A Canadian Historic Site in St. Raphael’s, Ontario

Latest News

Glengarry Fencibles Trust Saves the Bishop’s House!

On March 31, 2016, the non-profit group Glengarry Fencibles Trust took possession of the historic Bishop’s House from the Catholic Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall. Built in 1808, the house is among the oldest and most historic buildings in Ontario, and is an element of the celebrated St.Raphael’s Ruins National Historic Site.

The deal came after 11 years of campaigning and negotiating by the Fencibles to ensure the preservation of the grand, three-storey stone house, built in 1808 by Rev. Alexander Macdonell, parish priest of St. Raphael’s in the early 1800s and later first bishop of Ontario.

Restoration — following two decades of neglect and an effort to demolish the building — has been ongoing since 2016. With your help, its adaptive reuse as a thriving cultural and conference centre will happen.

It’s great news for the Bishop’s House, great news for St Raphael’s and Glengarry County, great news for the cause of historic preservation everywhere!

Historical Significance


Ontario's First Bishop

This is the home of Ontario’s first bishop, Rev. Alexander Macdonell. It was the bishop’s centre of operations for more than a quarter-century.

Ontario's First College

The Bishop’s House housed the first institution of higher learning in Ontario, the College of Iona (1818).

The Warrior Bishop

Rev. Alexander Macdonell was military chaplain in battle in Ireland in 1798, and in Canada in the War of 1812.

"Canada's Greatest Chaplain"

CCHA Vol. 65 (1938-39)

National Importance

A leader in education and promoter of immigration, Macdonell was named a “National Historic Person” in 1924 for his outstanding and lasting contributions to Canada. He is Glengarry County’s one and only National Historic Person of Canada.

Most Boards off Now!

In April 2015, at the same time as the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall applied for a demolition permit for the Bishop’s House, the windows of the venerable building were boarded up.

Since taking possession of the House on March 31, 2016, local charity Glengarry Fencibles Trust has done much to renew interest in what was an overgrown, seemingly derelict building.

Not only have we let light into most of the windows again, but we have also replaced the roof, removed unsympathetic alterations from the interior, completed extensive landscaping, and restored original lampposts.

In addition, the gracious front veranda and the balcony immediately above have been restored, and the dilapidated additions on the rear, removed. (The local heritage committee approved their removal as these 1930s/1980s additions had little heritage value.)

Ongoing projects include the continued restoration of the 1826 dry stone wall; mansard, masonry, and window repair; and repainting of the exterior’s heritage metal work.

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