Description of Historic Place
The Elora Junior School is located at 75 Melville Street and is situated on the northeast corner of Melville and East Mill Streets, in the former Village of Elora, in the Township of Centre Wellington. The two and three-storey rubblestone building was designed by architect John Taylor and Principal David Boyle and was constructed in three stages, from 1856-1874.
The property was designated, for its historic or architectural value, by the Township of Centre Wellington, under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act By-law 2002-25.
The Elora Junior School is associated with school Principal David Boyle. The school has served the educational needs of the Village for 140 years. The present building is the product of 80 years of construction and renovations, undertaken to meet the current needs of the community, while working within the constraints of tight budgets.
One of the greatest contributors to the school's history was David Boyle, Principal from 1871 to 1881. A Scottish immigrant and blacksmith, Boyle continually sought to improve himself and to inspire his students. Like some others of his time, Boyle shunned the then popular style of rote teaching. Instead he stimulated students to learn, by using examples of the world around them to discover and understand the principles of mathematics and science. Boyle was also responsible for the integration of courses for boys and girls. He believed that women were fully capable of understanding scientific and mathematical subjects.
With the aid of his students, Boyle created the Elora museum in the school. It contained a large collection of archaeological specimens, minerals, books, manuscripts, curiosities, and other artefacts which Boyle used as teaching aids. By the time he left Elora in 1881, the museum was attracting visitors from around south-western Ontario and some from overseas. After moving to Toronto, Boyle became Curator of the Canadian Institute Museum, in 1884, and of the Ontario Provincial Museum (later the Royal Ontario Museum), in 1886.
With the construction of a new high school, in 1959, the entire building reverted to a public school. The school closed in 1996, and at that time the original Girls School portion was likely the oldest active school building in Ontario, while the 1939 addition, was the last three-storey school structure in Wellington County.
The Elora Junior School is believed to be the last rubblestone building constructed in Elora. The Girls School (located at the southeast corner of the present structure) was built in 1856, and ten years later the connecting Boys School was built to the north. It was not until 1871, when boys and girls education was integrated, that a second floor was added to the Girls School. By 1874 the north wing was added and the former Girls School became a High School. The structure, designed by architect John Taylor and Principal David Boyle, was comprised of five classrooms and Boyle's renowned Elora Museum.
Sources: By-law 2002-25, Township of Centre Wellington; Reasons for Designation: Elora Public School, 27 February 2002.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Elora Junior School include its:
- 1939 addition, as the last three-storey school structure in Wellington County
- irregular plan and massing due to a number of additions and renovations
- coursed rubble construction
- gable roof
- plain returned eaves
- original 6 over 6 and 4 over 4 windows