Once standing proud at the corner of Moore and McIntyre Streets in St. Thomas, Ontario was the old Alma College for Ladies.Initially chartered in 1877 as an independent girls' school, Alma College had a goal to "promote the spiritual and educational growth and development of young women from around the globe." Even to this day, the College has international alumni from London and Toronto and even as far as Australia, Hong Kong, British Columbia, Mexico, the Carribbean and Japan.
In 1803 Colonel Thomas Talbot received a large grant from the Crown in what is now Elgin County but during the war of 1812 many settlements that were formed in this area were burned and ravaged by American armies. In 1844, the village had grown to 1,000 people including many businessmen and professionals and in 1852, Elgin County was separated and St. Thomas was incorporated as a village. The village began to grow and In 1861 St. Thomas was finally incorporated as a town.
"By the mid 1870's, St. Thomas was an enterprising and industrious town set in a prosperous county. Eight railways passed through with their long lines of freight and passenger cars. A small group of able physicians had set up the first medical centre in the province that became eventually the nucleus of the Medical School of the University of Toronto. Farmers brought their fruit and vegetables and dairy products to St. Thomas markets and flour mill and creamery. There was a bustling retail trade. Eight churches kept their fingers on the spiritual pulse. St. Thomas was a young ambitious town aspiring to become a city. A ladies college for the country of Elgin would most certainly add to its prestige, and put St. Thomas firmly on the map."
On October 11, 1876, it was proposed by Bishop Carman that a ladies college be established in the prospering town of St. Thomas. In 1877, the planners called the new school, "St. Thomas Ladies College" until it was formally named "Alma College" by Sheriff Colin Munroe who wanted to name it to honour the passing of his late wife Alma Munroe and also their daughter, Mrs. J.D. (Alma) Munroe Duffield.
The College colours were also chosen at the same time and represented the three branches of the school's curriculum: Literature was blue, Art was gold, and Music was crimson.
In April of 1877, the newly formed College Board put out a call for the design of the school and received 20 submitted plans from architects. It was a man named James Balfour from our very own Hamilton that won the competition. The contract for the actual construction went to Henry Lindop of St. Thomas and with all the requirements, was estimated at a total cost of about $50,000.
May 24th, 1878 marked the day that the cornerstone of Alma College was laid and it took only three years after this for the architect's plan to take form into an imposing building. Two months following this, in October of 1881, the brand new Alma Ladies College officially opened. The grounds featured a main building, a chapel, a hall, and a unique outdoor amphitheatre. The Victorian Gothic exterior of the front facade and the two flanking side facades make this structure unique in the City of St. Thomas.
Today, the only remaining grounds that remain are part of the main building itself, the chapel and the ruins of the amphitheatre which can still vaguely be seen carved into the walls of the small ravine.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 28, 2008:
Back in 2005, we we had hopes for Alma College. Sadly, just after lunch time on Wednesday, May 28, 2008, the gorgeous building went up in flames.