Sadleir House: a history

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Sadleir House is a student and community facility located at 751 George St North. It’s the largest house on the block between Barnardo and Parkhill and has its own bus stop.
Sadleir House is owned by the P.R. Community & Student Association and operated by a Board of Directors that is made up of more students and community members, as well as a group of dedicated alumni and student staff.

Sadleir House is funded largely by a levy from each full-time undergraduate student at Trent, as well as community donations. Because of this we like to remind students that Sadleir House is your house, and because of its policies, it can only be what the community makes it.

Sadleir House has a rich and unique history and is an integral part to understanding how Trent University has crafted its identity. Sadleir House was one of the first buildings purchased during the founding of the university. Founding President Thomas H.B. Symons purchased 751 George Street North alongside 300 London Street (now Scott House) to establish the university’s downtown campuses.  Ron Thom, Master Architect, designed Sadleir House’s link, which is a mid-century modern addition that was used to bridge the main house and the renovated coach house.

This bridging of Victorian and modern designs is largely representative of how Trent was originally envisioned. Professor Symons’ vision was an institution that followed the college system and allowed the community to flourish between faculty and students in shared academic and living spaces.

In the initial press release announcing the development of the downtown colleges, Professor Symons said that he saw them as a permanent part of the university, despite the plans to move forward with the development on Nassau (now Symons) Campus. He believed that even in the early 1960s, residential living spaces were lacking for university students, and these downtown colleges—as well as the twelve planned for Nassau—would always be needed.

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Sadleir House, initially named Peter Robinson House, stood as the lively centre of Peter Robinson College for 37 years. The Peter Robinson campus grew to include Abbott House (754 Water St), East Lodge (748 George St), Reade House (741 George St), Stratton House (740 Water St), The Cottage (733 George St), North House (755 George St), Denne House, and the Townhouses. PRC’s community was incredibly vibrant, and its pub The Jolly Hangman was home to a thriving music scene. Many alumni fondly look back on days in the dining hall at events like Jazz Goes to College. Despite the love that student and faculty had for PRC, it was not destined to live on permanently in its initial form.

In 1999, the Board of Governors made the controversial decision to close and sell Peter Robinson and Catherine Parr Traill Colleges. This decision was challenged by the university Senate and met with outrage from the community. Three PRC faculty members filed a judicial review that was not successful in blocking the sale of Peter Robinson College. In 2002 Peter Robinson College was sold to the Moloney Project Development Group and the Townhouses were leased back to Trent for four years following. In March 2003 students voted to create a levy for a “non-profit, cultural and educational student facility,” and less than a year later the P.R. Community & Student Association was incorporated, and subsequently became the owners of 751 George Street North.

Eleven and a half years later, Sadleir House is still standing and looking better than ever. Sadleir House boasts a beautiful Senior Common Room that has a large amount of natural light and is open for use during all hours of operation. Sadleir House has free wireless internet access throughout, a coffee machine, a free lending library, three rentable spaces, and offices for various student and community organizations. It is hard to really encompass all of the things that can be done at Sadleir House, because the nature of the activities ebb and flow with the interests of students.

Currently, the Jolly Hangman has been revived with weekly Thursday night pub nights in the dining hall that can be booked at no cost. There is a variation of private yoga, bellydance, burlesque, and tai chi classes. Arthur, Absynthe, The Annual, OPIRG, and the Peterborough Student Co-operative—just to name a few—are all found throughout Sadleir House.

If none of those things draws you in, the architecture should. Sadleir House stands as a great representation of Victorian architecture, mid-century modern architecture, and the great things students can create when they set out to make a change.
So stop by! We would love to meet you. If you would like to stay in touch, find us on Twitter and Facebook, or check out our website at sadleirhouse.ca.