For some Lowertown residents, the tall apartment building at 160 Chapel will always be associated with an era of hippies and “sex & drugs & rock & roll.” But when construction of the 22-storey cooperative college and residence was announced in 1969, it was promoted as a positive social and educational experiment.
Named after Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827), a Swiss educational reformer whose motto was “Learning by head, hand and heart”, the college’s aim was to support development of all aspects of a person. The emphasis was on group learning through participation in activities that supported intellectual, moral and physical improvement. In addition to providing housing, the facility provided spaces for subject matter such as history, literature and philosophy as well as artistic activities including photography, dance, ceramics, video and music.
Pestalozzi College at Rideau and Chapel 1972 Russell MantEarly proposals indicated that the building was designed to promote an innovative and progressive internal community that related closely to the larger external Lowertown community. Spokespeople saw the possibility for the Pestalozzi model to act as a catalyst for change at a time when the surrounding community was undergoing urban renewal.
Commoners’ Publishing, which later produced the Lowertown short story written by Norman Levine, got its start at Pestalozzi College as a community- oriented organization for local poets, writers and photographer. Johanne McDuff, then working as a freelance photographer, later an award-winning journalist, used the college facilities to produce her photographs for the book.
Despite the lofty intentions, Pestalozzi fell quickly into financial distress and by 1979 was sold to a private realty company.