The house on 233 Carlton street had a long history. It had been constructed in 1874 by the Oblate fathers and was one of the first places where Mass was offered in Winnipeg. The famous missionary, Fr. Albert Lacombe, was the first pastor of the chapel, which was named St. Mary’s. Its upper levels served as living residences for priests and missionaries, where Bishop Taché, Archbishop Langevin, and Fr. Lacombe once stayed.
When a larger church was constructed, this building became the priests’ rectory until it was moved to its location on Carlton street where it became known as Providence Shelter, first under direction of the Grey Nuns, then the Sisters of Providence of Kingston, Ontario. When the Sisters of Providence moved to a new building, the old building stood empty.
Then in September 1939, Archbishop Sinnott sent a letter to Fr. Celestin Joseph OFM: “I have a large house here alongside the Cathedral. It was formerly used for an orphanage and it accommodated 40 children… What I would like is that the Franciscans would take it and use it for closed retreats. Moreover, it would be a centre whence the Fathers could radiate to give retreats, triduums and missions.”
The Franciscans embraced the invitation and thus St. Francis Friary was established in Winnipeg. From 1939 until 1959, the Franciscans carried on the legacy of this historical building at 233 Carlton street until they moved into a new church and friary at 211 Edmonton street in 1963.