What Winnipeg school’s alumni includes the City’s first woman mayor Susan Thompson, bandleader Jimmy King, Liberal Cabinet Minister Mitchell Sharp, Olympic speed skater Gordon Audley, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and former National Defense Headquarters Chief of Air Staff Ken Pennie?
Hint: it’s in St James.
This diverse group all haunted the halls of Linwood School.
Though having recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, Linwood School sits on a lot used for schools for 130 years. St James School, a white two-storey wooden building with a large bell tower that sat on the southeast corner of the lot was the original school on the site. Built in 1885 and known in the neighbourhood as The White School, it burned down in 1913. Students attended classes in tents during construction of the current building, also called St James School. The name was changed to Linwood School in 1951 to avoid confusion with the newly opened St James Collegiate.
The original trustees’ names are carved in limestone on the front of the school. The architect is listed as A. Melville and the trustees were Alex Gunn, Chas. Holden and J.H. Cotter.
Scottish-born Winnipeg architect Alexander Melville designed the present building. Melville, and his enigmatic brother William, a civil engineer, were responsible for at least 14 of Winnipeg’s fire halls, many of them still standing. (Under the heading of Winnipeg Degrees of Separation, we find Susan Thompson who, besides attending the Melville-designed Linwood School, was later a resident in a fire hall on Dorchester that had been renovated into condominiums. This fire hall was a Melville Brothers design.)
The Melvilles created plans for the Empire Hotel on Main Street, Broadway Court Apartments, Ashford Apartments on Balmoral, Touraine Apartments on Ellice and the Coliseum Dance Hall, all now demolished. One of the few houses the brothers designed, the G.A. Glines house, still stands at 55 Hargrave though its exterior has been substantially changed. Check out this Manitoba Historical Society page for all of Melville’s buildings.
The stately, two storey red brick and concrete Linwood School resembles the size and shape of British Board schools but with a more horizontal emphasis. A large school, it has 20 classrooms set on a tall foundation allowing adequate basement usage. The bricks, laid in running bond, have developed a beautiful patina that changes colour: in shadow, it is deep wine-red; in sun, it turns almost chestnut. Seven belt courses of contrasting limestone surround the building from cornice to foundation complimenting the school’s seven bays. Ribbed pilasters are used to great effect on all elevations.
The formal front entrance (left) has wide stairs leading toward double doors and sidelights under a low arch with decorative stone keystone and label. Above that, a limestone ledge and brackets sustain three narrow windows and more elaborate limestone work is crowned with the school’s name and datestone.
The school’s fenestration, over 150 windows, adds lightness and openness to the exterior. All windows have limestone lintels and sills.
At the back of the completely symmetrical school is a pair of entrances (below). Grandly carved in limestone over one door is “BOYS”, over the other “GIRLS”. Thought this conjures all manner of questions, the reason was simply logistical: boys and girls lockers were most easily accessible through the separate doors.
Inside, the hallways are wide and bright with pilasters and beautifully restored oak throughout. The wainscoting and trim around all the blackboards is oak. The large marble sections at the entrances have recently been cleaned and refurbished. Original interior glass is etched with decorative floral designs. On the lower level, there is a large assembly room with built-in stage original to the building.
Classrooms have high ceilings and five large windows making them bright and airy. The pressed tin ceilings are gone; however, the cast iron railings with oak banisters remain.
From its opening in 1914, the school held elementary classes on the main floor and high school classes above. When St. James Collegiate opened in the early 1950s, the higher grades moved there.
An annex was added on the north side in 1953 and the gym in the early 60s. Though both are brick, their one-level utilitarian style is dwarfed by the mass and scale of Melville’s creation. Above is a view of the symmetrical rear elevation.
The school proudly displays an Honour Roll of former students who died in both World Wars, a venerable and appropriate tribute found in many Winnipeg schools.
In 2013 Linwood School celebrated its 100th anniversary with student reunions and nostalgic events. Watch a four minute video created for Linwood’s centenary.
There has long been a connection between Linwood School and the St James Horticultural Society. The Society has used the school for monthly meetings and flower shows since 1914.
Administered by the St James-Assiniboia School Division, today Linwood School educates 197 children (2012) from Kindergarten to Grade 5. The middle class neighbourhood around the school has been stable for so long that third and fourth generations of the same families are now attending Linwood. The school is so integrated into the community it has over 100 volunteers every year. With its stately and solid appearance, this fine old building grandly reflects the stability of the area it serves.
Additions 1953, ca 1961
Materials: red brick, limestone, concrete
Style: Georgian Revival, Romanesque Revival two-storey
Architect: Alexander Melville
Current assessed value: $2,217,000
Acreage: 4.2 acres