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2118 - 21 Avenue, Didsbury, Alberta, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2011/03/01

Red Brick School, Didsbury; Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management, 1999
South and west elevations
Red Brick School; Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management, 1999
South and east elevations
Red Brick School, Didsbury; Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management, 2006
South elevation

Other Name(s)

Didsbury District Museum
1907 Didsbury Public School
Didsbury Elementary School
Didsbury School

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1907/01/01 to 1907/12/31

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2011/11/18

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Red Brick School is a two-storey, early twentieth century building situated on an oversized single lot in the north-west quarter of Didsbury. The school features a red brick facade accented by rock-faced sandstone elements, a low-pitched hip roof with extended eaves, and a massive corner bell tower.

Heritage Value

The primary heritage value of the Red Brick School lies in its unique and eclectic architectural style. Secondary heritage value for the school lies in its association with education and public service in Didsbury.

The Red Brick School embodies a unique and eclectic architectural vision. The building marries Italianate features - including a low pitched hip roof with broad, exposed rafter-eaves, quoins, and a corner tower - to classically styled pediments and cornice details. These elements, combined with the lively dichromatic contrasts of brick and sandstone, impart the school's exterior with an eclectic dynamism, while the robust massing gives the building an imposing solidity. When it was built, the Red Brick School was considered a sophisticated modern design and a substantial facility for a town of less than 1000 people - an expression of Didsbury's heady optimism in the pre-World War One period.

The completion of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway line in 1891 resulted in the creation of several new depots along the track and stimulated settlement throughout central Alberta. The area around the Didsbury depot was initially settled by Mennonites. The community was diversified in later years by additional settlement and a mixed economy of agriculture and ranching developed in the region. Didsbury's first school district was created in 1901 and a two-room school was erected the following year. The community's continued growth and a strong faith in its future development led in 1907 to the construction of a large, ultra-modern, brick and sandstone school. Officially opened in 1908, the new school taught all grades and was the first school in the district to offer Grade 12. It was also an integral part of the town's social life and streetscape, particularly after the disastrous fires of 1914 that destroyed much of the downtown core and local infrastructure. Following the fires, the school - already a conspicuous local building - became an even more dominant feature of Didsbury's townscape and was also pressed into service as a hospital during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. After 1920, the Red Brick School was employed as an elementary school. It remained part of the town's school system until 1984. It currently houses the local museum.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1847)

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Red Brick School include such features as:
- mass, form, and style;
- brick facade with rock-faced sandstone features, including lintels, trims, and band
around the foundation;
- low-pitched, cedar-shingled hip roof with extended eaves;
- chimney with decorative masonry work;
- arched entryways featuring double doors, fanlights, and arched windows;
- projecting side pavilions crowned by broken pediments;
- brick quoins;
- thick corner bell tower capped by pyramidal roof and flagpole;
- fenestration style and pattern, including multi-paned exterior windows;
- interior layout of hallways, classrooms;
- high ceilings in classrooms;
- transom windows between hallway and classrooms;
- original fittings, mouldings, trims, and other interior elements, including lighting
fixtures, hardwood floors, and painted plaster ceilings;
- plain grass schoolyard.




Recognition Authority

Province of Alberta

Recognition Statute

Historical Resources Act

Recognition Type

Provincial Historic Resource

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design
Building Social and Community Life
Education and Social Well-Being

Function - Category and Type




Composite School

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1847)

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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