School’s Out Forever – Margaret Scott School & Sir John Franklin School


Reid Dickie


825 Alfred Avenue


Margaret Scott School as it appeared just after opening in 1920

Margaret Scott School as it appeared just after opening in 1920

This North End school, part of Winnipeg School Division #1, was built in 1920 with the understanding it was a temporary school to be used for that purpose for just 20 years. History didn’t cooperate with the Division’s intentions and Margaret Scott School served its community well for nearly 70 years. On February 12, 1990 students, past and present, bade farewell to their alma mater by releasing an ocean of fuchsia-coloured helium-filled balloons into the blue prairie sky. After this emotional send-off, the school was pulled down a few weeks later.

Margaret Scott School was a relatively large school for the time with 15 classrooms, assembly hall and a library. It was built for the substantial sum of $126,618, expensive considering the post-war slump the city was experiencing. It was a one-storey L-shaped red brick building with abundant windows to maximize classroom brightness. Each classroom had six tall, multi-paned rectangular windows. The school’s architect John N. Semmens used a variation on Collegiate Gothic style. The main entrance featured limestone pillars, an arch set inside a broken pediment and a fanlight above the doorway featuring radiating muntins.

Somewhat later picture of Margaret Scott School with landscaping and flagpole

Somewhat later picture of Margaret Scott School with landscaping and flagpole

Margaret Scott School was among the first Winnipeg schools to have a kindergarten. The Free Kindergarten concept had been around since 1890 but it wasn’t until the early 1940s that Boards finally saw the value and foresight of kindergartens in schools. Margaret Scott’s opened in 1944.

Side view of Margaret Scott School

Side view of Margaret Scott School

In the late 1950s, Margaret Scott School suddenly vanished, or at least its name did. In April 1957, its name was changed to Isaac Newton #2 and it began accommodating junior high students of the baby boom. In 1963, its name and curriculum was changed back to Margaret Scott School, an elementary school, a role it played until it closed in December 1989. Nursery to Grade 6 students from the school were transferred to Isaac Newton. Margaret Scott School was demolished in February and March 1990.

Margaret Scott

Margaret Scott

The school is named after another local heroine who made sacrifices for the greater good and set a high standard of volunteerism. Ontario-born and educated, Margaret Scott (1856-1931) came to Winnipeg in 1886 to take advantage of our healing climate after she suffered a breakdown from exhaustion in Montreal. She devoted her life here to helping the sick, homeless, needy and imprisoned, and established the Margaret Scott Nursing Mission in 1904. Her Mission, through generous donations from Winnipeggers, aided the sick and suffering until it was absorbed into the Victorian Order of Nurses in 1943. Margaret Scott was instrumental in establishing the Little Nurses League.

Staff of nurses on the front steps of the Margaret Scott Nursing Mission at 99 George Street, Winnipeg.

Staff of nurses on the front steps of the Margaret Scott Nursing Mission at 99 George Street, Winnipeg.

Revered almost to sainthood – she was known as The Angel of Poverty Row – her contribution to the city was so great that a school was named for her while she was still alive, a rare occurrence. Margaret Scott attended the opening of her school.

Though her school is gone, Margaret Scott is well honoured with the Margaret Scott Nursing Mission bursary for nursing students at the University Of Manitoba School Of Nursing. Until amalgamation of the hospitals into the Health Sciences Centre in 1973, there was a ward in Winnipeg General Hospital for the treatment of ailing nurses named after Margaret Scott. About 1948, Helena Mac Vicar published a tribute book to Margaret Scott entitled The Margaret Scott Nursing Mission, Winnipeg.

She died in 1931. Buried in St. John’s Cemetery, Margaret Scott’s epitaph reads, “If in trying to serve God, I have been privileged to cheer and comfort others, my highest aim has been attained.”


Margaret Scott School

Built 1920

Demolished 1990

Materials: red brick and concrete

Style: Collegiate Gothic one-storey

Architect: J. N. Semmens

Original Cost: $126,618



386 Beaverbrook  Street


Sir John Franklin School

Sir John Franklin School

After WWI, the new Winnipeg suburb of River Heights started to grow rapidly. By 1921, it needed a substantial school. The School Board owned four acres of land on Grosvenor Avenue between Beaverbrook Street and Lanark Avenue where it built Sir John Franklin School from a design by architect J. N. Semmens. Fraser and MacDonald were the general contractors on the project.

It was a modest one-storey, five classroom plan with many Gothic Revival features Semmens often used in his buildings. Original design cost $52,000 to built which was carried out by contractors Fraser and MacDonald.  Several additions were made in 1934 and 1951. It served the community as an elementary school until 1989 when the Board closed it. Passed to Sir John Franklin Community Centre to maintain, it was demolished in June 1990. The site is still green space.

Side view of Sir John Franklin School

Side view of Sir John Franklin School

The school’s namesake is the British officer and explorer John Franklin (1786-1847) who, on two expeditions, mapped the northern coastline of the North West Territories and Yukon. For this, he was knighted and awarded the governorship of Van Diemen’s Land; today we call it Tasmania.

Sir John Franklin

Sir John Franklin

In May 1845, he began an ill-fated expedition seeking the North West Passage and was never heard from again. After two years, search parties were sent out but it would be twelve years before the mystery was solved.

In 1859, the bodies of Franklin and 23 of the original 128 crew along with a written account were found on King William Island. Their ship trapped in early ice, they set out on foot toward land, apparently resorting to cannibalism to survive. None survived. Postmortems on the cadavers suggested a factor in the expedition’s failure might have been lead poisoning from inadequately tinned food. Whether Franklin actually found the North West Passage is a matter of some conjecture.

Though his school is gone, Franklin is honoured well and often in Winnipeg – a street and a community centre bear his name – and remembered as the man who, at least, proved the existence of the North West Passage. 


Sir John Franklin School

Built 1921/1934/1951

Demolished 1990

Materials: brick and concrete

Style: Collegiate Gothic

Architect: J. N. Semmens

Contractors: Fraser & Macdonald

Original cost: $52,000

Find more Manitoba schools on my Schools page.


Filed under Heritage Buildings, Manitoba Heritage, Schools

9 responses to “School’s Out Forever – Margaret Scott School & Sir John Franklin School

  1. An excellent series you have going ! I went to Margaret Scott for a couple of years. Then it was supposed to be to Arthur Wright but there was a fire shortly before the brand new school opened and they ended up shipping us off to Lansdowne.

  2. Valerie Schein (Winnicki at that time)

    I love the work you’ve done re: Margaret Scott School. THANK YOU! attended Margaret Scott School until 1969 until we moved to West Kildonan. I remember during the 1967 Centennial year, we (all students) were asked to write letters and draw pictures because we were going to put it in a time capsule that would be buried underneath our school flag. I remember the event – we were outside. Do you know what happened to that capsule? I wonder if it’s still buried? I was shocked when I returned to Wpg. to visit my parents and saw that it was torn down.

    • Hi Valerie, Thank you for sharing your memories of Margaret Scott School. It’s a shame when old places that meant something to us in the ago suddenly disappear. The MSS site is now a skateboard park. I have submitted an inquiry to Winnipeg School Division #1 about the whereabouts of the school’s time capsule. Will let you know if I find out anything about it. Best regards, Reid

  3. Willy

    I also remember signing the time capsule back when I was in grade 4. We were out last night at friends of ours and we chatting about the capsule because he was in grade six at the time, and we were wondering what ever happened to it.

    • Valerie Schein

      I wonder if it’s still buried. The capsule itself was not inside or under the school. I thought it was buried out by the flagpole if not underneath it.

      • Hi Valerie, My understanding is it was buried under the flagpole. It’s possible it is still buried there if the division were unaware of it when the school was demolished. If anyone can help solve this little mystery of the Margaret Scott School time capsule, please let me know. Reid

  4. george railian

    I attended Margret Scott school in 1940 looking at pictures of the school brings back memories.

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