Stettler’s 1911 school second to none in Alberta

Students from around district eager to attend large brick schoolhouse

By Carson Ellis

Back when I went to school (which is much longer in reality than it often feels in my mind) and more specifically junior high, there was a large mural in the front entry of the building of the former school that had once sat on that spot. I always liked the mural. It was a bright and colourful image that towered over the small seating area just off of the school library. I always wondered what that building was like. That was just one of the many casual interests in history that slowly festered in my mind until decades later when I started actually looking into things.

Stettler grew rapidly for many years. One of the many problems this caused was that finding a place to educate the children of the community required constant juggling of locations. Classes were taught in various locations when available, including churches and local businesses. A hopeful fix for this came in 1907 with the construction of a four-room schoolhouse. The approximate $4,000 school quickly proved inadequate and soon the overflow was being juggled from one location to another again.

By 1910, a larger brick schoolhouse was under construction in hopes of centralizing the town’s education system once and for all.

The three-storey structure, plus basement, was designed to hold up to 500 students. The basement had a boys’ play room and a girls’ playroom. The rooms were 24 x 32 feet, and had two large lavatories. The first floor had four spectacular classrooms that were 25 x 32 feet. A 15-foot-wide corridor ran the length of the building as well as a 12-foot corridor running crosswise. The second floor also contained four rooms of the same size as the first, and two corridors of the same description. Also on the second floor’s south side was a lady teachers’ room measuring 11 x 16 feet, while a principal’s room sat on the north end. The second floor also had the library and boardroom, which was over the front entrance and to the east side, as well as a cloakroom on the west side. The top floor housed a spacious assembly room measuring 70 x 30 feet in size.

The building was constructed of solid brick as well as brick partitions. The east-facing building was also trimmed with Calgary stone. The large building was considered quite enjoyable to look upon no matter from what side. The entire structure was wired for electric lights and operated an electric bell system. A duplex steam/hot air system was used to ventilate and heat the entire building.

The thoroughly modern structure was officially opened in March of 1911 by the province’s second Premier Arthur Sifton. At the time of its opening, the school was second to none in the province for its size.

Students from all around the district were eager to attend the modern facility that was considered a point of pride for the people of the town.

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