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Montreal Street School

Medicine Hat

Other Names:

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place


Heritage Value


Character-Defining Elements


Location



Street Address: 861 - 4 Street SE
Community: Medicine Hat
Boundaries: Lot 41, Block 29, Plan 0112279
Contributing Resources: N/A

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
4
4
4
4
5
5
5
5
12
12
12
12
31
31
31
31
09
10
15
16

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
0112279
29
41


Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
50.040996 -110.668020

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Registered Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1999/01/27

Historical Information

Built:
Significant Date(s)
Theme(s)
Historic Function(s):
Current Function(s):
Architect:
Builder:
Context: HISTORICAL CONTEXT

In the spring of 1883, the Canadian Pacific Railway crossed the South Saskatchewan River in the District of Assiniboia on its way towards Fort Calgary. Here, in the river valley, a small oasis of cottonwood trees contrasted sharply with the surrounding bald prairie. A station was erected at this site, and, soon, a small 'tent city' sprang up. Permanent commercial structures soon followed, servicing the growing number of ranchers and homesteaders. The early discovery of natural gas in the area spurred further development, as did a growing brick, tile and pottery industry. By the turn of the century, Medicine Hat stood as the major commercial centre between Regina and Calgary.

Among the services required by the growing community were ever expanding educational facilities. As early as 1886, a Medicine Hat School Board was in place. The years that followed saw several makeshift schoolhouses, including the old St. John's Church on Montreal Street on a flat north of the railway tracks heavily populated with railway workers. It was named the Ward School after an early principal and served as the main school in Medicine Hat until the construction of the red brick Toronto Street School in 1889.

With the turn of the century, Medicine Hat continued to grow at rapid rate. By 1901, its population stood at 1,570. The Toronto Street School thus also proved inadequate, and, so, in 1903, plans were underway to construct a new elementary school on the flats north of the railway tracks on lots 11-20 of Block 29 on Montreal Street, near the site of the old Ward School. A bylaw was passed on March 17, 1903 authorizing debentures of 20,000 dollars for the project. G. G. Kerr was contracted to design the facility while the construction contract was awarded to R. A. Green. Kerr's report of July 7, 1904 called for a 2 and one-half storey building with four classrooms on each of the main floors and the possibility of converting the attic space into additional classrooms.

In March 1905, the school was officially opened for students in grades one to eight. With a total student population of 575, Medicine Hat was indeed in urgent need of its service. At the time, the Toronto Street School was undergoing renovations, and, so, classes for all students, conducted by 12 teachers, were held in the Montreal Street and Ward Schools for four weeks. In April 1906, the Ward School building was sold for 100 dollars.

Over the years, the Montreal Street School was put to a variety of uses in addition to education. Reverend J. J. Damon, for example, was granted permission to hold religious services there in 1907 for 5 dollars per month. Dances were also a common activity until they were banned from the school building in 1914. In 1918, the school was used as a hospital during the international Spanish Flu epidemic. Over the years, a number of other schools came to serve Medicine Hat in addition to the one on Montreal Street, where overcrowding was a persistent complaint. The structure nonetheless continued in use as a school until 1996, making it one of the longest serving educational institutions in Alberta.


HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

The historical significance of the Montreal Street School lies in its service as a school for 92 years. As such, it is representative of educational trends from the turn of the century until the present. It is one of the oldest schools in the province, and, in its brick construction, size and early multi-purpose use, it is reflective of the early development of Medicine Hat. A large portion of noted Medicine Hatters received their early education in its classrooms.

(Site Information Summary)

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0596
Designation File: DES 2001
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 22426
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 2001)
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