This school was given the Laura Secord namesake in 1914. It was closed in 2010 to be combined with St. David's Public School, however the building still stands as a monument to Laura's importance and her accomplishments.
One of several schools in Canada to commemorate the renowned Canadian heroine, Laura Secord Public School closed its doors in June 2010 after 96 years of academic history. The distinctive red-brick building on Walnut Street was taken over by the Willowbank School of Restoration Arts and Centre for Cultural Landscapes. The property became available with the closure of the elementary school program. It provides a ready-made opportunity for Willowbank to expand and become more sustainable.
The early 20th Century heritage school building, plus its later 1950s classroom wing, provides exactly the range of spaces needed for Willowbank's unique blend of classroom and workshop facilities. It also has an auditorium that can seat up to 200 people, a major benefit to Willowbank for some of its conference or workshop activities.
The central part of the property is being sold back to the Town of Niagara on the Lake for a nominal sum, as a public park for the village of Queenston. Any remaining land is being sold off as single family home building lots.
Despite mounting deferred maintenance concerns that threaten its integrity, and in spite of the unattractive mid-20th-century addition grafted onto the school's west wall, the building still exudes warmth and charm.
In May 2010, Niagara Falls Review reporter Sylvie Berry reported on the imminent closure of the lovely historic building in an article entitled "Final chapter nears for Laura Secord" (courtesy Niagara Falls Review):
NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE -- Hidden deep in the rich foliage of Niagara's beauty sits a gem full of history, character and charm.
But the ring of the bell, the giggles of children and the child-filled playground is soon to become a thing of the past.
Laura Secord Public School in Queenston is closing and locking its doors in June after decades as an educational facility.
The school lies in the central core of the quaint village on Walnut Street, its entrance lined with white columns and concrete steps. The breathtaking Niagara River runs just a few metres from the grounds. Over the years, the school has downsized to teaching kindergarten through Grade 3. St. Davids Public School is the school for students attending grades 4 to 8. Together they form one school and, come September, the two will merge.
Tony D'Alessandro, principal of both Laura Secord and St. Davids, is anxious for a smooth transition, once the $4-million addition and construction at St. Davids is complete.
The closure is because of needed repair on the old building that was determined through an accommodation review.
"Because it needs a lot of upgrades, we feel the money would be better spent if the schools are brought together," said D'Alessandro.
"Time will tell, but it's a positive thing, merging the schools together for the future, not a negative."
Opened in September 1914, the two-storey, red-bricked, cornerstone building was led by principal Hazel Corman. The school was named after heroine Laura Ingersoll Secord, in dedication to her bravery and great deeds performed during the War of 1812.
"I think a school is very important to a community. And because we're such a small one, it's going to be hard for us to see that school close," said Maureen Ott, board member of the Queenston Residents Association and a former parent from the school.
Ott lives across the street from the school, her front porch that she claims as her "space" faces the schoolyard.
"It will be sad not to hear the school bell go, and it will be sad not to watch the kids rough and tumble, and climb on the playground and gather in little groups by a tree," said Ott.
Ott and her family of five moved into their home in 1976, which was formerly owned by Corman. All three of her children attended the school until Grade 8.
"If we have anything to say about it, that building will still be there. We will leave no stone unturned to save that building," said Ott.
Jim Armstrong, president of the ratepayers group, has lived in the village for 12 years. He has high hopes for might be done with the property.
"Basically, what we see is a cultural-based property open to the public and the village. Hopefully, we would also retain a good deal of open space for a village common," he said.
Armstrong is in the process of creating a proposal to present to his members.
Armstrong has been president since 2007. He says their goal is "to preserve the special nature of Queenston and to lobby on behalf of the village to political bodies and agencies as necessary to ensure that things are done in the way that we would like to see them done."
"I think maintaining the historical value of any community that has an inventory of built heritage is very important and needs to be recognized provincially and nationally."
Barb Armstrong, former teacher at Laura Secord, no relation to Jim Armstrong, sits on a different side of the fence when it comes to the future possibilities of the school property.
"I have a vision of about four nice retirement apartments that could go on that property. That way, people who don't want to leave the village and go to a strange city, can still have their friends," she said.
She believes that because the majority of residents in Queenston are nearing retirement, this would be an ideal and productive use of the lot. Her vision of one-level apartment units would be of use for current Queenston residents.
Rather than mourning the end of this historical institution, the students and teachers of Laura Secord Public School will be celebrating the school's 96 years. May 16, parents, faculty and former graduates are welcome to an afternoon barbecue to reminisce and share their favourite memories.
The ratepayers group will present a hand-drawn picture of the school by local artist Sue Allen. A larger framed print version of the drawing will be given to St. Davids, too.
"It's certainly not a formal event. We're there to celebrate the 96 years that have evolved," said D'Alessandro.
Willowbank (main website). http://www.willowbank.ca/content/beta/welcome/index/
Willowbank (School of Restoration Arts and Centre for Cultural Landscapes). Niagara Greenbelt Gateway Website. http://www.niagaragreenbelt.com/listings/114-educational-institutions/301-willowbank-school-of-restorarion-arts-centre-for-cultural-landscapes.html
5 Walnut St
L0S 1L0 Municipality Niagara on the Lake
905.262.1239 ext 21