History of the Building
Elora Public School, circa 1912
The Elora School has stood for 145 years, serving students of the Village of Elora.
Now a designated heritage building, the structure is a product of 80 years of construction and renovation undertaken to meet the needs of growing student enrolment while working with the constraints of tight budgets. The resulting disarray of styles and forms has led some to view the school as an inefficient monstrosity, while others (like Elora Centre for the Arts) see it as a charming, historic treasure.
The earliest part of the building is the first story on the south-east corner, constructed in 1856 as the village’s girls’ school. In 1866, a new boys’ school was constructed to the north and connected to the girls’ school. By 1871, boys and girls education was integrated. By 1874, the north wing was added and the former girls’ school became the high school.
Over the years, improvements included central heating (1895 using four furnaces), electric lights and bathrooms (1927) and central steam heating (1935). The final addition was the three-story structure built on the south-west corner in 1939 to serve an enlarged high school enrolment. This is believed to be the last stone building built in Elora.With the construction of a new high school in 1959, the building reverted to a public school. The high school was converted to a senior public school in 1970, and the original building became a Junior Public School.
The school was closed in 1996. At that time, the original girls' school was probably the oldest active school building in the province, while the 1939 addition was the last three-story structure still in use in the country.
Many well-known citizens attended the Elora school.Those who achieved respect outside the community include: John Connon, local historian and photographer, who invented the panoramic camera; John Drew, lawyer, whose son George Drew became Premier of Ontario, Charles Kirk Clarke, psychiatrist, after whom the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry is named, and Marion Roberts,who married Fredrick Banting, discoverer of insulin. Charles Broley,a student of David Boyle, was an avid birder and was one of the first to identify the effects of DDT on birds, work that Rachel Carson used in her groundbreaking book Silent Spring. One of the greatest contributors to the school was David Boyle, who served as Principal from 1871 to 1881. A key figure in Elora's 19th century intellectual life, Boyle enriched Elora with his pioneering work in geology and archeology.
David Boyle & The School
One of the greatest contributors to the school was David Boyle, who served as principal from 1871 to 1881. A key figure in Elora' s 19th century intellectual life, Boyle enriched Elora with his pioneering work in geology and archeology. Though he possessed no formal training as a teacher, Boyle was obsessed with theories of education. He rejected traditional teaching methods, instead developing a child-centred philosophy that encouraged reasoning and understanding, fostered by the student's own natural curiosity about the things around them. Boyle believed that girls were fully capable of understanding scientific subjects and solving mathematical problems. During Boyle's tenure, six new rooms were added to the school- one of which Boyle set up as a museum, containing archeological specimens, minerals, curiosities, and other artifacts that he used as teaching aids. Interestingly, when Boyle moved to Toronto, he brought his collection of native artifacts and relics that he had collected in the Elora area, eventually placing them in the Ontario Provincial Museum. In 1933 this collection was transferred to the David Boyle room at the Royal Ontario Museum.
-Adapted from research by the Elora historian, Stephen Thorning