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Unique monument to soldiers of the Great War in Hamilton’s Memorial Park

November 2020

In Peace Memorial Park on Hamilton Mountain, in southern Ontario, is a large, 40 foot high brick structure, with limestone columns and an arch in the centre. Atop the structure is a carved limestone block that says, “Peace Memorial School.”

While this may simply look like an ordinary monument, it’s actually the main entrance to, and sole remnant, of a demolished school.

Opened in 1919, in what was then Barton Township, Peace Memorial School was dedicated to the memory of the Canadian soldiers who died in the Great War. The school was officially opened by HRH Edward, Prince of Wales.

A companion school, simply titled Memorial School, also opened that year in the east-end of Hamilton at Main and Ottawa Streets. However, a shortage of space at Mount Hamilton Hospital’s military recovery ward resulted in part of the school being used as an overflow ward for the first three years.

After World War II, the increasing population of the area necessitated the addition of six new classrooms in 1948, and then eight more and a gymnasium in 1952.

After 84 years of educating the children of the area, the changing demographics of the area led to a decline in enrollment, and combined with the age of the building, led to the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board closing the school in June 2003.

While there was no interest in saving the building, the Peace Memorial Citizen’s Advisory Committee, along with Ward 6 Councillor Tom Jackson, were able to save the pillared arch entrance. Becoming the centrepiece of Peace Memorial Park, the Peace Memorial portico serves effectively as a cenotaph, and a lasting tribute to all those who have served their country in war and peace during the 20th and 21st centuries.

Sources: https://www.hamiltonnews.com/opinion-story/9661476-mountain-memories-no-longer-a-school-peace-memorial-still-serves-as-a-focus-for-remembrance, http://www.hamiltonheritage.ca/events.html, http://www.cscomps.on.ca/Individual_pages/Canada/Ontario/Hamilton/Memorial_School.htm.

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.

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