Historic Sites of Manitoba: Seven Oaks School (172 Smithfield Avenue, Winnipeg)
The Seven Oaks School, also known as Seven Oaks Public School, opened on 15 March 1905 in the Rural Municipality of Kildonan, although accounts from some students tell of classes beginning as early as the Fall of 1904. The location of those early classes is unknown.
By January 1908, the single-storey two-room facility was hosting three overflow classes of students normally enrolled at Elmwood School, Pine Street School, Riverview School, Weston School, and Machray School. The opening of Luxton School helped alleviate the overcrowding temporarily. Within a year, however, overcrowding was occurring at John Black School, John H. Gunn School and elsewhere in the West Kildonan School District. The school suffered fire damage in early December 1910 but it reopened on 15 December.
When Centennial School opened in December 1913, the West Kildonan School Board closed Seven Oaks School and rented the building to the Home of the Friendless Children as their school from 1914 to 1916. In the summer of 1916, overcrowding within the district caused district voters to decide to reopen the school. The building was given a $3,800 upgrade in the summer of 1916, with a new steam heat plant and other modernizations. Following the addition of Victory School in 1920, Seven Oaks School hosted grades 1-6, with grades 7 and 8 being going to Victory School. The school later changed to grades 1-3, but on account of local crowding in other nearby schools, it retained grade 4 as well. Staggered classes were implemented to mitigate overcrowding.
By 1955, the building had been expanded with a second storey for added classrooms, with a set of wide stairs between the floors. The building also had sizable wooden pillars inside the classrooms, which were of note to students who coveted the seats immediately behind them, placing them out of sight of the teacher. But the structure’s advancing age was becoming apparent. The heating system was known to leak smoke into the classrooms. Class partitions had little sound reduction. Structural concerns caused gym classes be held in the hallway rather than classrooms. There were no water hoses or other firefighting apparatus, only a metal fire escape chute from the second floor to the ground. And coal was stored beneath the stairs, leading some parents to label it a ‘house of horrors’ or ‘firetrap’ and threaten to boycott the school.
On 1 April 1959, the West Kildonan School District merged with three neighbouring school districts to form the the Consolidated School District of Seven Oaks No. 2375, better known as the Seven Oaks School Division.
In May 1961, a provincial fire inspector produced a list of 11 points to address before the school could be deemed safe, but stopped short of condemning the building because, according to a local school trustee, to do so would necessitate condemning half the schools in the Winnipeg area. The cost of addressing the recommendations totaled some $2,000 and helped prompt voters to pass a bylaw allocating funds for a new school building. A final joint tea and reunion was hosted by Seven Oaks Superintendent John Leamen and Principal Gwen Stewart on 2 November 1961. When the school closed, it had the distinction of being the last wooden schoolhouse operating in Winnipeg.
The new six-classroom brick school was designed by the architectural firm of Ward and Macdonald, and construction of the $90,000 school began in the early Spring of 1962. A ribbon-cutting ceremony with Minister of Education Stewart McLean was held on 17 October 1962. The school operated until June 1982 when it closed and was turned into a daycare centre.
Noteworthy alumni of Seven Oaks School include Eveline Partridge Farlinger.
Among the teachers who worked at Seven Oaks School through the years were Edna Campbell (1905-1906), Jessie Cameron (1906-1908), Mabel L. I. Ogilvie (1707-1908), Cosette Munroe (1909-1910), Violet Paulson (1911-1912), Ina Stefansson (1912-1913), Annie Lane (1914-1915), Florence Burden (1914-1915), Eileen McCord (1917-1918), Mary Scott (1919-1920), May McEwen (1919-1932), Margaret Scott (1921-1932), Margaret Mitchell (1951-1961), Mary MacPherson (1951-1953), Harlaine Boyd (1951-1953), Ina Manary (1960-1961), Muriel Beaton (1960-1961), and Bruce Yarrow (1964-1967).
Photos & Coordinates
“Kildonan wants traffic bridge,” Manitoba Free Press, 15 March 1905, page 3.
“North end notes,” Manitoba Free Press, 10 September 1906, page 11.
“The city’s school accommodation,” Manitoba Free Press, 1 January 1908, page 12.
“Kildonan School Grades,” Winnipeg Tribune, 17 April 1909, page 12.
“Compulsory education,” Manitoba Free Press, 30 November 1909, page 7.
“School children’s jaunt,” Winnipeg Tribune, 3 February 1910, page 5.
“Local notes,” Manitoba Free Press, 15 December 1910, page 2.
“D. R. Jones,” Manitoba Free Press, 14 September 1911, page 15.
“Had busy meeting,” Manitoba Free Press, 27 January 1915, page 16.
“Takes back Seven Oaks School,” Manitoba Free Press, 26 June 1916, page 5.
“School bylaw election arranged,” Manitoba Free Press, 14 August 1916, page 5.
“Will vote on school bylaw,” Manitoba Free Press, 4 September 1916, page 5.
“Vote strongly favours bylaw,” Manitoba Free Press, 9 September 1916, page 5.
“Audrey’s schooling,” Manitoba Free Press, 16 November 1929 Boys’ and Girls’ Section, page 7.
“Sick boy ‘forced’ to walk 8 blocks to school: father,” Winnipeg Tribune, 14 September 1949, page 10.
“West Kildonan teachers listed in four schools,” Winnipeg Free Press, 7 September 1951, page 3.
“Teachers named for W. Kildonan,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 September 1952, page 2.
“School fire hazards say W. K. Fire Chief,” Winnipeg Free Press, 23 August 1955, page 3.
“West Kildonan loses no time in answering school fire ‘alarm’,” Winnipeg Free Press, 25 August 1955, page 3.
“Vote okays Seven Oaks school unit,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 May 1959, page 3.
“Seven Oaks teacher assignments announced,” Winnipeg Free Press, 6 September 1960, page 5.
“‘House of Horrors’ school in W. K. may be doomed,” Winnipeg Free Press, 8 May 1961, page 3.
“Seven Oaks School Division No. 10,” Winnipeg Free Press, 21 October 1961, page 67.
“Final tea planned in school building,” Winnipeg Free Press, 31 October 1961, page 16.
“Seven Oaks grads plan reunion tea,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 November 1961, page 26.
“Tenders,” Winnipeg Free Press, 29 January 1962, page 32.
“The haystack look,” Winnipeg Free Press, 10 March 1962, page 3.
“Two events mark Seven Oaks opening,” Winnipeg Free Press, 15 October 1962, page 18.
A Historical Study of Public Education in West Kildonan to 1959 by Raymond Ronald Bailey, MEd thesis, University of Manitoba, 1966.
“Trustees approve 14.5% rise,” Winnipeg Free Press, 29 January 1982, page 3.
“If someone was sick, I got a desk,” Winnipeg Free Press, 19 May 1982, page 2.
Obituary [May McEwen Ryan], Winnipeg Free Press, 6 October 1990, page 39.
Henderson’s Winnipeg and Brandon Directories, Peel’s Prairie Provinces, University of Alberta Libraries.
This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.
Page revised: 8 September 2019
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