Description of Historic Place
The school at 22 Church Street, known as the Church Street School, is situated in the historic centre of the Town of Aurora. The two-storey, yellow brick school building was designed in a High Victorian manner by architect Thomas Kennedy and was constructed from 1885-86.
The exterior of the building and the scenic character of the property are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement. The property is also designated by the Town of Aurora under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 2390-80).
Located at the north-west corner of Church and Victoria Streets, the Church Street School is situated in the historic centre of Aurora, and is a dominant landmark structure. Enhanced by a deep set-back and landscaping, the Church Street School contributes to Aurora's period streetscape and the neighbourhood character.
The Church Street School, historically known as Aurora Public School, is significant for its role as a school house from 1886-1951 and intermittently from 1963-68. Designed to house 400 students, the Church Street School was built to replace an 1858 structure, at the same location. Reflecting the confidence in Aurora's future, the Church Street School was unusually substantial in size character for a village of fewer than 2000 residents and 210 students. The school house was designed to accommodate the anticipated growth in population in the area, due to the arrival of the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Union Railway, in 1853. The Church Street School also represents the era of rapid expansion of educational facilities in Ontario between 1871 and 1885, when a total of 71 school houses were newly built or expanded.
Church Street School is one of the finest remaining examples of a High Victorian designed public school in Ontario. Built in 1885-86 at a substantial cost, over $12,000, the structure was designed with eight large classrooms, each with a cloakroom and a capacity for 50 students. Barrie architect, Thomas Kennedy, of the firm Kennedy, Gaviller and Holland designed the school and William Crane and Son of Newmarket was responsible for its construction. The exterior of the Church Street School incorporates a variety of fashionable period styles giving it a highly eclectic character. Round headed windows, especially those grouped together and decreasing in size, exemplify the Romanesque Revival style, as does the extensive corbelling of the brick, and the parapet gables. Intricately patterned brickwork, long narrow windows, and the heavily turned, wooden detailing of the belfry with its ogee shaped, Jacobean style roof are elements indicative of a strong Queen Anne Revival style. A huge rooftop monitor, heavily bracketed with rounded blind windows references the Italianate style, which was still enjoying popularity at the time of the school's construction. Separate boys and girls entrances are found in the divided doorways of the front entrance. Of the many schools that existed in Ontario, when the Church Street School was built, it was noted by the regional school inspector, that the Church Street School was one of the finest in the Province.
Source: OHT Easement Files
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Church Street School include its:
- symmetrical, two-storey, rectangular plan with projecting, gabled bays
- low pitched hip roof with cross gables
- yellow brick construction upon a granite fieldstone foundation with scoring
- extensively patterned and corbelled brickwork, especially that of the cornice and projecting bays
- straight-line, parapet gables with ornamental sheet-metal coping and finials
- long, narrow, rectangular and round headed windows with double-hung, 2 over 2 wooden sashes and operable transom lights
- open belfry with elaborately turned and scroll-cut wooden detailing, and distinctive ogee shaped roof with finial and iron weathervane
- huge rectangular rooftop monitor heavily bracketed with blind windows
- divided front entrances with wooden, paneled double doors and transom lights
- dominant position in the streetscape of the historic centre of Aurora
- setback from the street with a broad front lawn and mature specimen trees