125 Years at 3475 University Street

For many people affiliated with Dio through the years, their memories are shaped by the college building at 3475 University in downtown Montreal—an architecturally impressive Victorian-era building full of meaning and memory. This fall, on October 21st, the college community marks 125 years in this building.

The building was the gift of A. Frederick Gault, a prominent Anglican businessman in the city. Gault was a long-time supporter of the college. Fifteen years earlier, as the college was just getting off the ground, Gault had purchased an existing building on Dorchester St. (now Boul. René-Lévesque) on the site of what is now the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. But the college soon outgrew

that and a larger building, closer to McGill, was deemed necessary. In early 1895, Gault offered to build a new building and by autumn of 1896 it was complete. On October 21, 1896, Anglicans and other Christians from Montreal and across Canada gathered to dedicate and celebrate the gift of the new building. 

Though there was much to celebrate, the day was also overshadowed by sadness. Just the previous day, the long-serving principal William Henderson had died after 18 years in the job. In his comments upon opening the building, Gault himself commented on the parallels to the pascal mystery: “We open our new life consecrated and solemnized by death.” 

Dio has gained neighbours in the last 125 years. Montreal High School moved into its landmark neoclassical building on the south side of the college in 1915 and the Presbyterian College was built on the north side in 1962. Throughout this change, the building has remained a place of education, community, and worship for the whole college community. Even after the sale of the building to McGill University in 2008, Dio continues to occupy the building and use it for its original purpose. 

Gault’s gift was probably too large for what the college needed, which means that since its opening Dio has often welcomed others to share its space. This includes a large number of McGill undergraduates through the years who remember their time living here with fondness. It has also been a place for the United Theological College to find space when needed. During World War II, the RCAF used UTC’s building at the corner of Milton and University and UTC moved into Dio. UTC sold that building in 1965 and moved back into Dio for a nearly a decade. It seems only appropriate that as we celebrate the 125th anniversary of this building in 2021, we also welcome UTC back into our building as part of our new strategic alliance.  

The generosity of Frederick Gault continues to support our ministry. Pandemic restrictions mean that we are unable to mark the occasion in person at the college. But we look forward to 2023 when we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the college as a time when we give thanks for those who have come before us and look forward to the next century and more of ministry in this place.