Description of Historic Place
Constructed in 1871 with a later addition in 1878, the Recreation Centre, formerly the Old Central School, is located in downtown Smiths Falls on Beckwith Street North between Gladstone Avenue and Church Street West. This two-and-a-half-storey stone building is a sturdy, solid, and well-proportioned testament to Smiths Falls early beginnings and growth through the 19th-century.
The Recreation Centre has been recognized for its heritage value by the Town of Smiths Falls, By-law 4350-77 on 19 December 1977.
The heritage value of the Recreation Centre is derived from its architectural and historical significance.
Built by W. Willoughby of Almonte in 1871 to house Smiths Falls' public school, an addition was added in 1878 to accommodate extra classrooms. Evident through its classically designed pediment, limestone construction, and prominent cornice, the building employs both Neo-Classic and Classic Revival architectural styles, both popular throughout the 19th-century.
The building was constructed on the site of the Common and Grammar Schools which had been joined in 1853. The Common School later became the public school while the Grammar School was the high school. As early as 1865 at the urging of the School Board, the Town of Smiths Falls began to purchase land for a new school. By 1867, the School Board had begun fundraising for the new building attaining $548 from the Railway Fund and borrowing $7000 from the town. The school was constructed for $7179.
Despite an addition in 1878, the town was growing at such a rate that it was necessary to construct the Russell Street school in 1884 for high school students and convert the Central School into a public school. Central School also housed the Teaching Aids Centre and the Supervising Principal of the town's elementary schools until the mid-20th-century. Central School was used as a public school until 1973 when it was closed due to an outdated interior and a growing student population. In 1975, it was converted into a Recreation Centre.
Sources: Lorrie McNamara, “The Recreation Centre (Old Central School)” (Toronto: Ministry of Culture and Recreation, 1979); Town of Smiths Falls By-law 4350-77; Smiths Falls LACAC Files
Key elements that define the architectural value of the Recreation Centre's Neo-Classic and Classic Revival design include:
- evenly proportioned façade
- remnants of original wooden bell-tower above front entranceway
- rough-cut grayish brown limestone construction with granite elements
- classically designed pediment
- prominent cornice with frieze is adorned with small cubed “dentils”
- low-pitched gable roofs
- transoms and sidelights emphasizing central entrance
- paired chimneys
- windows with radiating voussoirs featuring granite keystones and lugsills
Key elements that define the location of the Recreation Centre include:
- its orientation in the heart of Smiths Falls, adjacent to the Town Hall