Description of Historic Place
The building at 165 Elmwood Avenue East, known as the London Normal School, occupies one whole city block bounded by Elmwood Avenue East, Wortley Road, Marley Place, and Duchess Avenue in the Municipality of London. The three-storey brick building was designed in the High Victorian style by architect Francis Heakes and was constructed in 1898-1899.
All exterior elements of the building, and the ground and second floor of the central hall and stairways inside the building, as well as the aesthetic character of the property are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement. The property is also designated by the Municipality of London under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law L.S.P.-2917501, 1986).
Located at 165 Elmwood Avenue East, the London Normal School is a prominent local landmark. The school site encompasses an entire city block bounded by Elmwood Avenue East, Wortley Road, Marley Place, and Duchess Avenue. Its park-like setting enhances the imposing presence of this building. The building is situated in a residential area in Wortley Village in the historic community of Old South London.
The London Normal School was the third teacher training facility to be opened in the province after Toronto (1847) and Ottawa (1875). A precursor to teachers' colleges, Normal Schools provided academic, practical and professional training. Students at the Normal School learned about educational history and philosophy, teaching methods, as well as classroom organization and management techniques. The London Normal School was designed by the Department of Public Works under Chief Architect Francis Heakes. Heakes was also responsible for building the Normal Schools in Peterborough (1908), Stratford (1908), Hamilton (1908) and North Bay in (1910). The London Normal School provided teacher training until 1956 when a new teachers' college affiliated with the University of Western Ontario was opened.
The building operated as a junior high school until 1963 when it was converted to the London Board of Education's headquarters. The building was sold to the Ministry of Government Services, and then to the London District Catholic School Board. This building has had a continuous association with the development of education in Ontario. The London Normal School is the second oldest surviving Normal School in the province; the Ottawa Normal is the oldest Normal School in Ontario.
The London Normal School is an example of High Victorian public architecture. The London Normal School's construction borrows from different architectural styles: Classical, Gothic, and Romanesque Revivals being the most prevalent. There is a tall central tower that rises over 40 metres above the ground. The tower is square in plan and is decorated with banding on the bottom, middle and top, dividing the tower into thirds. The uppermost portion of the tower has an open belfry. Windows on the middle third of tower are large and have accolades. The windows on the tower and on the two side gables are Gothic rose windows. The pointed arches at the main entrance are decorated with crockets. The rusticated basement and heavy semi-circular arches are examples of the building's Romanesque Revival features. The main Classical feature is a dropped cornice ornamented with dentils. A multi-gabled roofline is accentuated with three octagonal cupolas. At the back of the school, two large paneled brick chimneys flank the assembly hall wing.
The interior of the building is symmetrically organized around a grand divided staircase. The interior of the building features original patterned tin ceiling tiles, cast-iron columns and unusually tall wood wainscoting in the hallways.
Source: OHT Easement Files
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the London Normal School include its:
- tall square tower with banding, windows with accolades, and Gothic rose windows
- open belfry
- multi-gabled roofline
- three octagonal cupolas
- dropped cornice with ornamented dentils
- pointed arches and stone carvings in a foliage design around the front entrance
- two large paneled brick chimneys at either end of the assembly hall wing
- grand central staircase
- symmetrical layout
- stained wooden wainscoting on the ground and second floor
- patterned tin ceiling tiles throughout the building
- location in the south of London
- landmark value in the community
- park-like setting
- setting in a well treed and manicured urban park