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Minesing S.S. #9 – Former rural schoolhouse lives on as a community centre

June 2024

For rural communities, one-room or small multi-room schoolhouses were the standard before communities grew and educational course offerings necessitated bigger schools, holding anywhere from several hundred to one or two thousand students. Before the invention of the automobile, these one-room or small schools were built close to the towns and farms where the students came from, as traveling by foot or horse was time consuming.

As Minesing grew throughout the 19th Century, the community outgrew their one-room school, so a new brick schoolhouse was built on the same property, located at Highway 26 and the Minesing Sideroad, in 1880. Since the teacher was a married man, a house was built for him and his family as well. 

By 1894, the school had a population of 75 children, so a partition was installed in the schoolhouse to create two rooms for the principal and the assistant.

This brick schoolhouse stood until 1897, when it and the teacher’s house were destroyed by a fire. A new two-room brick school was quickly built, this time within the village, which proved to be a better location for a sports field, playgrounds and other events, compared to the sloping site of the former schoolhouse.

The architect for the new S.S. No. 9 was none Thomas Kennedy, of Barrie, who’s company also designed numerous buildings in Barrie, Toronto and across Grey and Simcoe counties. His impressive home, Lilac Villa, remains standing to this day at 87 Owen Street in Barrie.

The new school’s centre portico entrance, embellished with an eyebrow window, led into a main hall that separated the two classrooms. The school rooms had 14-foot ceilings and enormous arched windows to let in light.

The new schoolhouse also had a cellar for the furnace and for storing wood. The building’s two chimneys were artfully connected to create an elegant bell tower finished with decorative cornice and ornamental cresting.

When the school opened in the fall of 1897, drinking water had to be carried into the school from the village well in a metal bucket. Many years later, a well was drilled on the school property, allowing it to be piped into the school, supplying running water to the girls’ washroom and to two drinking fountains. Modern bathrooms would not exist until the new Minesing Central School was built in 1960, just to the south of the former school.

Many of the small schools that were no longer needed were demolished, but some have been re-purposed into private residences, municipal buildings like community centres or libraries, office space or museums. S.S. #9 was one such school that was re-purposed.

In 1964, the former school was turned into a community centre and library. A 30-foot extension was added to create room for a kitchen and stage upstairs, along with a three-lane bowling alley downstairs.

In the process of renovating the building, the old bell, cast in Seneca Falls, N.Y. , which had been removed from the tower and stowed when the school closed, was discovered. The bell was later restored and hung in the centre during a 1977 school reunion.

Sources: https://www.barrietoday.com/then-and-now/then-and-now-minesing-school-found-new-life-after-1960-6228196, https://www.barrietoday.com/then-and-now/then-and-now-a-true-heritage-treasure-lilac-villa-almost-lost-in-2017-fire-4960742, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason_McCoy.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/minesing-s-s-9-former-rural-schoolhouse-lives-on-as-a-community-centre/

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