Sandstone City: A series looking at the people, architecture and culture of Calgary’s sandstone glory days

Sandstone schools thriving as educators and more in Calgary

Constructed after a fire in 1886 wiped out more than a dozen wooden buildings in downtown, today’s inner-city sandstone schools stand out as daily reminders of Calgary’s storied past.

According to the Chinook Country Historical Society, 19 sandstone schools were built in the city between 1894 and 1914, helping earn Calgary the moniker “Sandstone City.”

Here’s a breakdown of how some fit into Calgary’s landscape today.

McDougall School Completed in 1908 for a reasonable $150,000, this school, located on Fourth Avenue and Seventh Street S.W., was one of the earliest major public buildings constructed in Alberta. Designed by Allan Merrick Jeffers, it was the location of Alberta’s first teacher training (or normal) school and served that purpose until 1945. After a few transformations, it became an office space and centre for government events in 1981.

Alexandra School Situated in Inglewood, Calgary’s oldest community, Alexandra School opened in 1903. The building was designed by William Dodd, the man also behind Old City Hall. Named for the Queen Consort of King Edward VII, a gym was added to the building in 1952, but the school as a whole was closed in 1962. Thanks to community perseverance, it reopened as the Alexandra Centre in 1976, which today houses groups such as the Alexandra Centre Society, Inglewood Child Development Centre and Calgary Family Services.

AlexandraSchoolweb King Edward School The 20-room Bankview-situated structure was completed in 1912 using sandstone sourced from the 17th Avenue Quarry. These days, the school is in the midst of a major transformation from school to multi-disciplinary art hub space. The project, which will incorporate the school into a campus-like area, will include offices, creation spaces, classrooms and residential spaces. Victoria School Located on 11th Avenue S.E. the pre-First-World-War-constructed Victoria School was used as one of four hospitals during an influenza epidemic in 1918. The building was recently provided a new lease on life, being incorporated into the Arriva condominium development. The school will remain in its original space and also include office space.

Stanley Jones School Located in Crescent Heights, Stanley Jones School is named for the first Calgarian to go to war. At a time when women had to give consent to go to war, Jones enlisted and was accompanied by his wife Lucile, who became a Red Cross nurse. Jones died a German prisoner of war in 1916. The school currently serves Grades K to 6 as well as a deaf-and-hard-of-hearing program.