Historic McKay Avenue School

Quite by chance in our wanderings today, Jamie and I came across the historic McKay Avenue School. The building is currently being used as the Edmonton Public Schools Archive and Museum.

It is a lovely building with some interesting features and we were drawn to it from the bandstand side.

Next to it is an area set aside for people to gather and/or rest on one of the benches, and it is marked by a bas relief monument showing horns of plenty (or, cornucopias) and the date 1914. The plaque explains that there was once a market building on that spot that was subsequently used for the Edmonton Technical College until 1943. That building was demolished in 1966.


From there we noticed in a corner of the grounds a building that looked as though it might have once been a small church but it turned out to be the original Edmonton School built in 1881.


Its outhouse is still there and has been preserved to include something to read and some scraps of paper! Fortunately, it’s all behind a plexiglass barrier, so you don’t have to worry about anyone actually attempting to use them. On the side is a copy of an Inspector’s Report dated 1896 which includes the recommendation that “the seats should be arranged so that standing on them is an impossibility.” Not far away is a water pump that perhaps was put to use washing hands after using the outhouse.

Someone with a sense of humour has built a shed near the McKay Avenue School to look a lot like the original Edmonton School. They created a diamond-shaped sign at the top to mimic the sign on the school and it reads, “Edmonton Shed 1992”.


At the back of the school is a large black fire escape with a model of another, silver-coloured, fire escape attached to it. The model is of the original fire escape and was once on display at the Edmonton Exhibition of 1914. The original was taken down in 1987 and replaced with the black one that you see here.


The front of the McKay School building has two entrances and above one door it says “McKay Ave” and above the other, “Public School,” and not “Boys” and “Girls” as I had expected.

It is a very attractive building that has been well preserved. Even though we were not able to see inside we noticed that the drapes at the windows are in the style they would have used in the early 20th century. The doors are made of sturdy solid wood and we wondered if they were the original doors.

If you are ever in the vicinity of 99 Avenue and 105 Street in Edmonton, the McKay Avenue School and the original Edmonton School building are well worth a look.




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