Description of Historic Place
Laura Secord Elementary School is located at the southeast corner of Lakewood Drive and East Broadway, in the Kensington-Cedar Cottage neighbourhood on Vancouver’s east side. The building is a two-storey (plus basement), red-brick-clad school. The main block was designed on the ‘barbell’ plan and built between 1913 and 1928, with its principal facade facing Lakewood Drive. Classroom wings flank a central core.
A brick gymnasium (1979) and a classroom wing (2001) are located south and east of the main building, creating a courtyard and the sense of a small campus. Large grassed playing fields and an adventure playground lie east of the school. The 1.31-hectare property is well defined, with formal curbs, concrete retaining walls, steps, fences, and plantings.
Laura Secord Elementary School has heritage value for its architecture, history, and the many associated stories generated by staff and pupils. Representative of many Vancouver schools, its construction in 1913 is linked to population growth during Vancouver’s tremendous expansion in the years preceding World War I. Substantial relative to the neighbourhood, the school was designed to enhance the status of public education and to promote the good taste of Vancouver and its citizens.
The evolution over time is representative of many schools. One of eight similar schools designed by School Board architect N.A. Leech, Laura Secord Elementary School opened in 1913 with eight classrooms and was intended to be built in two stages. The design has strong decorative elements, with patterned brick on the main facade. The completion of the second stage in 1926-28, to designs by Vancouver School Board architect F.A. Barrs, is built of less robust materials, reflecting taxpayers’ insistence on economy. Substantial renovations were made in 1957. A community building/gymnasium was added in 1979 and a new classroom wing opened in 2001.
Laura Secord Elementary School has value for features that represented good school design. The earlier parts created spaces that were fireproof, well lit, and well ventilated, to promote health and safety. The school has standardized furnishings, reflecting that schools are the product of society’s decision to organize public education with bureaucratic systems. The enduring belief in the role of the school in the community and the importance of supervised play is seen in the construction of the first auditorium/gym in 1926 and the new community building/gym in 1979. Students from the 1970s remember participating in shaping their physical environment: they planted trees along Broadway and Lakewood Drive, worked with the playground designers, and turned the sod for the new gym.
Heritage value is also found in the associations that former students, parents, teachers, and neighbourhood residents have with the school. The strength of these associations has been expressed by frequent reunions. Following the 75th reunion (1988), an alumni association and newsletter were organized and thrived for years as the ‘only alumni association for an elementary school anywhere in Canada.’ Events such as the Christmas Concert and Sports Day stand out in student memories. Many remember teachers for their ‘special’ talents. Some teachers spent much of their career here, including a principal, Mr. Ramage. Former students’ achievements are diverse, including homemaking, atomic researcher (Muriel Wales), and Provincial Premier (Dave Barrett). Student memories and teachers’ careers bind the physical place with the neighbourhood and individual histories; this forms part of Secord’s heritage value.
Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
The character-defining elements of Laura Secord Elementary School include:
- sloped site that translates into a variety of entrance conditions
- corner location in a single-family residential content on a busy thoroughfare; set back from the street
- tradition of use as a school
- form, scale and massing, as expressed by symmetrical form, barbell plan and commanding scale
-dual pitched gables with bargeboards
- concrete foundation, masonry construction and some cinder block walls
- yellow brick diamond patterning, projecting decorative corbelling, wide entrance staircase with metal handrail to the second floor, standard issue signage ‘LAURA SECORD SCHOOL’, double wooden-paneled door at the front entrance with nine panes and fixed five-paned transom and original hardware, ventilation panel in the gables, continuous sills, decorative projecting pilasters between fenestration
- fenestration: recessed double-hung multi-pane sash, functioning hopper transoms, fixed nine-pane windows in basement
- general: intact spatial configuration, high ceilings (some coved), generously proportioned wood paneled doors with wood surrounds, glazing and single pane transoms, high baseboards, large central hallways, bell system and clocks, public address speakers and exposed mechanical systems
- classrooms: millwork including built-ins, slate boards and their surrounds, cloakrooms with original hardware, benches and storage
- gymnasium/auditorium: clerestory windows, standard issue wall-mounted metal gym equipment, dressing rooms with built-ins and fixtures, original stage with stair access on either side, spot wells and storage underneath, designated equipment room and signage: ‘SHOES MUST BE WORN ON GYM FLOOR’
- stairwells: curved walls, wooden handrails, newel posts, banisters, twin bevelled detail on walls above the handrail and natural light in stairwells via bank of triple assembly multi-paned windows
- basement: padding on structural columns to meet health and safety requirements, ‘tuck-room’ with Dutch door and built-in shelving, doors with step-downs and metal handrails, children’s games in the poured concrete floor and bench attached to the wall
- other: fireproof projection room with heavy fireproof door between twin flanking staircase on main floor, kindergarten room with independent bathroom on main floor, deep interior window sills in staff room that has district wide 50’s XXX upgrade millwork and hardware, sub-grade boiler room with fireproof utility door, some original plumbing fixtures
- perimeter of evenly spaced coniferous and deciduous trees, metal flagpole, covered play areas, multiple street entrances with a variety of entrance conditions because of the gently sloped site, ‘line up’ numbers 1-22 along north retaining wall on athletic field, at-grade children’s games (ie. hopscotch)
-school additions feel more residential in scale, but imitate features of the 1913 building, such as sash windows, built-in teachers’ storage, cloak area, bank of windows in stairwells to maximize daylight