Description of Historic Place
The Riverside Consolidated School consists of a three storey wood shingled building constructed in 1905, situated on a large schoolyard bounded by a branch of the Shepody River and Water Street in the Village of Riverside-Albert.
Riverside Consolidated School Provincial Historic Site is recognized for its architectural and historical significance that represents an important movement in public education and the valuable community contributions of local benefactor Abner Reid McClelan (1830-1917), a former Canadian Senator and Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick from 1896 until 1902.
At the turn of the 20th century, “consolidation” of Canadian rural schools was seen as a solution to the problem of inconsistent education levels in some rural areas. Due to the influence of Montreal tobacco millionaire Sir William MacDonald, who advocated and funded the establishment of consolidated schools with manual training and domestic science throughout Canada, the idea of consolidation took root in New Brunswick. Following MacDonald’s example, Senator McClelan donated $5000 (1/4 of the total cost) towards construction of the building, under the condition that the school provide manual training, household science and nature work that included individual student gardens.
The school was designed by the distinguished architect Watson E. Reid (1857-1943) who was born and raised in Harvey NB, and who was residing locally at the time. He hired local Sackville contractors H. Copp and Dixon to carry out the work.
Riverside Consolidated School is an example of progressive educational development in New Brunswick, strongly reflected in the building’s architecture. The structure has maintained most of its original finishes and detailing. The school is still active and although it no longer houses the upper grades, it is the oldest consolidated school still in use in the province.
Source: New Brunswick Culture and Sport Secretariat, Heritage Branch, Site File # 72.
Key elements that define the heritage character of this site include:
-the setting of the school building on its large school yard, with its formal frontal orientation to the street, and the layout of the schoolyard relative to the Shepody River;
- unimpeded views of the surrounding townscape, countryside, and Shepody Bay;
- the exterior building materials & design including : stained wood shingles punctuated by wood trim window surrounds and corner boards, capped by a 4’-0” high band of vertical wood siding painted white under the roof eave;
- the cut stone, broken course foundation made of red sandstone quarried nearby in Midway and New Ireland;
- the building’s mix of horizontal and vertical elements that express the exterior volume. Horizontal: the strong and level cut stone foundation encompassing the entire base of the school; the thin wood trim lines at the base of the shingles and at the ¾ mark of the first and second floor windows; the vertical siding band below the roof; and the strong bracketed eave. Vertical: The tall classroom windows with slender proportions; the corner boards; the central projection capped by a gable dormer, one tall brick chimney; and the high roof peak;
- the separately labelled “Boys” (west) entrance and “Girls” (east) entrance;
- the subtle, yet picturesque qualities of the Queen Anne Revival style in an academic application, evident in the school’s use of windows of various shapes and sizes (including a Palladian window in the upper roof gable), various types of wood siding and trim throughout, front and side entrance Tuscan pilasters supporting simple cornices at the side and fanlight carvings at the front entrance, and decorated roof overhangs;
- the exposed structure within the building itself, which includes the basement’s stained turned wood columns with capitals supporting the main floor beams;
- the built-in wooden plant stands at the intermediate stairwell landing windows;
- relatively intact and well-maintained interior spaces; including the front vestibule, the hallways and stairwells, classrooms, basement and auditorium spaces. All of which exhibit medium stained hardwood railings, banisters, mouldings and doors;
- unique spatial qualities of the auditorium/gymnasium on the top floor within the roof/dormer space ;
- the decorative stamped metal tile ceilings in each of the main floor classrooms, boasting a different pattern in each room;
- the school’s archival collection of original furniture and items used throughout its past including: manual training workbenches, long domestic training tables, textbooks & readers, pamphlets, class photos, and various memorabilia.