The Red Brick School

Description of Historic Place

The Red Brick School, also known as Red Brick School and Elgin Public School SS#5, is a one-storey, one-room brick structure built in 1887 and located on Halladay Street in the Village of Elgin, Township of Rideau Lakes. This L–shaped building is easily identified by its construction of red brick with yellow brick corner detailing.

The Township of South Crosby recognized the heritage values of the Red Brick School in By-law 29-86 under the Municipal Heritage Designation (Part iv) – July 21, 1986.  It is listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/01/04.

Heritage Value

By the 1850s, the village of Elgin was thriving with a growing population and a number of commercial businesses well underway. The need for a local school led to the construction of the Red Brick School in 1887. Built to the specifications as laid out by the Department of Education for a “perfect” school during the late nineteenth century, the Red Brick School stands as one of the oldest remaining school houses in the area, attended for nearly 80 years by village children.

The Red Brick School is representative of public education reform in the Province of Ontario. In the 1880s the Department of Education surveyed rural schools and found them to be cramped, poorly lit, and lacking in ventilation and sanitary facilities. In 1886, a set of guidelines for the construction of schools was released by the Department of Education. Recommendations from that report addressed those issues along with greater attention to architectural style and landscaping to better reflect the significance of education in the community.

In the summer of 1887, a newspaper announced that Fred Tabor of Morton was awarded the tender to construct this “fine school house” which functioned as such from 1887 until 1964. The Elgin Public School is a particularly fine example of rare, rural, architect-designed, educational structure. The third school to be constructed within the village, and representative of historic, social, and educational development in rural community life.

Contemporary multiple-room schools in urban areas were often designed by architects but, very few one and two room schools in Ontario's townships and hamlets were architect-designed. The Red Brick School is an excellent example of architecture that illustrates the evolutionary development of education in rural one and two room schools during the late nineteenth century.

Sources: Township of South Crosby By-law 29-86; Sue Warren, Hub of the Rideau: A History of the South Crosby Township, Township of South Crosby (1997); Ontario Department of Education, School Architecture: Hints and Suggestions on School Architecture and Hygiene, Toronto (1886); Township of Rideau Lakes L.A.C.A.C, “Heritage Walking Tour of Elgin” (2004)

Character-Defining Elements

Character defining elements that express the heritage value include the:
- red brick exterior with yellow brick quoins
- three tall multi-paned windows on the north facade with yellow brick segmented heads
- stone window sills on the front facade
- wood frame dormers above doors located on the east and west facades
- roof line and brick gables above each of the three windows on the north facade
- central gable with a stone label, inscribed “school”
- clipped end gables on the main roof
- low-pitched hipped roof