The Imposing Parkdale School Building

As regular readers may have guessed, I have a soft spot for red brick buildings. I suspect that is partly because they are rarely built these days, and partly because they remind me of the English neighbourhood I grew up in. Whatever the reason, I like the way they look. They often have chimneys and interesting doorways. Sometimes they even have battlements that were designed for warriors to hide behind while shooting at approaching enemies.

The Parkdale School building, which now houses the Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, is one such building. It was built in 1912 and is located just a block away from my house. It was one of the first schools in Edmonton to use a modified school calendar such that vacations were distributed throughout the year and had a shorter summer holiday than is customary. About 60% of the school’s students were of aboriginal heritage, and Cree language and culture courses were offered to grades 7-9.

The building’s design is called Collegiate Gothic. It has the traditional entrances for boys and girls as well as arched trim around the doors and some of the windows. It is quite an imposing structure and is situated in a central location within Parkdale.

I pass it regularly when I am out for my walks and often wonder what it is like inside. The rigid design tends to put me off going up the steps and I wonder if the former students felt the same way. Or, maybe it’s the crenulated roofline that makes me nervous.

Now that I think about it, perhaps my hesitation comes from a deep-seated memory of the school I attended from age eleven to age seventeen; Mellow Lane Comprehensive School in Hayes, Middlesex. I will let you be the judge.

Mellow Lane School, Hayes
Mellow Lane Comprehensive School, Hayes, Middlesex via Modernism in Metroland





  1. I think it depends on the memories it holds for the students. If one has happy memories, then the building probably is perceived as warm. And the converse is the same. If it holds unpleasant memories, it probably makes this building unattractive.

  2. I had been to this school when i was a kid and i only remember the first floor of the building but the way it looked on the inside wasn’t all that bad, i remember the kindergarten room was very colorful and fun, i remember using the big trees out front to hide from the teachers to sneak over to the older kids side to see my brother too. Though, to get to the bathrooms you would have to go to the stairway and into the basement which was very creepy if I’m honest, I think we made up stories about there being a ghost down there which only got worse when my friends sister had tripped on the stairs as we were walking up them and hit her head, she had to get stitches and there was a lot of blood.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any good memories beyond playing with my friend and trying to sneak over to my brother as the school had very horrible and irresponsible teachers that would sooner just pull my brother out of class to work with the janitor then actually address the bully issue they had. I was honestly very glad to hear it had been shut down and changed into something else only a little bit after my family moved away.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Miranda. Your experience of the school sounds quite intimidating and I am sorry you don’t have warmer memories of it. Feeling creepy when going to the bathroom is not something anyone would want in the back of their mind!

      The bullying problem seems to be one that is ongoing in schools. You would think they would have figured out better ways to deal with it by now, but it doesn’t appear so. If your brother was a bully to you, you have my sympathies. I hope he grew out of it.

      • No problem! You had mentioned being curious about the inside so I thought I’d share. I also remember a very long hallway around the side/back that you had to use to get to the gym/theater that was always very creepy in the mornings, the windows were high and only on one side so when the sun wasn’t coming through them made the whole hall look very blue/gray though I admit this may be a bit of an exaggeration from a childhood memory lol

        Yes, thankfully the city I moved to seemed to be much better about these things but it, unfortunately, doesn’t fix the damage already done. Thankfully, while my brother and I don’t have a super close relationship, he was never super mean to me and I think is doing much better than he was before so don’t worry too much about it.

        I also actually looked at the time on these and realized you published this like a year ago so sorry that I just threw all this at you out of nowhere lol

        • No apology needed! I was very glad that you read the post and took the time to respond. It is very interesting to learn about your childhood memories of the inside of this building. Now I’m tempted to go inside, if I am allowed.

  3. I went to that school. Bad memories. Mr. B was a terrible teacher and I hated every minute of being there.

    • I am so sorry that you had such a bad experience in that school. The building is representative of an architectural style that was in use at a time when a lot of schools had oppressive practices. Your experience is important and it affects how I view the building. Thank you for your comment.

  4. I went to Parkdale from grade 1 to 9 and graduated in 1963. There was no kindergarten during those years or before then. There were no aboriginal students when I went and we attended for 10 months straight with July August vacation. I think the changes you talk about happened just proceeding the school closure in 2010. Your pictures show seperate boys and girls entrances on the front of the school facing east but we did not use those. The girls used the entrance on the south side of the building and boys used the north entrance. The girls playground was on the south side and boys on the north. The gymnasium was originally located on the third floor and in 1957 a new gym was built on the west side of the school and the original gymnasium converted to classrooms. School spirit was pretty high and I would say the majority of students had a good experience. I still have some close friends I went to Parkdale with. Teachers were pretty fair although one would have been charged with battery by today’s standards.

    • Thank you for this, Roger. I am very glad that your experience at Parkdale School has left you with fond memories.

      Thank you, also, for the information about the entrances. That is something only a former student would know about.

      It would be a rare school that did not have at least one teacher who used physical punishment back then. I remember the headmaster of my school used to have a cane that was a constant threat. I don’t know if it was used very often, but the fear was enough to keep us all cowed.

      I hope you keep those friends from your school days for many more years to come.

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