House of Providence
Photos by Alan L Brown - Posted May, 2008
Photo Source - Toronto Public Library Digital Archive
Just south of St. Paul's Basilica, which is located at the corner of Queen Street East and Power Street, is this set of two 2007 Heritage Toronto plaques that tell us about a house of charity. Here's what they say:
Coordinates: 43.655391 -79.362960
Once one of the city's largest centres of charity, the House of Providence stood nearby for over 100 years. It was initiated by Toronto's Roman Catholic Bishop, Armand-François-Marie de Charbonnel, in response to the plight of the desperately poor, including many Irish immigrants. To provide shelter and food for those most in need, de Charbonnel enlisted both the help of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the generosity of the surrounding community. Operated by the Sisters, the House of Providence opened in 1857.
Nearly always filled to capacity, the House of Providence would eventually quadruple in size to provide for about 700 residents, including the elderly, the unemployed, orphans, widows, and newcomers to Canada. Some stayed only a few days; others, for years. At its doors, daily meals were given out to the hungry, particularly during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The House of Providence was demolished in 1962 to make way for the Richmond Street exit from the Don Valley Parkway. It was by then a home for the aged, and its residents moved with the sisters of St. Joseph to Providence Villa and Hospital, a new facility located at St. Clair and Warden Avenues, and known today as Providence Healthcare.
Here are the visitors' comments for this page.
> Posted January 28, 2017
I was at the children's village for many years from 58-64. There were many other kids maybe close to twenty kids in our dormitory. This is where I was taught lessons, to eat soap for swearing, have to take a bath after wetting my bed. I had to undress in front of a number of nuns then I had to climb three small stairs to get in to the bathtub that was on a pedestal or had to smoke a box of cigars for stealing staff cigarettes and catching the pets dog house on fire but there was an Angel that worked there overnights (Betty Crawford) that treated me like she cared and help to teach me to sew using a sewing machine. She got permission to take me with her family to the beach (Muscleman Beach), brought me a bicycle and taught me to ride it. She was the best medicine for me at the time. Then the CCAS of Toronto decided to move me to Warrendale Treatment Centre. Life as I understood was done. I lost my friends, my mother figure and hope again till one other child came from the village, Tony Duplessis, to Warrendale Treatment Centre giving me some comfort in knowing I was not alone. CCAS then decided I needed to moved again to Browndale, Brownscamps, Viking homes. In the end it took an angel to help me, aka my better half, to give me the support to grow and learn to trust and love again. I now live in Northern Ontario on the north side of a small lake enjoying life due to my great family. Funny thing is this small town is where my father (he did not acknowledge me as his son) was born in the 1920s. I found my mother and grandmother. They both acknowledged me for 20yrs till their passing and two wonderful sisters. Life is more full now with grandchildren 18-10-2yrs old plus more to grow with healthy family roots to support our Loved ones!! Best regards to all.
Douglas J Gareau firstname.lastname@example.org
> Posted January 2, 2017
I'm Patrick Grisbrook of Scarborough, and I attended Sacred Heart Children's Village in 1973 and 1974. I recall the old building on St. Clair Avenue, just steps away from Warden subway station. I would describe the Village as a part orphanage, and part reform school. It was an all boys live-in school, ranging in age from about 8 to age 14. The 2 dormitories were called East Cottage and West Cottage, with each dorm housing about 25 boys. These 25 boys were broken into 4 groups based on their age. If memory serves, my West Cottage named the groups (youngest to oldest) Astronauts, Cowboys, Diamonds, and Cobras. My fondest memories of the Village were the trips our group would make to the Dairy Queen ice cream shop, just down the street on Pharmacy Avenue. In the summer, there were many hikes through the nearby Warden Woods. The Village had a full-sized swimming pool and gymnasium, where floor hockey was a favourite of mine. Our group also went to see a few movies at the Golden Mile theatre, including "Blazing Saddles" and "Benji." I read where some students shared stories of abuse during their time at the Village. I found the staff to be mostly understanding, and ready to handle a student's outburst quickly. A schoolboy pin usually put a stop to any act of aggression by a student. As for the other abuse, I personally was a little leery of some older boys, but not of the staff. The old building at St. Clair and Warden is gone now, but the memories live on. The following is a list of roughly 40 names of students and staff that I can recall from Sacred Heart Children's Village. I knew I was being sent there to straighten up, and these people would play a role in that process. I'll apologize in advance if any names are misspelled. ( I couldn't spell so good in 1974) Among the staff were ... Dave Smails, Christie Welch, Donna Johnson, Donna Heir, Gunta Stirrus, Anver Garter, Marie Ottenhough, Bill Arbothnott (music teacher) Austin Dale (teacher) Dougall McDonald (social worker) Sister Edna, Murray Chambers (office staff). Some of the students were ... Robert Hayes, Ricky Jones, Raymond Marshall, Chris Kaloss, MIke Plunkett, John Kawczynski, Arthur Northcott, Paul Callaros, Brian Woodgate, Anthony Cadman, Jeff Dietsch, Steven Taylor. David Wideman, Jerry Perrin, Ron Mahonn, Bobby Cowan, Robbie Patton, Roger Foster, Brian Weldon, Kent Gouette, John Reddy, Todd Olmstead, Randy Gauthier, Stuart Landis, Kevin Beck, Peter Rose, Norman Maskell, George Zelles, John Skelton, Robby Playfoot, Jay Noble. Thank you for letting me share.
Patrick Grisbrook email@example.com
> Posted December 19, 2016
My name is Larry Clancy. I lived at Sacred Heart Children's Village in the early to mid 50s and have fond memories of the nuns, property farm, buildings and other children who were there. I was in the senior dormitory. I remember Sister Bonaventure whose brother Eddie Sanford played for the Boston Bruins hockey team. I think she was the only girl in that large family. Sister Bernadette was another sister I recall. I remember the chapel where I was an alter boy and served mass for the nuns. I remember the large dining room where we had our meals. I remember a boxer I think his name was Ezzard Charles who came to visit the boys there. I remember Tom Bardget the sports coach. I think the orphanage housed juniors, bantams and seniors. They were big dormitories with some smaller rooms. I felt very safe and secure in the time I spent there. It's sad to hear they tore it down. Even though some of us who didn't come from good families or like some who never knew their family, there were some of us who were survivors. I always look at life where there's others who were a lot worse off than we were. We had a roof over our heads and 3 square meals a day. Trying to make something of myself in my years after I left there was not an easy road. It had many bumps, but life is what you make it and I'm still trying my best to live my life to the fullest. My motto is "Live every day like its your last". Hopefully all the boys who were there when I was got through life with little bumps in the road but finally found themselves and have a happy life.
Larry Clancy firstname.lastname@example.org
> Posted July 23, 2016
Hi. My name is Michael Wilson and I lived at Sacred Heart Village from 1954 to 1962. There is not a day goes by in my life that I don't think about the time I spent there. Would love to hear from people that were there then. I now live in Edmonton and am on Facebook. My phone number is 780-934-4889. My address is 18015 -73ave Edmonton.t5t 3k2. Sorry I don't know how to do e-mail.
> Posted April 1, 2016
I also was abused in this orphanage. I don't remember much but I do know it wasn't nice and it was a time in my life that I would like to forget. Maybe others that were there would like to contact me. I was there in the late fifties early sixties.
Grayling Malaterre email@example.com
> Posted December 29, 2015
I was at Sacred Heart Children's Village in 1952-1956 at 3275 St. Clair E. I remember the sisters as well as the kids that was there as well as Hurricane Hazel. Looking back, the nuns where saints.
> Posted July 2, 2015
I was in SHCV from 1967 to 1969. It was a time in my life that I did not understand why I was there. All I knew was that it was a safe place to be. A place that was away from being beat with a belt. I do not know if any of the sisters are still around from that time but thanks for their understanding in knowing what I needed at that time in my life. I am now 57 years of age and enjoying life here on the west coast of Canada.
> Posted June 22, 2015
I was in the Sacred Heart Village (orphanage) in Toronto when I was very young. I don't remember much. My name at that time was Grayling Baldwin. I was put in different foster homes with the Catholic Children's Aid Society until I was a teen. I was wanting some information about my stay there. Is there any information around. I am 58yrs old so it would possibly be around 1960 or so. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. It has been many years and I was hoping to contact people who were in the orphanage at that time. Thank you for any help you could provide or contacts that might have information.
Grayling Malaterre RSW/ICAS1V, Clinical Supervisor, Isuarsivik
> Posted February 15, 2015
Such a beautiful building! The good works of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto also spread to our City; Peterborough, Ontario. In 1890 some of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto came to Peterborough to operate the new St. Joseph's Hospital. In 1900, the new House of Providence opened in Peterborough adjacent to the Hospital and local patients previously looked after at the Toronto House of Providence were transferred back here. The history of the Hospital and House of Providence here in Peterborough can be read here in pdf.
R. Gary Carey, Resident of Peterborough, Ontario.
> Posted March 10, 2014
I was in Sacred Heart as a troubled and in trouble child. Things only got worse when I was abused by one of the head counsellors there. Wonder if any other boys were also abused there. Seems to be a main theme for kids in the 70's who were under any sort of care by older males. Though I must include that I do remember quite a few nice staff there as well.
> Posted March 25, 2013
I remember well the care and guidance given to me by the counsellors and nuns during my two year stay at Sacred Heart Children's Village. That period of my life was well spent; it altered my direction for the better and I have absolutely wonderful memories of my time there. The facility was torn down sometime around 1995 in favour of housing; a part of me felt great regret and sadness knowing that it (SHCV) no longer exists on that cliff overlooking the ravine across from Warden station. May God watch over each and every soul that ever worked there, that still exist in this life today, for their efforts to help those young ones that needed direction during a confusing and often overwhelming period in their lives.
> Posted January 6, 2013
I feel that I have been searching forever for information on my Father George Arthur McCarthy born May 20th, 1901 to Elizabeth McCarthy who lived in the House of Providence back in the early 1900's. Mt Father was admitted to Sacred Heart Children's Village in Sunnyside Oct 31,1906 - 6 years old - discharged Aug 17,1907. Re-admitted April 10,1908 - discharged Sept 10, 1909 to his grandmother-name unknown. I believe his Father's name was Patrick Hallagan who also lived in the House of Providence. I feel that the people that I have contacted over the last 20 some years were not of any great help. I have decided to try again hopefully with more luck that last time.
Patricia Cardy firstname.lastname@example.org
> Posted September 27, 2012
I remember the generosity and care given by the nuns and the staff to everyone who ever came to their doors or to their kitchens for help, not a soul was ever turned away. They gave love with every bowl of soup.
> Posted September 26, 2012
A boy I went to school with, but younger than me, was sent to Sacred Heart which was across the street from Providence Villa. I thought it was for children with problems, not an orphanage. When I was in Grade 8, we had to bring gifts and we took them down to Power Street to the House of Providence - it may have been a nice building at one time but I remember it being dark and scary. I'm sure the St. Joe's nuns were happy to move to Warden and St. Clair. My Grandparents were among the first residents of Providence Villa as it was called in the '60s; now my mother is there...maybe I'll be next.
> Posted January 31, 2011
I wasn't even born when it was demolished. It shocks me that a building like that was torn down in favour of a street! I'm truly shocked that people would go and do that.
> Posted November 30, 2010
I used to go to the House of Providence with my grandmother Maud Whibbs & parents when I was a little girl in the 1950's. We would go to visit Sister St. Lucien who not only taught my mother, but also taught me in grade one at St. Paul's RC School. My grandfather who was deceased 3 years before I was born, was from Indian River down by Peterborough. His family had a blacksmith business there. His parents were from County Cork, Ireland & they came from Ireland to the Peterborough area around 1832. My grandfather George Whibbs owned his own barber shop at 160 King St. Toronto. I lived with my grandmother & parents at 35 Seaton St. I sure wish her house was still there, but it was demolished decades ago in favour or a big apartment building.
Mostly sincerely, Sue C.
> Posted April 24, 2010
There used to be a Boys' Orphanage across the street from the Providence Villa. I know that houses now exist on the property. At one point, Providence Villa owned all the land from Eglinton down to the Danforth, From Warden to just where Heron Dr, and the Jewish Cemetery are. My mother lived at Presley Ave and St. Clair Ave. E., right on the corner, and she used to raid their apple trees. My mother used to go visit with the people at the house over the street, just in front of the Orphanage. The man that lived there with his wife and son, used to do the maintenance on the grounds of both Providence Villa and the orphanage. I wonder how many boys remember the place, or want to.
Old Scarborough Resident.
> Posted April 10, 2009
I worked at Providence Healthcare that is now located at Warden and St. Clair Ave East in Scarborough ON. It truly is a great place with friendly and caring staff
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