Description of Historic Place
The Wilson Pugsley MacDonald Museum is a red brick, one-room, schoolhouse with a gable roof. It is dedicated to preserving the history of rural education, the heritage of the surrounding community, and the memory of poet, Wilson Pugsley MacDonald.
The Museum is an integral part of the vista of rural Selkirk, Ontario. The former City of Nanticoke, now Haldimand County, designated the Museum for its historical and architectural value through By-law 61-82.
In 1831, John McGaw, a local carpenter, donated land for a school. The school was a square frame, one storey structure with a cottage roof. Known as the McGaw School, it became a central feature of local life, not only for educational purposes but also for religious purposes: there were no churches, so Methodists, Baptists, and Anglicans all used the school as a meeting place. In May 1872, James Buckley transferred the ownership of a plot of land for a new school; the current one-room brick school was built on this land by local bricklayer John Goodwin. In 1991, adjacent to the museum, staff offices, a gallery, a gift shop, and exhibition space were built.
The museum is a memorial to Wilson Pugsley MacDonald of Cheapside, born May 5, 1880. Called by Albert Einstein “the greatest thing I have found in Canada”, MacDonald rose to fame with his 1926 collection of poems "Out of the Wilderness." He wrote satirical and religious poetry, as well as lyrical poetry which praised the unspoiled beauty of nature. He also wrote songs, operas, and plays. He died on April 8, 1967 of a heart attack in a Toronto hospital. The museum remains as a monument to his writings.
This red brick, one room school replaced a square frame structure. The new brick building consisted of one room with a small entrance facing south. There were no cloak rooms or washrooms until 1957, when the present frame with 2 doors, 2 cloak rooms, and a washroom were added. Just inside the classroom were shelves to hold lunch boxes. Under the shelves are rows of nails and hooks for coats, caps, and scarves. There is a raised platform across the front for the teacher. All of these features remain as they were in 1872. A large iron box stove sits near the middle of the room for warmth. The gabled roof with cornice returns has an open bell tower. The original bell, stolen in 1967 and returned in 1982, still functions. The west and east elevations had 3 windows each. All elevations are common bond (7 row stretchers, I-row headers). The north wall is a solid wall.
Source: Haldimand County Heritage Files, By-law 61-82
Character defining elements that reflect the heritage value of the Wilson Pugsley Macdonald Museum include its:
- small footprint, simple rectangular building of one room
- red brick construction
- original windows and the original bell tower
- date stone above main entrance
- cornice returns and roofline