Description of Historic Place
The Mount Hanley School Section No. 10 is located on its original site, on the east side of the Mount Hanley Road facing the junction with Brown Road. When travelling east on Brown Road, it can be seen for nearly a mile. This simple, wood frame, one room schoolhouse was built in 1850. The building and property are included in the provincial designation.
The Mount Hanley School Section No. 10 is valued becaue it is one of the earliest examples of the simple, functional design inspired by William Dawson's pamphlet, "School architecture - abridged from Barnard's School architecture." It is also valued because among those who attended the Mount Hanley School were well-known Nova Scotians Clara Belle Marshall and Joshua Slocum.
The first provincial education act to encourage school house construction by government grants came in 1808. At the time there were very few school houses. The act proved inadequate with Nova Scotian communities building only three new school houses province-wide. A joint committee of the legislature in 1825 recommended the abolition of the grant system and the adoption of a free school system. An act passed in 1832 and successive acts in 1841, 1845 and 1850 did succeed in encouraging school house construction. By 1850 Nova Scotia had an estimated 912 school houses.
In 1849, the government created the office of the Superintendent of Education. Under the urgings of Joseph Howe and George Young, William (named John William) Dawson accepted the appointment. Dawson was a graduate of Pictou Academy and the first British North American trained to be an exploration geologist. He was to remain as superintendent for only two years before going on to become Principal of McGill and a renowed scientist.
On taking up his duties as Nova Scotia's first Superintendent of Education, Dawson visited public school in the United States gathering information on curricula, normal schools and construction of school houses. Dawson was very much influenced by the American educator and reformer Henry Barnard's, "School of architecture," published in 1842. In 1850 Dawson published a pamphlet entitled, "School architecture; abridged from Barnard's School architecture."
In general he stated that a good school house should be creditable to the school district, attractive in external appearance and situation, and a model of neatness and cleanliness externally and internally.
Nova Scotian school trustees willingly adopted Barnard's one room school house plan. Dawson's pamphlet was almost certainly the inspiration for the Mount Hanley school house design of 1850.
Originally the school room had three rows of handmade wooden "Dawson" desks, following the instructions given in William Dawson's pamphlet. Several "Dawson" desks have survived and are on display in the school room. The teacher's desk was at the front of the room and the stove at the back. In 1888, the trustees replaced the "Dawson" desks with patent ones. Around this time they had three centre rows of desks removed and the stove moved to the centre of the room.
Two notable individuals who received their schooling in the Mount Hanley School are Clara Belle Marshall and Joshua Slocum. In 1884 Clara Belle Marshall became the first woman to graduate from Acadia University. Captain Joshua Slocum was the first man to successfully circumnavigate or sail alone around the world. On April 24, 1895, he set sail from Boston, Massachusetts. More than three years later, he returned to Newport, Rhode Island, on June 27, 1898 having circumnavigated the world, a distance of 74,000 km. In 1899 he described the voyage in, "Sailing alone around the world," now considered a classic of travel literature.
The Mount Hanley School is now a museum. On display are the pupil registers from 1899 to 1963 when the school was closed. There are also books of the School Section's annual meetings from 1894 to 1963.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property files, no. 193, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS.
Character-defining elements of the Mount Hanley School Section No. 10 include:
- wood frame construction;
- front facing gable roof;
- rectangular plan incorporates a main classroom, as well as an entry hall/boy's coat room and a girl's room;
- wooden shed attached to the rear with a gable roof and separate entrance;
- clad in wood shingles;
- asphalt shingle roof;
- each side elevation has three 9/6 sash windows;
- 4/4 sash window on either side of the entrance;
- smaller fixed sash window over entrance, at attic level.