Department Description
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History of Traill College

Traill College has a long and special history as part of Trent University. It is the home base for the academic departments of English, Cultural Studies, Media Studies, and Modern Languages and Literatures, the School for the Study of Canada as well as graduate programs in Cultural Studies (PhD), English (Public Text MA), History (MA) and Theory Culture and Politics (TCP MA).

Primarily consisting of a collection of old houses of architectural and historic significance, it has a beautiful location near the downtown core of Peterborough. Traill is also home to The Trend, a vibrant café with regular operating hours.

Located snugly near the cleft of Peterborough’s downtown core, Traill College marks the point at which the past and the present intersect within the university and the greater community. The college was founded in 1964 as one of the two original colleges in the university, each named for early settlers in the area. Catherine Parr Traill was a noted botanist and writer responsible for crafting many significant texts in nineteenth century Canadian literature. The houses follow a similar theme and are each named for a noted female pioneer.

A look at the houses and their namesakes:

Kerr House is located at 299 Dublin Street and is thought to have been constructed as a cottage around 1853 by tinsmith Thomas Hutchinson. At that time the house was very small. In fact, what is today the Alan Wilson Reading room was, in 1853, the entire house. The house was later purchased in 1870 by Edgecomb Pearse who added the brick work to the cottage creating the house which we see today. The house passed through a couple of generations of the Pearse family to their descendents the Kerr Family, who lived in the house until the University acquired it in 1971. Kerr House is now the home for the School for the Study of Canada.

Stewart House was built in 1870 at 292 London Street. Not much is known about its history before 1965, when it was acquired by the university. The house itself is named for Frances Stewart who settled in the area in 1822. She like her good friend Catherine Parr Traill was a naturalist and writer. The Stewart family were in fact one of the first families to settle in the area when it was still called Scott’s Plains. It was the Stewarts who suggested that the area be called Peterborough to honour founder Peter Robinson.  

Crawford House is named for another writer, Isabella Valency Crawford who settled in Peterborough in 1869. Following the death of her father, Crawford published several books of poetry and a few novels, most of which have faded into obscurity. Crawford House was built at 310 London Street in 1877 to house an insurance business which, if you’ve ventured into the basement of the house, explains the large walk-in safe. The attic rooms are the stuff of legend amongst members of the college for their unbelievably panoramic views. Crawford House is the home of graduate programs in Cultural Studies, English, History and Theory Culture and Politics (TCP).

Scott House Very much the college’s centre piece, Scott House was constructed in 1882 at 305 London Street, for Thomas Robinson. Since then, the building has been home to Adam Hall, a stove maker; G.A. Macdonald, former head of Quaker Oats; Vincent Clementi, an Anglican priest; and George Cox, a former mayor of Peterborough. In 1896 Cox was appointed to the Canadian Senate by then Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier. In 1964 the house was purchased by Trent University and given the new name Catherine Parr Traill House. At that point the house was occupied by twenty young women and the college’s first Principal, Marion Fry. Shortly thereafter the house was renamed Scott House to honour Jeanette Scott, a daughter of a famous settler in the area, Adam Scott. Master planning architect Ron Thom designed additions to the house including the West Coast-inspired Senior Common Room and the Dining Hall, which is now a multi-purpose room. Scott House is the home of the College Office, the Principal's Office, the computer lab, the Junior and Senior Common Rooms, and the Departments of Cultural Studies, Media Studies and Modern Languages and Literatures.

Wallis Hall was completed in 1968 when the university bought the property for the college. As were most of Trent’s buildings, Wallis Hall was designed by master architect Ronald Thom. The building is named for Katherine Wallis, a Peterborough native, who was born in 1860 and went on to become an artist of some repute. The building’s name also honours Colonel Hugh Wallis, one of the original sponsors of the university. Wallis Hall is the home of graduate student offices, The Trend, and the Department of English.

Bagnani Hall was designed by Lett Architects and was opened in March 2010. The building was designed to be respectful to the vernacular of the other buildings of Catharine Parr Traill campus with the buildings exterior materials matching to that of materials and colours of Wallis Hall. The spacious entrance hall continues into the Bagnani Room, where a selection of artefacts from the world-famous Bagnani Estate are on display, including a 1910 Bechstein baby grand piano. The building also includes a state-of-the-art lecture hall that holds up to eighty people. Bagnani Hall honours the legacy of Gilbert and Stewart Bagnani, former instructors at Trent.

Fry Lodge was originally purchased in 1966 during the first wave of Traill expansion on London Street. Dr Marion Fry, who originally resided in the Catharine Parr Traill House (later Scott House), would later move into this space. The Lodge was used as accommodation for the principal until the 1990s. Since that time, it has been a much sought-after office and seminar space, notably for former Cultural Studies Canada Research Chair, Dr Davide Panagia and also as the offices of the Trent Daycare. It is currently the home to the Trent Community Research Centre.