|H.A. Gray School was built in 1913 in honour of the first Anglican Bishop of Edmonton. Henry Allen Gray served in the post from 1914 to 1931 and later became a school trustee and a provincial judge. Gray was called the Cowboy Parson after he spent his first six years in Canada - 1886 to 1892 - as a rancher near Calgary.|
This stately edifice at 12140 103rd Street sports a classy finish of red brick and Bedford Stone in a collegiate Gothic style. In a community largely known for humble housing, the schools lofty ornamental spires, shaped parapets, battlements, and ornamental finials are an unexpected sight.
The school was built for a cost of $158,187 by the boards staff architect George E. Turner. The Edmonton Bulletin of January 1914 noted that it had 16 classrooms capable of holding 42 students apiece, for a total enrolment of 672.
The first classes were held in May 1914. But the official opening wasnt until that September, when it was blessed by Bishop Gray himself.
Gray began his service in Edmonton in 1895 at Holy Trinity Church. From 1897 to 1914, he served as rector of All Saints Church and was the appointed Bishop. He was exceptionally devoted to the community, besides serving three terms on the Edmonton Public School Board, he also started the first Boy Scout troop in the city, served as chaplain of the 19th Alberta dragoons and was a judge of the juvenile court.
As Bishop Gray represented the finest in community spirit, his namesake building represented the finest in educational architecture. With its tapered rusticated sandstone base, paired entry towers, arched windows with stone surrounds and recessed entries, it LOOKED like a place of serious learning. Even the separate entries for boys and girls declared that this wasnt a place for any funny business.
In its earliest days, the school stood virtually alone in the neighbourhood, with just a few houses scattered around the stands of poplar and birch trees. For most students, getting to school meant travelling many blocks by horse and buggy or motor car over roads that were little more than upgraded trails.
While the conditions were rustic, the school itself boasted the latest in amenities including rubbish or dust chutes from each floor to the basement and provision for telephone, electric clock and fire alarm systems. There were eight classrooms on each of the first and second floors and two playrooms and a manual training room in the basement. The top floor was home to a 60 by 65-foot assembly hall on the third floor, said to be one of the largest in the city at the time.
As thousands of newcomers arrived in Edmonton during the oil-driven boom after the Second World War, H.A. Gray School - and other facilities in the city - were bursting at the seams. In 1956 a new two-storey west wing was constructed, increasing the number of classrooms to 28. By 1958, enrollment topped 775.
The neighbourhood aged, children grew up and, by the 1982, attendance had dropped to 295 - 100 of whom were bused into the area. The Edmonton Public School Board decided to close the school and the building was leased to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology for $100,000 a year.
H.A. Gray became a satellite campus for NAIT and its Tailoring Technician and Administrative Secretarial Arts programs were moved into the school in 1984/85. Microcomputers and continuing education soon followed and the campus was named Westwood, after the surrounding community.
To meet the needs of the new programming, NAIT installed new carpeting, electrical systems, paint and ceilings. Inside only the foyers with their traditional ceramic tile and terrazzo and the stairwells bear any resemblance to an older building.
But the exterior retains much of its original glory and provides a valuable connection not only to early Gothic Collegiate architecture in the city but also Edmontons very own Cowboy Parson, Henry Allen Gray.
Information for this article compiled with the assistance of the staff at the City of Edmonton Archives. If youd like to offer your thoughts, please drop me an email at email@example.com.