Description of Historic Place
The handsome Brandon Normal School, with its adjoining modern addition, occupies a prominent site in south Brandon. Built in 1912-13, the two-storey brick structure is surrounded by expansive grassed grounds, large stands of trees and a long circular drive to its north. The provincial designation applies to the buildings and its large site.
The Brandon Normal School, an expressive Neo-Classical-style building designed by Provincial Architect Victor Horwood, is one of four original teacher-training institutions built in Manitoba between 1903 and 1913 and the only remaining one outside Winnipeg. Established to serve the needs of southwestern Manitoba, the Brandon facility was instrumental over three decades in preparing teachers to work in rural environments. Also important is the school's connection to its long-time principal, Benjamin J. Hales, an educator, author, naturalist and founder of the B.J. Hales Museum of Natural History, now part of Brandon University. The facility has continued in educational use, for a period as the Manitoba Agriculture and Homemaking School and, since 1959, as an Agricultural Extension Centre.
Source: Manitoba Heritage Council Minutes, August 7, 1985
Key elements that define the heritage character of the site include:
- placement of the structure on an east-west axis on the north side of Queens Avenue, with the closed front entrance facing south, north entrance facing Hill Avenue and adjoining addition on the west side
- the spacious grassed grounds with large trees on three sides and the long formal driveway and sidewalk off Hill Avenue
Key elements of the Brandon Normal School's classical design include:
- the building's simplified rectangular shape, flat roofline with low parapet, flat wall surfaces faced with light brown brick, symmetrically composed north facade with projecting pedimented frontispiece, heavily rusticated stone foundation and lintelled rectangular-shaped door and window openings
- the structure's linearized grid pattern of horizontal and vertical lines, including a stringcourse that encircles the building at the second-floor level, the continuous sheet-metal cornice, stone sills and quoins at the corners
- the classical detailing, especially in the decorated pediment which presides over the north facade, the pediment above the main door which is wreathed, bracketed and broken, the decorative globed light fixtures that serve to highlight the entrance, etc.
- the one-storey south-facing solarium with a tall brick chimney
Key internal elements of the school's character include:
- the symmetrical floor plan arranged along a central axis with four entrances and wide hallways that lead to a central octagonal rotunda
- the efficient division of space into two large classrooms, laboratory, private teachers' suites modified for business offices and reading room and library used as a large meeting room on the main floor; wide staircases on the west side and the second-floor landings; the upper-storey classrooms, home economics room and large assembly hall; and the basement gymnasium, classroom, caretaker's quarters, mechanical rooms and lavatory
- the richly decorated public spaces with panelled ceilings, quarter-cut oak wainscotting and door surrounds, east-side marble-tread staircase and wrought-iron balustrade, terrazzo floors, the vaulted ceiling and proscenium arch over the stage in the assembly hall, the reading room brick fireplace, etc.