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May 26, 2022

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Providence Academy garden to get fresh look

By , Columbian staff writer
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A concept rendering shows the planned "Aegis Phase II" portion of a project to rehabilitate the Providence Academy building and redevelop part of the campus. The plans for the proposed garden expansion are only conceptual, but the Sacred Heart Garden that sits in front of the academy will be preserved.
A concept rendering shows the planned "Aegis Phase II" portion of a project to rehabilitate the Providence Academy building and redevelop part of the campus. The plans for the proposed garden expansion are only conceptual, but the Sacred Heart Garden that sits in front of the academy will be preserved. (The Historic Trust and Marathon Acquisition & Development) Photo Gallery

A revived and expanded garden will grace the front of Providence Academy in Vancouver. The 148-year-old building is owned by The Historic Trust, which submitted plans to the City of Vancouver for the garden area, as well as parking lot improvements.

“Having a redesigned garden space will make it overall more accessible to the public and also improve the aesthetics associated with the academy,” said Holly Chamberlain, historian with The Historic Trust.

“We want there to be areas where people may want to have ceremonies, where people may want to have some quiet contemplation or people may want to throw a Frisbee,” said Chamberlain.

Historically, a large area including a heart-shaped garden sat in front of the building. That area, called the Sacred Heart Garden, was designed by Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart in 1876. The historic Providence Academy building was built in 1873 by Mother Joseph, a nun who came to Vancouver from Montreal, Canada, with four other Sisters of Providence nuns. The academy served as an orphanage and operated as a school until 1966.

“It should be remembered that this form in the shape of the Heart was given in tribute to Jesus, Marie and Joseph,” read the Providence Academy Vancouver Chronicles in 1885, which was kept by the Sisters of Providence. The document was translated from French, explaining why Marie is not spelled Mary.

“We will be doing work to preserve that site and interpret it to the memory of Mother Joseph,” said Chamberlain.

The trust hopes to create an area that flows with the historic reserve on the other side of the freeway, hoping visitors can enjoy the historical connections between the sites.

In addition to the Sacred Heart Garden, the Sisters of Providence also had space for other gardens, play areas and a tennis court. Most recently, a restaurant was located in that area and it’s now a gravel lot. The landscaped area in front of the academy will return to its historic size.

The area will include planting beds, pathways and gathering spaces, according to the documents submitted to the city. A portion of the garden is being designed in honor of Ed Lynch, one of the founders of The Historic Trust, and his wife, Dollie. Ed worked diligently to save Providence Academy, said Stacey Graham, interim president and chief executive officer at The Historic Trust.

Apartments are being built west of the historic building. Future upgrades are also planned for parking at the academy. In the project’s first phase, a parking lot expansion will increase the academy’s southeast parking lot to 92 stalls, including 53 standard spaces, six of which will be accessible, as well as 39 compact spaces.

There is also a plan to connect the parking lot in phase one with an adjacent Aegis mixed-use development, part of which is still under review by the city.

A second phase would allow improvements to a small currently gravel parking lot on the northwest corner of the 3.41-acre property. Both this improvement and the connection to the Aegis development are contingent on Aegis development’s second phase getting approved by the city.

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