Regiopolis College and the Brothers of the Christian Schools

Street Address: 130 Russell Street
Period: 1850 – 1900

In the 1830s, Father Alexander Macdonell, the first Roman Catholic bishop of Kingston, wanted a place where Catholic priests could be trained, and thus decided to create a college for this purpose. He donated some of his own money for this college to be built upon, and laid the cornerstone for what would become the first location of Regiopolis College in June of 1839. Funding for the construction of this college, however, was scarce, and Father Macdonell decided to travel to Britain to raise the funds necessary for the completion of the project. Unfortunately, he never made it back to Kingston, passing away in Scotland in January of 1840. The construction of Regiopolis College did continue, and two years later the college opened its doors, inaugurated by Father Rémi Gaulin, Father Macdonell’s successor. The building inaugurated in 1842 still stands, though it is used for a different purpose today: it has been a part of Hotel Dieu Hospital since the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph moved into it in 1892.

Courses were originally given by priests, and then, after 1848, by Jesuit Fathers. On January 28th, 1853, though, Father Patrick Phelan, acting for Father Gaulin whose health by this time had declined, asked for the bilingual Brothers of the Christian Schools to come to Kingston to aid in the instruction of the young men at Regiopolis College. Three Brothers were sent from Montreal, with Brother Rodolphus (Henry McGee) at their head, and began their mission a few days later. Two years later, their numbers increased with the arrival of two more Brothers from Montreal. The knowledge that the Brothers diffused to their pupils attracted Catholics and Protestants alike, but their popularity made one particular schoolboard in the region nervous. For this reason, the Brothers were asked to take a test to measure their abilities to teach their students, which they passed with flying colours. The Brothers’ first decade in Kingston ended on a slight hiccup with regards to their relationship with the Catholic diocese: though the Brothers had been on good terms with Father Gaulin and Father Phelan, Father Edward Horan, the fourth bishop of Kingston, gave them a few troubles, asking them to alter their teaching methods. This request upset one of the Brothers so much that he threatened that he and his Brothers would return to Montreal the summer of 1863. The bishop, however, was able to convince him to change his mind, and the Brothers remained in Kingston for another 30 years.

Regiopolis College still remained in a precarious financial situation, and, though the college was given the authority to hand out degrees in 1866, it was forced to close its doors merely three years after this, in 1869. The Brothers of the Christian Schools remained in Kingston, working at various other schools around the area, until they deemed their mission finished. They believed that the Jesuit Fathers could take over effectively, and returned to Montreal in 1893. A few years later, the doors of Regiopolis College reopened in a different location, but it was only a college by name this time: it served as a Catholic high school for boys. In 1914 it moved to its current location on Russell Street. Over 50 years later, in 1967, Regiopolis College merged with Notre Dame School for girls, becoming the coeducational school we know today.

Return to Francophone History Map