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History of Algonquin College


Algonquin College is named after the First Nations Peoples who first inhabited the Ottawa Valley.

The Ontario College system was founded as “a new level and type of education to serve those parts of the population whose needs were not met by the existing education system. Focused mainly on career-oriented education, colleges would create a system which would be a coherent whole”. (Ontario Dept. of Education, Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Basic Documents, 1967). Growth continued in the late 1960s, with “satellite” campuses in Pembroke, Hawkesbury, Perth and Renfrew.


Algonquin College Pembroke History


In 1968, a 14,000 square-foot space was leased to accommodate retraining programs in Pembroke.  Its location was 315 Pembroke Street East.


The Pembroke Campus graduated its first 101 students in 1971 and continued to expand its programming throughout the 1970s. By the end of the decade, the Pembroke Campus was offering full-time programs such as Forestry, Business, Electronics, and Nursing, with specialized courses in subjects as diverse as Old-Time Fiddling, An Introduction to the Bible, and Self-Reliant Lifestyles for the Whole Person – a reflection of both traditional and Woodstock-generation values that were present in the community at that time.

On the Pembroke Campus, the 1980s were years of optimism and growth that began with a 10 percent increase in enrolment, the subsequent purchase of the College facility, and the addition of new technology and community service programming.

The late 1990s saw the development of the new Outdoor Adventure programs to be delivered on the Pembroke Campus.

During the 2000’s and 2010’s, Algonquin College central and satellites, continued to expand and grow, continuing to renew its emphasis on applied, hands-on learning, as well as continuing to develop strong online and hybrid learning environments.


Sustainability has also been given a greater profile at Algonquin College, which attained LEED Platinum certification for the Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence (ACCE Building) and LEED Gold certification for the Algonquin Heritage Institute, located in Perth. The Robert C. Gillett Student Commons and the Pembroke Waterfront campus have also both received their LEED certification.


Algonquin College states in one of many publications that “The outdoors is our biggest lab.”  Students in the Forestry Technician program at Algonquin College benefit from Pembroke’s rich timber history and location in the heart of forestry mills and operations. Students participate in first-hand learning in winter and summer through their many field trips and visits to parks and forestry operations. Algonquin Park, Petawawa (National) Research Forest, Renfrew County Forests, and Shaw ‘Old Growth’ Woods are among the many parks and forests found nearby.

It is for this reason that when the new owners of the former College building on Pembroke Street East was bought in 2014, that a central theme of the purchase was to honour and continue the heritage of Algonquin College through the application of natural timber products throughout the building that will become the new home of two major components of this part of Ontario – Health and Fitness and Student Residences.  The various wood products are intended to reflect the heart and spirit of the new project where young people play a very important role in shaping the lives of us all and the future sustainability of all that is embraced in education, health and environment.


A New Beginning


Early in 2014, three independent business venturers became partners and purchased the vacated former Algonquin College building, the home and landmark of higher education in the Ottawa Valey for many years.  The idea first came to Jeffrey Weatherill, a business management professional in health care for many years who also is the President of West Champlain Healthy Community Corporation started almost 10 years ago in North Renfrew County, based in Pembroke.  The original pioneer and architect of the Ottawa Health and Wellness Centre on Mackay Street, he parted with the building to the Pembroke Regional Hospital, a health system partner of WCHCC, in April 2014.  Shortly before doing so it was decided by WCHCC Board that a move would be required to more affordable premises, in a downtown location, more convenient to the general public for the range of primary care and health and wellness services it provides in various ways and through different organizations.  Prominent ones include the West Champlain Family Health Team (sponsored in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care) and Robbie Dean Centre, a mental health organization it founded three years ago.


Thus a search of properties in the Pembroke and surrounding area led to identifying the former Algonquin College.  This is when two other business professionals came to the scene, and together formed 315 Pembroke Street Holdings Inc, to help preserve the building and its heritage value, and help together, to form a new beginning, a new future that would benefit the communities of the area as the College had in this location, and now continues in its new location off Lakestreet.


The property, located on Pembroke Street East is flanked on four sides by Pembroke Street East on its south side, Nelson Street on its North side facing the Ottawa River, Peter Street that runs its full length on the east side and the Courthouse on its West side.

The property was developed in many building stages over its life beginning with what we now call the South Wing on Pembroke Street East – 315 – and the North Wing on Nelson Street.


The South Wing will become the new home of West Champlain’s Ottawa Health and Wellness Centre where the Family Health Team including primary care physicians and allied health professionals will be located along with the Robbie Dean Centre and other related services to form a core of primary care and wellness services aimed at keeping people healthy and in good social being for the best of their lives.  But, then, this is another story to unfold in a separate web site.

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