Ferryland's Convent House getting spruce-up

·3 min read

A committee founded in 1995 to restore Ferryland’s Holy Trinity Church has in recent years set their sights on the adjacent Convent House.

“Any heritage building, whether it’s a private dwelling or a convent or a commercial building, deserves a consideration for restoration if possible,” said The Holy Trinity Church (Ferryland) Restoration Foundation Inc board member Keith Mooney, who also said there were really only two options to consider.

“Either the building had to be demolished, or it had to be repaired,” said Mooney.

So, in 2017, the committee acquired the property from the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation, and has applied annually for provincial funding through the Job Creation Program (JCP) and Community Enhancement Program (CEP), both of which help cover costs of salaries for workers, to complete the needed exterior work.

“With employment opportunities low in the area, it was an opportunity to avail of some funding and create some employment, and also restore the exterior of the old convent,” said Mooney.

Some residents in the community have raised questions about what the building will be used for in the future, so much so that Ferryland Mayor Sean Walsh addressed the issue over social media in August.

Saying that he had been approached by residents on numerous occasions about the property, he clarified that the Town is not invovled in the restoration process, and that any “questions, concerns, ideas, complaints” should be directed towards the group.

As a resident, I believe the work done has greatly improved the look of the building. The town council and individual councillors have no authority with respect to the Convent. As Mayor of Ferryland I have no say or power over its rehabilitation,” concluded Walsh.

John Paul is one such resident who has raised questions about the restoration process.

“What are they going to use it for? What benefit is it to the people?” askes Paul.

Another resident who has raised concerns is former councillor Madeline McCaul.

“It would be nice to get some answers and know what’s going on with that convent down there,” said McCaul, who said that she hasn’t been able to get a clear answer on how much funding the convent receives annually.

The Shoreline asked about funding on two separate occasions, and the committee could not provide an amount. However, The Shoreline did confirm that the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Municipalities approved $38,193 under the Community Enhancement and Employment Support Program in 2020 for Holy Trinity Church Restoration Foundation Inc. in Ferryland for renovations to the former convent.

Mooney did say that the JCP and CEP funding is the committees only source of funding income.

As to what the building may be used for in the future, Mooney said that no decision has been made, but did state emphatically that it would not be made into a money-making venture for the committee.

“There’s no plan for the restoration committee to move into a commercial operation… we’re a restoration committee; we’re not interested in delving into a commercial operation,” said Mooney, who said that community groups may be interested in using the building as well.

The original convent was built in 1858,and the present structure was built in 1914.

The Presentation Sisters who lived there taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as Latin, French, commercial courses, art, and music, and where well-respected in the community. When the Convent closed it’s doors in 1986, a special appreciation ceremony was held for the Sisters.

“There were a number of convents along the Southern Shore, and they all played a significant role in people’s lives,” noted Mooney.

Shortly after, the building was reopened as a bed and breakfast, the Downs Inn, which operated for a number of years before closing down shop.

After the Downs Inn closed the property sat vacant for a number of years, until it was conveyed to the Restoration Foundation in 2017.

Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News