Edmonton 1881 School
Edmonton Settlement School
1881 PUBLIC SCHOOL
Edmonton (1881) School
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Edmonton (1881) School is a late nineteenth century, one-storey wood building situated on three lots of land in Edmonton's Downtown district. It is a simple building featuring vertical wood siding with battens, a gable-roofed front porch, and a sign above the entrance reading "EDMONTON SCHOOL 1881". The school is adjacent to the historic McKay Avenue School, which is not included in the designation.
The heritage value of the Edmonton (1881) School lies in its association with the early establishment of educational institutions in Alberta.
In 1881, the settlement of Edmonton was transitioning from a frontier fur trade post to a bustling agricultural and commercial community. Speculation that the transcontinental railway would pass through the community led to a small population and real estate boom in 1880 and 1881, swelling the ranks of traders, farmers, and prospectors already in the settlement. With the population expanding and with neither mission nor private schools in Edmonton to provide for the educational needs of the young, several prominent citizens decided to establish the community's first public school. A local vote endorsed the idea and Edmonton's first Public Board of School Trustees was created, composed of three members: Malcolm Groat, Matthew McCauley, and William Rowland. Though initially opposed to the creation of the school, the Hudson's Bay Company (H.B.C.) agreed to donate four hilltop lots for the construction of the new building. Financing for the construction and later administration of the school was initially obtained through public subscriptions. Built by the firm of Oliver and McDonald in 1881, the new school opened in January of 1882. Three years later, in 1885, the Legislative Council of the North-West Territories formally constituted the School District of Edmonton of the Northwest Territories, Protestant Public School District No. 7. It was the first public school district in present-day Alberta. The school remained active until 1904, when the McKay Avenue School was constructed on an adjacent lot. Prior to World War One, the school was relocated and converted into a residence; in 1982, roughly one century after its initial construction, the Edmonton (1881) School was returned to its original site. It is the oldest extant public school building in the province.
At the time of its construction, the Edmonton (1881) School was one of the more high-quality buildings in Edmonton. It was the first sawn lumber building in the settlement and boasted six windows fitted with what were at that time the community's largest panes of glass, each measuring 10 inches by 14 inches. The school featured exterior walls of vertical siding and battens, sawdust insulation, and a roof composed of tarpaper covered in shingles. Initially 24 feet by 30 feet, the school was expanded twice over the succeeding years to meet increased demands. Extensive restorations have been made to the school to replicate its original appearance.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1103)
The character-defining elements of the Edmonton (1881) School include such features as:
- mass, form, and style;
- front gable roof with brick chimney;
- vertical board and batten siding;
- fenestration pattern;
- original wainscoting, floorboards, and decorative strip near ceiling;
- original window, sill, and frame on south wall;
- original door frame;
- trap door to crawl space;
- original artifacts, including water barrel, desks, blackboard.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
1882/01/01 to 1904/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Education and Social Well-Being
Function - Category and Type
- Historic or Interpretive Site
- One-Room School
Architect / Designer
Oliver and McDonald
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. 1103)
Cross-Reference to Collection