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A century at Loyola: then and now

Loyola Campus turns 100 — and is set for the future
April 28, 2017
By Julie Gedeon

André Roy, dean of Concordia’s Faculty of Arts and Science, enjoys a distinctive perspective from his office on the Loyola Campus. His workplace in the Administration Building is one of his favourite spots at the university. “It’s the ability to connect the past to now and the future that makes me really appreciate this space,” Roy says. 

Loyola Campus 2017

“The century-old architecture and elaborate woodwork have me imaging the echoing steps of the Jesuit teachers walking the corridors to their classrooms and residence,” he adds. “Yet when I look out my window across the courtyard I see the Centre for Structural and Functional Genomics Building, for example, and envision what a difference the scientific research being done at this campus will make to our future.” 

That future will see the Loyola Campus enter its second century, as it celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016-17. The Jesuit college’s first buildings on the west-end Montreal site opened in the fall of 1916. Since then, the campus has evolved as an educational and cultural hub that has maintained a distinct character in harmony with its now primarily residential surroundings.

On the farm

After becoming an independent institution in 1896, Loyola became incorporated as a college by the Government of Quebec to provide a classic curriculum in English, although it maintained French as a vital component. The Jesuits, led by Father Gregory O’Bryan, arranged for 42 acres (17 hectares) of farmland to be purchased from Arthur Décary in 1900. The newly acquired property — a long but pleasant 8-km horse-and-buggy ride from the city — remained agricultural for more than a decade as funds were amassed for construction. 

In 1912, when it became clear there was no longer enough space in their Drummond St. building, the Jesuits decided to begin transforming the “Loyola farm” into a campus. 

Loyola College Review, 1934 Loyola College Review, 1934

Father Thomas J. MacMahon, the new rector, wanted buildings inspired by the great English universities. “That’s why the original structures have such an Oxford character to them,” says Miriam Posner, BSc 74, MBA 89, manager of Planning and Academic Facilities for Concordia’s Faculty of Arts and Science. Posner has worked at the university for more than four decades. 

Instead of designing one building, the architects respected MacMahon’s vision “to follow the modern English tendency towards separate buildings for each department, to connect these buildings to cloisters and treat the quadrangles thus formed as lawns and flower gardens,” as T.P. Slattery, BA 31, outlined in the Loyola College Review’s June 1915 edition. 

The Jesuits sought architectural language consistent with their buildings in other parts of the world, a collegiate style that reflected their affinity with their European and American colleagues. 

Work proceeded in stages to accommodate a limited budget. The first two buildings, the Refectory and Junior Building — home of the high school — were the first to be constructed between 1913 and 1916, along with the first two storeys of the Administration Building. 

Slattery, who also wrote Loyola and Montreal: A History in 1962, described the new college and grounds as manifesting the rector’s taste in every way, despite others wanting greater frugality exercised: “For example, the magnificent solid oak doors of linen-fold design leading to the chapel, offices and parlours on the main floor of the Administration Building, although luxurious for those difficult days, are now valued as prized possessions.” 

Protecting this valuable architecture forms part of the current renovation of the Administration Building. “We need to preserve our heritage,” Roy says. “However, we’re also creating more natural light to make it a brighter space and to reflect the value of transparency embraced by our faculty and staff.”

Loyola Campus, Fall 1968 Aerial view of the Loyola Campus, Fall 1968 showing maple trees planted as memorials to the Loyola boys who died in the Great War. Photo: Richard Arless Associates. P013-02-01

War years

Back at the start of the First World War, however, the greater thrift sought by others was raised once again as the college entered a dire financial period with so many young men sent off to Europe. The rebuilding only resumed in 1921 with the second phase of the Administration Building, and was eventually completed in 1927. 

All the maples now lining both sides of Sherbrooke St. in front of the campus were among the 36 originally planted in 1922 as memorials to the Loyola boys who died in the Great War. One more was added a year later when another Loyola war fatality was discovered. Nearly 300 students and alumni had served in all. 

Appointed in July 1918, Father William H. Hingston had only been the new rector for a few months when he watched students leave their classrooms for military service. The limited construction immediately after the war focused on completing a covered stadium in 1924. It attracted more of the community that was already making use of the outdoor fields and ice rinks for sporting activities. 

A generous donation by Francis C. Smith, a 1917 graduate who took the required vow of poverty upon entering the Jesuit priesthood, permitted the replacement of a small original chapel with the new large chapel and auditorium designed by architect Henri Labelle that opened in 1933, providing a place of worship for English-speaking Catholics. The chapel continues to be a place of ecumenical worship as well as other events. 

The post-Second World War years saw Loyola’s college and high school enrolment boom. The 160 per cent increase in college population was attributed in good part to Loyola expanding its curriculum to include a Faculty of Sciences in 1940. The need for additional space, including student accommodations, led to the construction of the Central Building in 1944 in the original campus style to join up the Administration Building, Refectory and Junior Building.

Katherine Waters Katherine Waters was the first woman to teach at Loyola.

Modernism arrives

Loyola’s modern age began with the establishment of the Faculty of Commerce in 1948 and the introduction of several major specialization programs, starting in 1953. In 1959, a few night courses were introduced and female students were admitted for the first time. That same year, Katherine Waters became the first woman to teach at Loyola. The English professor caused quite a kerfuffle when she ventured to borrow some coffee cups from the college dining room. The Jesuits in residence made it clear their eating quarters were still off-limits to women. 

The Drummond Science Complex, opened in 1961, heralded an era that broke away from Loyola’s original type of architecture in favour of modern structures that could be built with less money and time to create space for a burgeoning student population. The windowless rotunda facing Sherbrooke St. caused the most consternation. 

Yet function trumped form in those years. Cement and steel were largely replacing brick-and-mortar structures everywhere in North America at that point. Steel beams facilitated building structures with much larger rooms that could be divided with temporary interior walls as required and later opened up again.

Rapid changes 

Mary Baldwin, who became an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, started her career at the former Science Library in the Drummond Science Complex in 1962. She witnessed many changes over the next 34 years. “Loyola used to be a small, intimate campus where you knew quite a lot of the people from other faculties,” she recalls. “Jesuit fathers still taught many of the courses, and the Loyola High School boys were still floating about campus. There were a lot more trees and, of course, fewer buildings.” 

It would be another two years — 1964 — before Hingston Hall was built as a student residence and the Georges P. Vanier Library opened with space for 150,000 volumes and 600 library users. A later $8.5-million extension and renovation doubled the library’s seating and shelf capacity by 1989.

The Bryan Building was constructed in a record seven months and opened in early 1968 to house the communication arts and psychology departments and some biology facilities. The Department of Journalism would be situated there when it started in 1975. 

Bryan Building in 1968 Loyola's President, Patrick G. Malone, S.J., and Arthur F. Mayne at the official opening ceremonies of Loyola's W.X. Bryan Building.

An increasingly active 1960s student body led the college to plan a dedicated building for them. The Loyola Campus Centre opened six years later sporting hip orangeand- brown furnishings, with funds raised partly from alumni and student contributions. 

Baldwin recalls the rampant changes of the mid-1960s into the early 1970s. “More of the Jesuit teachers were retiring and the student population became much larger and more diversified,” she remembers. 

The 1990s began with two major changes. The Department of Psychology moved into the former Loyola High School, and thanks to a $4-million campaign, the 570-seat Oscar Peterson Concert Hall opened its doors. The hall features variable acoustics to satisfy different uses and often holds events of interest to the greater community.

Tight-knit campus

Miriam Posner Miriam Posner, manager of Planning and Academic Facilities for the Faculty of Arts and Science, began working at the Loyola Campus soon after graduating from the last class of Sir George Williams University in 1974.

Posner has a special relationship with both campuses, being from the last graduating class of Sir George Williams University in 1974, just prior to its merger with Loyola to form Concordia University. With a degree in biochemistry, she was offered five jobs on the same day, yet immediately became enchanted with the Loyola Campus upon her first real visit there. 

“To be honest, I didn’t really even know where it was,” she admits. “I had driven past it and wondered about the building with a tower, but didn’t know what was there, let alone how wonderful the campus is.” 

Posner recalls picnic-table lunches and enjoying watermelon on hot days atop the Drummond Building. “Even today, there’s more of a tight-knit community at Loyola because there are fewer places to venture off campus for lunch or coffee,” she says. “Although it’s changed a lot, it remains the same in some good ways.”

Major revitalization

However, the Loyola Campus entered an uncertain period in the years before the millennium. Posner credits Lillian Vineberg, BFA 83, for heading a task force in 1997-98 that recommended a revitalization of the campus. Vineberg also oversaw some of that renewal as chair of Concordia’s Board of Governors from 1993 to 2003.

The university’s Master Space Plan 2000-2015 has since opened a new chapter for the campus, introducing an impressive slate of facilities for the sciences, preventive healthcare and research, as well as other studies. (See “Loyola today” below.)

“Loyola is attracting some of the world’s brightest young faculty because they recognize that the campus and the university have become an important hub of multidisciplinary scientific research,” Roy says. “The surrounding community is also slowly recognizing the increasing role that this campus is taking in promoting overall health and wellness.”

Community engagement

André Roy André Roy, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, is a strong proponent of the Loyola Campus. He reports that a new project will help keep the local community aware of the campus engagements. “There are many lectures, café discussions, public gardening opportunities and wellness activities that we need to promote better.”

For instance, the dean headed the creation last year of the Beyond Disciplines event series to promote an exchange of information and dialogue among the humanities, social sciences and science sectors within the Faculty of Arts and Science ( beyonddisciplines.) 

“The events seek to foster a sense of curiosity and community by inviting participants to discuss a wide variety of timely topics — from gene editing to the role of our senses in research,” says Elisabeth Faure, the faculty’s communications advisor. “By inviting the community at large to attend these events with Concordia’s faculty members and researchers, we hope to share our academic project within and beyond the university’s walls.” 

Roy hopes to see more such community engagement as Concordia makes its Loyola strengths better known. “I also wish for every student to have the opportunity to take at least one course at Loyola during his or her studies in order to experience this more contemplative and community-oriented space, and to interact with another segment of the city,” he adds. 

He expects Concordia to become better recognized over the next decade on the strength of the groundbreaking, multidisciplinary research and innovation taking place at Loyola. “I would like Concordia to become a world-leading game-changer over the next century in a way that makes both our university and the City of Montreal proudly stand out on every map,” he says.

Concordia and Héritage Montreal are working together to establish a regular tour of the Loyola Campus to make its iconic buildings more familiar to Montrealers and visitors to the city.

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