Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Save our Schools

On one face, the 1919 Thunder Bay Technical Institute
they don't make 'em like they used to
ACO has long been active in attempts to save historic school buildings. The winter 1989/90 issue of ACORN (part of my dumpster discovery) is devoted to the Provincial Save our Schools Coalition and its conservation efforts on behalf of some very worthy buildings with great history.

Our summer 2011 camping trip to Lake Superior provided one photo day (unfortunately, it was the only rainy day on the trip, so this empty school looks appropriately glum). This astonishingly grand building  is the 1919 Thunder Bay Technical/Collegiate Institute. The building occupies a complete block - extra space needed for all this architectural grandeur! We found it interesting that the technical school opened on one street, the collegiate institute on the opposite side of the building, a block away. Was there a wall, a 'class structure', halfway through to separate the tech boys from the uni types?
The other side of the building, The TB Collegiate Institute

Old schools are vulnerable. We DO want kids to have warm shiny classrooms, with all mod cons, which results in those 'judgement of Solomon' moments. Why do we have to have them at the expense of lost heritage?
1915 Brighton Public/High School
2011 Brighton PS - photo from Board website

Despite determined activity by members of the East Northumberland ACO, the 1915 Brighton school (above) was demolished last year, and replaced by a shiny new school with some interesting stylistic echoes.

I worry a lot about this empty school, Trenton Collegiate Institute. Built in 1917, its library was frequented in the years between 1933-36 by no less a reluctant student that Canada's beloved poet Al Purdy. It was here that he retreated into the library, a habit of self-education he continued throughout his peripatetic life.

Despite this distinction, we all know school boards' reluctance to continue responsibility for redundant infrastructure. Watch this space.

And the little one-room school-house at the bottom? Folks who visit the blog may remember my old school, S.S.#3 North Marybsburgh, where I toiled through Grades 1 to 8 with the indomitable Miss Eaton. Interestingly, the shiny new consolidated school near Lake on the Mountain, which replaced it, has been empty for years, itself supplanted by the cheaper alternative of school-buses to town.


  1. I think (and I bet you do too) that you were very lucky indeed to have eight years with Miss Eaton and your classmates from the neighbourhood in that lovely one-room schoolhouse. I am deeply envious.

  2. Trenton Collegiate is saved! It's a school once more - I work there. It's now an ESL school called Horizons Secondary School. (Their main branch is in Toronto.)

    The building is in pretty good shape. We're in the process of cleaning it up, but classes are in session. :)

  3. Trenton collegiate institute is well taken care of within the last year. Put more than 20K to upgrade the interior for recovering its glory. Nice and pretty! Good to see the historic continuity!