Buena Vista School
BV School 1913-2010
Buena Vista School is one of three designated Heritage Properties in the B.V. area. The School is an integral part of the neighbourhood and a focal point for community programming and services. From 1910 – 1914 Saskatoon’s population and economic “boom” represented one of the most important periods of growth in the city’s development. Money was abundant, enterprise thrived and construction of all kinds flourished. During this time the Saskatoon Public School Board planned the construction of ten major schools.
The School is Built: 1912
In 1911 the Public School Board bought an entire city block on Lorne Avenue to build a public school. The price paid was $10,000. While the school was being built classes for students began in a frame building across the street, with 150 pupils in two shifts of 75 each.
Mr. David Webster, a Scottish architect and the official Public School Baord architect from 1911 – 1914, was tasked with the design of the School. Webster also designed King George, King Edward, Albert, Westmount, Caswell and Alexandra schools. Webster applied the Collegiate Gothic style, or what we commonly call the “Castle School” style. The construction project was supervised by Robert Blackwood, a prominent member of the Masonic Lodge. There are Masonic symbols on the chimneys and walls of the towers in both Buena Vista and King George Schools.
The caretaker’s apartment was located in the tower of all the schools built during this time period, and the caretaker of Buena Vista in the early years was Mr. Lightbody who lived in the attic with his family for several years. Shannon Brothers and Cassidy received the contract for the construction of the basement of the School in 1912 at a cost of $5,263. The same firm then received the contract to build the rest of the School at a cost of $122,187 for the building, plumbing, and heating. Further costs of $4000 for desks, $1500 for hardware, $600 for concrete sidewalks, and $400 for blackboards were spent. The total cost was around $145,000. Saskatchewan brick was used for the rough work with imported brick for the finishing work.
The School is Opened: 1913 – 1914
The cornerstone was laid by school board secretary W.P. Bate on June 9, 1913. The cornerstone contains copies of the two daily newspapers of the time, the Daily Star and the Phoenix, as well as photographs of the city. Six rooms opened in the school on April 1, 1914 and six more rooms opened in September of that year. Four of the rooms were rented to the Normal School, the teacher’s college. The opening of the School relieved pressure from the congestion at Victoria School, but soon B.V. itself was at capacity.
Following its opening, the school became known as a “white elephant” due to problems with the basement concrete floor and the heating system both of which had to be replaced within one year of the opening. Many new students arrived at the School during World War I, and for many years the first Principal, Mr. Holliston, organized a Cadet Corps. In 1916 the Corps had 52 boys.
Charter staff at the School were: M.A. Rainey; M.A. Pilbaum; W.J.C. Brear; H.M. Clarke; and B.J. Clark.
- The school bell was purchased through student fundraising.
- During the WW I days grade 5 students raised money to buy magazines for soldiers training in Saskatoon, and the whole School raised $600 to buy war bonds by hosting teas, concerts and bazaars.
- Mr. Holliston was the first principal and served from 1913 – 1939 except for one year off to pursue his own studies, art.
- In 1918 B.V. and Westmount began a “departmental system” for teacher of grades 6 – 8 which meant that teachers would specialize in certain subjects.
- Also in 1918, all schools in the city were closed for almost a month beginning in October due the great flu epidemic.
- The school grounds were spruced up for the 1917 visit of the Governor General. In 1919 Royalty visited the School when the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire were in Saskatoon.
- For many years the School provided accommodation for visitors during Fair Week, due to its close proximity to the Exhibition Grounds.
- The first Home and School District in the city was established at B.V. School in 1926, with Mrs. Grace Blue as president.
- During the years of the Second World War students from Thornton School attended B.V. as Thornton was loaned out to the Department of National Defence for use as an army hospital.
- Senator Sid Buckwold attended Buena Vista School in his childhood.
- During the 1920’s separate classes for “Ruthenians” (Ukrainians) were held to assist newcomers with learning English.
- In 1936 students donated books and raised money to set up a library.
- Kindergarten began in 1946 and in 1952 the start of classes was delayed for two weeks due to the polio epidemic.
- Queen Elizabeth was built in 1954 to relieve the enrolment pressure on B.V. and Thornton. In the mid 1950’s B.V.’s student population hit 850!
- A formal library was built in 1965 and a ground level gymnasium and auditorium was built in 1966 for $177,390.
- The entire School was renovated in 1974-75 and the Art room was refurbished in 1992. A new sprinkler system was installed in 1999. Extensive renovations were once again undertaken in 2002-03.
*The information contained in this write-up is taken from the Buena Vista School History website with permission, City of Saskatoon Heritage Property Detail Report, and the City of Saskatoon. Summarized by Sean Sass, BVCA 2010.