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Key Number: HS 46798
Site Name: Verdun School
Other Names:
Site Type: 0314 - Educational: School


ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
46 22 4

Near Town:


Type Number Date View


Plan Shape:
Storeys: Storeys: 1
Superstructure Cover:
Roof Structure: High Gable
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes:
Exterior: N/A
Interior: N/A
Environment: N/A
Condition: N/A
Alterations: Hip roof addition


Construction: Construction Date:
Construction Started
Usage: Usage Date:
Verdon Sunshine Club
Owner: Owner Date:
Duhamel Historical Society

Architect: N/A
Builder: N/A
Craftsman: N/A

Before the completion of the Calgary Edmonton Railway in 1891, travellers between Edmonton and Calgary usually crossed the Battle River at a spot near the present village of Duhamel. In 1880, several members of the Louboucan family chose to settle there, and, in 1893, a post office was opened and named after Father Joseph Duhamel who had ministered in the area years earlier. The C E Railway brought more settlers to the district, as did the Canadian Northern Railway after it passed south through Duhamel and New Norway in 1911.

Many of the first settlers were Norwegian, particularly to the northeast of Duhamel. There were also a number of French, many descendants of the first French and Metis settlers. West of Duhamel, there was also a pocket of German immigrants, most recently arrived from the eastern United States. As a result, when a petition was granted for a school district in the area in 1902, the name chosen by the petitioners was New Berlin. That fall, with volunteer help, Mr. H. Logeman undertook the construction of a wood frame school 5 km west of Duhamel, where children from the district could be taught grades one to eight. The first teacher was Maabel Chandler. Among the first pupils were children with such names as Clausen, Pehrson, Humbke, Ringman, Keeler, Wattie, Petrick, Alm, Hladik, Asp, Eikerman, Vold, Schreifles and Vanouk.

By 1915, the population of the district had grown to the extent that an addition was required for the school. A teacherage was also built this time, and later attached to the school building. In 1916, School District, #578 was included as part of Local Improvement District #458, which was headquartered in Wetaskiwin. According the local history, "while the people in the eastern portion of the School District maintained their interest in Duhamel," population of which was mainly Norwegian with some French, "many of those resident in the western portions found their interests centered about the larger Wetaskiwin community to the west," which contained a strong German element. Interestingly, the first 11 teachers were all people with British names. The next eight teachers were all from the community, and mostly of German descent. They were, in order, Lilla Gaetz, Erna Humbke, Erna Kuring, Elsie Eikerman, Margaret Trautman, Mrs. L. Anderson, Elsie Humbke and Mrs. O. Hladik. Following this, English and German names are interspersed.

The New Berlin school functioned as a community hall as well as a school, although it does not seem to have been made into a vehicle for disseminating German culture; there was always a strong non-German presence among the pupils. Nor do we know to what extent any resentment was felt towards these German immigrants during World War I. At any rate, the change in name of the School from New Berlin to Verdun in 1918, upon local petition, does not seem to have aroused any opposition, even though Verdun in France was the scene of a cataclysmic battle in which many Canadians died fighting Germans.

The Verdun School District continued to offer instruction in grades one to eight (and occasionally grade nine to the odd correspondent student) until 1952, when the S.D. was transferred to the Camrose School Division, and the children bussed elsewhere. The school building however has survived to become one of the oldest one room rural schools in Alberta.

The historical significance of the Verdun School lies in its association with the small pocket of German immigrants to the area west of Duhamel during the 1890's. Its change in name is also significant in that it is indicative of local hostility towards Germany during World War I, and also of the lack of local German support (at least public) for Germany's cause at the time. As with many German communities in the west, their cultural background was not projected as a theme for public display, for reasons due mainly to World Wars I and II. Nonetheless, over the years, Albertans with German backgrounds have constituted the second largest ethnic minority in the province, next only to the British.

*	*	*

Constructed in 1902, Verdun School was not only used for educational purposes but was used as a community hall, a church and place for special events. It began as a small almost square shaped school house and some time in the early history of the building a teacherage was attached tot he school on the north east corner and consists of a single bed sitting room with a stove for cooking and heat.

The building is located on the north/south axis and, in plan, is rectangular with an ell which served as the teacherage. The front facade is symmetrical with a central door flanked by two 2 over 2 windows. The school building has a medium pitched gable roof and the small teacherage has a cottage or hip roof.

Based on the single room school house, the plan comprises a coat room at the front entrance and a large school room with a stove located at the back of the room. The single entrance leads into the coat room but there are separate doors for the boys and girls from the coat room into the classroom. There is one window on the east wall and seven on the west wall for extra light. The teacher taught with the desk on a raised platform that also was used when the building was used for community events such as dances.

This is a unique design with a combination of both the school room and the teacherage attached. The expansion is a significant part of the building's history and is a reflection of the changing attitudes, growth and prosperity in the community.


Status: Status Date:

Designation Status: Designation Date:
Provincial Historic Resource
Record Information: Record Information Date:
Tatiana Gilev 2001/11/01


Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0777
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