-height portico and paired giant Corinthian columns, gable dormers, and an arcaded balcony on the west facade.”
This landmark building survived the 1960s urban renewal plan that saw long-time parishioners forced out of the area. It is currently home to the National House of Prayer. The designation of the former rectory along with the earlier one for Ste-Anne church (now the home of the St. Clement parish) commemorate francophone tenacity in this eastern part of Lowertown. The particular story of this imposing building is also closely tied to the legacy of Joseph Alfred Myrand, who lived here until his death in 1949 and made it a hub of religious, social, cultural and political thought.