The Villa Saint-Martin was the first retreat house in Canada to offer facilitated or preached retreats. Retreats began between 1910 and 1913 at the Villa’s first location in Boucherville, QC. The retreat centre then moved to Laval. It took its name from the parish where it was located. In these years following its foundation, interest grew dramatically in this style of retreat and by the 1950’s, the Villa had welcomed over 100,000 retreatants.
The Villa Saint-Martin moved again in 1953 when the provincial of the Jesuits at the time purchased property from the Ogilvie family, owners of a flour milling company in Montreal, to expand the retreat centre’s mission. The original house was constructed around 1900. It is a fine example of masonry with Scottish seigniorial style architecture. This neo-gothic architectural style was born in Scotland in the early 19th century and was popular until the First World War.
The new mission targeted businessmen and professionals, and the alumni from various Jesuit colleges. The goal was to assist them in deepening their faith so as to live it more fully in their daily lives.