Description of Historic Place
Lord Strathcona Community School, located at 592 East Pender Street, is a five-building complex occupying a city block bounded by East Pender, Jackson, Heatley, and Keefer Streets, in Vancouver’s historic Strathcona neighbourhood. The five components, in order of construction, are the Junior Building (1897), facing Keefer Street; the Senior Building (1914, 1929), facing Jackson Avenue; the Primary Building (1921), facing Est Pender Street; the Auditorium Building (1929), facing East Pender Street; and the New Building (1971-72), facing Keefer Street.
Other institutions that occupy the buildings include the Strathcona Childcare Centre, the Strathcona Community Centre, and a branch of the Vancouver Public Library. Modern overlays include parking spaces, a portable classroom, an adventure playground, picnic tables, and bench seating. The adjacent city block to the east, used as a playground, is not included in the historic place. The site is surrounded by a chain link fence. Evenly-spaced mature deciduous street trees encircle its perimeter.
Established in 1891 as East (or East End) School, Lord Strathcona Community School was built in stages between 1897 and 1972. Its value lies in its history and its architecture. It is the oldest continuously used school site in the City; and the Junior Building is the oldest in the system still in school use. The school serves Strathcona, the City’s oldest residential neighbourhood. Its history and that of the City are reflected in the history of the school.
Dominating the neighbourhood, the school was designed to enhance the status of public education and to promote the good taste and prosperity of Vancouver. The five buildings are valuable as models of changing school architecture, each a very good representative of its time. Other than the modernist concrete New Building (1971-72), all are brick-clad and designed in a classical revival vocabulary. The Junior Building (1897) has a wood frame and is vertical in its proportions, characteristic of the late Victorian era. The Senior Building (begun 1914) is a fireproof concrete structure and is more horizontal. The Primary Building (1920) is of interest for having been built when the School Board had little money. The bricks were recycled from the demolished original school (1891) and the frame was wood in a day when concrete was king. Further value is seen in the distinguished architects involved, including William Blackmore (Junior Building) and School Board architects F.A.A. Barrs (Primary Building) and H.W. Postle (completion of Senior Building and Auditorium).
Lord Strathcona Community School has the largest student body of any elementary school in Vancouver. The growth over time is seen in the internal urban courtyard, also significant because it marks the site of the original 1891 school.
The buildings have features that represented good school design and responded to changing curricula. Innovations include manual training and domestic science (later called home economics), introduced in 1906; this was one of the first schools to offer these subjects. The additions and alterations of the late 1920s provided improved space for these subjects and an auditorium, which is especially valued by the community. So too is the stained-glass window in the Senior Building, restored in 1991 as part of the centennial celebrations.
The strong custom of alumni involvement has led to many reunions. The school takes pride in its many ‘distinguished graduates’ and in its strong connections to the community. The school has a good collection of historic photographs and documents that together form an important record. Class pictures going back to the 1930s are displayed in the halls.
Lord Strathcona Community School has been an important point of contact between mainstream society and new immigrants, especially those from China, Japan, and Europe. Alumni have clear memories, whether positive, bittersweet, or negative, of adjusting to the school’s culture and learning English. Historically, the Strathcona area has been home to working-class and poor Vancouverites, and the school has a long tradition of providing health and food programs. This is reflected today in the integration of school, library, community centre, and dental clinic on a single site, as well as having the only all-day junior kindergarten in the Vancouver School Board system.
Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
The character-defining elements of Lord Strathcona Community School include:
- tradition of use as a school for more than a century
- gently sloped site, with views to the North Shore mountains
- location on a high point in the historic Strathcona neighbourhood, which formerly made it a city-wide landmark (the view is now obstructed)
The four brick buildings (i.e. all but the New Building) exterior and plans, including:
- sense of permanence in the design, as expressed by the Classical vocabulary and symmetrical elevations
- barbell plan (linear spine with projecting wings at each end) of the Primary and Senior Buildings
- the Classical decorative vocabulary, including pediment-like gables, cornices with dentils (modillions) and friezes, stepped parapets, cupola (on the Primary Building), and vertical piers
- multi-paned double-hung wood sash windows, multi-paned transoms, and semi-circular lunette
- masonry construction, particularly the brick walls, stone foundations, running string courses of stone or concrete, stone window sills and heads, and rustication (on the Junior Building)
- second floor as principal floor, accessed by a grand exterior staircase
- separate entrances for girls and boys
- decorated pressed-tin rainwater gutters and leaders
- original paneled wooded doors with glazing
- sign reading ‘LORD STRATHCONA SCHOOL’ above the formal front entrance
Interior features, including:
- intact spatial configuration of many interior spaces; high ceilings; generously proportioned wood-panelled doors with glazing and original hardware; classroom doors with hopper transoms; built-ins and millwork in classrooms
- auditorium: clerestory windows; balcony with metal seats and railing; dressing rooms with built-ins and fixtures; stage with stair access on either side; moulding at hip height
- photos of Royalty and Lord Strathcona in the main hall, class photos in many halls
The New Building:
- characteristics of modernist design of the 1970s
- precast concrete exterior walls
- the ‘urban courtyard’ between the buildings, which provides entrances to all the buildings
- grass and plantings, such as the rhododendrons flanking the main staircase and memorial
- trees in the ceremonial area
- metal flagpole
- stepped approach to sloped site, with 5-foot-high curved concrete piers on northeast and northwest corners
- children’s games painted on the asphalt