Description of Historic Place
The property at 477 Main Street South, known as the Rockwood Academy, is situated in the community of Rockwood. The three-storey stone building was designed in the Georgian style and was constructed in 1853.
The property has been held in trust for the citizens of Ontario by the Ontario Heritage Trust since 1986. The property is also designated by the Town of Rockwood (now Guelph-Eramosa Township) under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (Bylaw 08-81).
Located on Main Street South at the south end of the community of Rockwood, the Rockwood Academy's contextual setting is significant. Originally a rural boarding school, the presence of many trees and a rural setting is maintained despite the encroachment of the town around it. The sloping topography of the site is gently incorporated into the building.
The Rockwood Academy is significant for its association with early education in Upper Canada, Quakers, teacher William Wetherald and artist Yosef Drenters. William Wetherald (1820-1898), a Quaker from Yorkshire, England arrived in Upper Canada with his family in 1835. Having studied at the prestigious Quaker school of Ackworth in Yorkshire, he became a teacher in 1843. In 1850, Wetherald founded the Rockwood Academy according to Quaker education rules, at a time when the public school system was still developing, in Upper Canada. The three-storey stone school building was built in 1853. The school operated until 1864, under Wetherald, and accommodated up to 60 students. In 1864, Donald McCaig and Alexander McMillan purchased the school and in 1867 added two wings to accommodate a store room, gymnasium, a large classroom and extra dormitories. McCaig and McMillan operated the school until 1882, when it was closed, due to the increased acceptance of the Ontario Public School system. Prominent students of the Rockwood Academy included the Honourable A.S. Hardy (Ontario's fourth Premier from 1896-1899), Sir Adam Beck (founder of the Province's Hydro-Electric system) and James J. Hill (railway magnate). The building was used as a woolen mill for a few years, before being left vacant until 1900, when the Gordon family bought it, for use as a farmhouse. In 1960 Yosef Drenters (1930-1986) purchased the property and spent twenty years restoring the building, and using it as an art studio. In 1986 the Ontario Heritage Trust acquired the building from Drenter's estate.
The Rockwood Academy is an example of Late Georgian architecture. The limestone walls are laid in random rubble with rough cut quoins. The symmetrical five-bay façade has double-hung six-over-six wood sash windows with a central door distinguished by a portico and a transom window and sidelights. The low-pitched cedar-shingle gable roof is punctuated by numerous small brick and stone chimneys. The Academy was divided into private quarters for the school master's family, living quarters for the boarding students, and classrooms. In the main block the dining room and drawing room still exist. The owner's bedrooms are also still in existence on the second floor, as are the student's bedrooms, on the third floor. The south wing still contains the classroom below the student bedrooms. The west wing has never been altered and contains a carriage house, on the ground floor, with a gymnasium above. The large doors to the carriage house have wide arches and rough-cut voussoirs.
Many original interior elements, such as the wide plank floor boards, door and window surrounds and plaster walls, remain. Exposed wood beams in the ceilings and random rubble walls define the gymnasium, while the drawing room has a carved wood mantle and high baseboards. The cultural collection of the property contains many early examples of Canadian furnishings dating from 1818-1885, including a library bookcase, dish dresser, cupboards, clock shelf and sofa.
Archaeological excavations were carried out in 1987 yielding 1,077 artifacts. The artifacts, which date from the 1840s to the mid 20th century, include fragments of glass, earthenware, a comb, a ring, coins, a spoon, hinges and bits of boot-leather. Artifacts were also found that relate to the site's function as a school, such as pieces of slate, inkpot fragments (one intact) and pencil ends.
Source: OHT Easement Files.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Rockwood Academy include its:
- symmetrical five-bay façade
- portico over the central door (1960s reconstruction)
- low-pitch gable roof with cedar shingles
- eave returns
- double hung six-over-six sash windows
- limestone random rubble walls
- rough-cut limestone quoins
- voussoirs over the carriage house doors
- covered carriage-way between the main building and the carriage house
- wooden window sills
- main floor centre-hall plan
- wide plank floors
- door and window surrounds
- carved mantle salvaged from a local house
- detailed banisters
- high baseboards
- siting of the building and its incorporation into the topography
- rural setting, including trees