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

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Gala Dinner: Memories of Iona

The Glengarry News, page 7 April 24, 2019 By Inez Franklin North Lancaster     The Glengarry Fencibles Trust is delighted to report that the April 13 Gala Dinner in support of The Bishop’s House restoration project was a memorable success. Creative collaborators Tish...

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Glengarry Fencibles Trust Saves the Bishop’s House!

An agreement was reached August 14, 2015, between the Catholic Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall and the non-profit citizens’ group Glengarry Fencibles Trust by which the Trust has acquired the historic Bishop’s House in St. Raphael’s, Ontario. The house, built in 1808, is among the oldest and most historic buildings in Ontario, and is an element in the celebrated St. Raphael’s Ruins National Historic Site.

The deal comes 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.

Glengarry Fencibles Trust took possession of the Bishop’s House on March 31, 2016. Restoration — following two decades of neglect — has begun. And — with your help — the great house will become a vital part of the community again.

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.

Help Take More Boards Off!

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 many 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, other projects are ongoing with your help: drystone restoration of the curved 1826 retaining wall, repair of the gracious front veranda, and removal of poorly designed, dilapidated additions on the rear of the stone house. (The local heritage committee approved their removal as these 1930s/1980s additions have little heritage value.)

Thanks to your continued help, generations for years to come will be able to use and enjoy this landmark!

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