School’s Out Forever – Central School #2 & Winnipeg Collegiate Institute


Reid Dickie


Ellen Street & William Avenue


Central School #2, later renamed Albert School

Central School #2, later renamed Albert School

Built on the same lot and just a short distance away from Central School #1, Central School #2 was designed by prominent and influential Winnipeg architect James Chisholm. He also designed the Granite Curling Club and the first three floors of the Marlborough Hotel.

Costing $15,000 to build, Central School #2 had eight classrooms contained within a two-storey brick veneer building. The design was a combination of Italianate and Second Empire styles with steeply-pitched roof, heavy brackets and arched windows, all elegantly wrought and crowned with fine iron cresting. Add to this a projecting Gothic double-door entry pavilion surmounted by 60-foot octahedral tower cut with pointed gables and topped with an orb and finial.

Central Schools #1 and #2, with their distinctive variations on similar architectural styles, were a magnificent sight. Between them, they could accommodate over 1,000 students in 20 classrooms, each holding 54 students.

Central School #1 was used for boys, Grades 1 through 10, Central School #2 for girls Grades 1 through 10. Central School #2 also housed the Collegiate department until 1892 when Winnipeg Collegiate Institute was built.

Honouring Queen Victoria’s husband,  Central School #2’s name in 1898 was changed Albert School. It was remodeled and updated in 1901 and electrified in 1908.

After Victoria School burned down, elegant old Albert School was closed to students in 1930 and became a warehouse to store textbooks, furniture and equipment until it was demolished in 1951. 


Central School #2

Built 1882/1901

Demolished 1951

Materials: tan brick and limestone

Style: Italianate and Gothic Revival two-storey

Architect: James Chisholm

Original cost: $15,000



Kate Street & William Avenue


Winnipeg Collegiate Institute built 1892

Winnipeg Collegiate Institute built 1892

The first high school students in Winnipeg – all eight of them, one woman – gathered for classes in September of 1882 in the upper room of Louise Street School at Louise and Market, then part of the East Ward. Their principal was J. B. Fawcett. The building proved completely inadequate to the harsh cold winter and the school moved the next year to Central School. Here the collegiate department remained for nine years.

In 1892, the school board chose a site at William and Kate, where Hugh John Macdonald School stands today, to built the city’s first high school, Winnipeg Collegiate Institute.

Combining Second Empire and Georgian Revival styles, the school was a stocky, three storey brick building, its top level surrounded by a mansard roof cut by tall peaked dormers. Cascading arcades of corbelled arches flowed around the whole building just under the eaves.

A dramatic three-bay tower jutted from the façade over the entry and culminated in a steep hipped roof. A massive chimney with ornate chimney pot protruded at the back of the roof to balance the tower. Iron railing adorned the roof edges around the building. An assortment of window shapes and sizes provided ample light for classrooms.

Stately and majestic against the prairie sky, Winnipeg Collegiate Institute

Stately and majestic against the prairie sky, Winnipeg Collegiate Institute

Built by contractor C. H. Walker for $22,793, Winnipeg Collegiate Institute had ten large classrooms, reception room, assembly hall and two basement playrooms. School Architect J. B. Mitchell was especially proud of his design for WCI as it boasted the most up-to-date heating and ventilation system. The new system was a vast improvement over the previous unhealthy method of heating classrooms: a stove in the centre of every classroom.

From the initial eight students, Winnipeg’s high school population grew to over 360 by the time Winnipeg Collegiate Institute opened in 1892.

Depending on the student’s ambition and proclivity, WCI offered three curriculum courses: teachers, commercial and university. Later the university classes were divided into arts and engineering sections and girls could opt for household arts.

WCI’s student newspaper, Breezes, featured articles about school events, local, national and world politics, literary criticism, women’s rights and art. It published until 1911.

In 1917, the WCI population moved to the second floor of Isaac Brock School, then to Daniel McIntyre Collegiate when it opened in 1923.

The old WCI building, after repairs, became Maple Leaf Elementary School, a role it played until 1928. Slated to be demolished, in 1930 it temporarily housed the students made homeless by the Victoria School fire.

Before it was demolished in 1930, WCI educated many well-known Winnipegers. Among its early alumni are writer, teacher and suffragette Nellie McClung (1873-1951), physician and educator Joseph Lamont, doctor and Wawanesa Insurance executive Charles Vanstone (1870-1953), physician, politician and psychic researcher T. G. Hamilton (1873-1935), and provincial Conservative Party leader and judge Fawcett Taylor (1878-1940).

WCI boasted an interesting array of principals over its years including historian and art collector Frank Schofield (1859-1929), School Superintendent from 1928 to 1934 David Duncan (1870-1951), and mathematician William McIntyre (1859-1938).


Winnipeg Collegiate Institute

Built 1892

Demolished 1930

Materials: buff brick and limestone

Style: Second Empire and Georgian Revival three-storey

Architect: J. B. Mitchell

Contractor: C. H. Walker

Original cost: $22,793

Find more demolished Winnipeg schools and other Manitoba schools on my Schools page.

Leave a comment

Filed under Heritage Buildings, Manitoba Heritage, Schools

Tell me what you think...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s