You may recall that back in the fall of 2016, I wrote about how Nepean High School as an institution was technically turning 100 years old that month. https://kitchissippi.com/2016/09/15/kitchissippi-school-100-years-old/ I won't rehash that story, but just to say that Nepean did exist for several years as a continuation class operating out of Churchill and Broadview public schools, until it became clear that a high school for the suburban kids in the exceedingly-popular Britannia streetcar line neighbourhoods was a necessity.
Monday January 9 - Nepean Township council holds its first meeting of the new regime to kick off 1922 (back then most municipal elections were still annual events, held around January 1st). The council meeting is held at Nepean Town Hall on Richmond Road in Westboro. The main topic for the meeting is the need to put into motion a building project to erect a high school for children of Nepean. The thrust for this is the distance students need to travel to get to city high schools, the fees they are required to pay being from outside the city, and the fact that the city schools were becoming severely overcrowded. It is decided to hold a town hall for the council, school trustees and ratepayers of Nepean on January 23rd to discuss further with public input, particularly on the location of this proposed high school. Nepean Council in 1922 was: Reeve Fred Bell; 1st deputy Reeve Fred Graham; 2nd deputy Reeve A.B. Ullett; 3rd deputy Reeve J.W. Arnott; and Councillor J.H. Slack.
|Just one simple sentence in the Nepean Township Council|
minutebook for January 9, 1922, but it's a significant one.
|The big headline! Ottawa|
Citizen, January 9, 1922
Monday January 23 - A public meeting is held for the Councillors, school trustees and citizens of Nepean to discuss the need for a high school. Over 100 people are present. At the meeting, Dr. F.W. Merchant of the Department of Education, presents a report (which was not produced by the Department, but rather by inspectors of the Department) with numbers showing that 67% of Nepean's student population was located in Westboro (8.5% in Woodroffe and 3% at Britannia). Thus it followed that the high school should be located in the eastern end of the township, and the report presented further specifies the recommendation that "As Westboro has the largest population and furnishes 67 per cent of the attendance at the continuation school, the high school should be placed in Westboro, in forming a new high school district." It also points out that Westboro is growing rapidly, has a large percentage of the overall population and bores a large share of the township's tax assessment. 9 of 14 Nepean school sections are represented at the meeting (the other 5 being at the western end of the township, closer to Richmond, and thus would have minimal use of the high school), with 8 of the 9 agreeing that the high school should be built in the vicinity of Westboro. The report notes that the high school "should provide accommodation for at least five classes, and furnish facilities for typewriting, manual training, domestic science, an assembly hall, and gymnasium." Each of the members of Nepean Council, as well as the representatives of the school sections spoke in support of the plan.
|1879 Carleton County map showing the borders of what|
was Nepean Township, in relation to neighbouring
townships. Note all of Ottawa west of the Rideau River
was originally part of Nepean Township.
Wednesday January 25 - Nepean Council meets and agrees to proceed to Carleton County Council for approval for the project. Council also debates and officially decides upon the portions of Nepean Township to be included in the high school district. It is decided to include school sections 1 to 5 (from Westboro to Bells Corners and the March Road school house), 11 (Greenbank), 12 (City View), 13 (Merivale) and the new section 15 (a more northwesterly part of the township). Council to present the plan to Carleton County Council the following day.
Thursday January 26 - A bylaw to create a high school area in Nepean Township i0s presented at Carleton County Council, and passes through first, second and final reading without any objection or discussion. The plan is presented by Nepean Councillors A.H. Ullett and J.W. Arnott.
Tuesday February 21 - Carleton County Council gives final approval of the creation of the high school district, and appoints the first three members of the high school board of trustees: J. Ernest Caldwell of City View, Elijah Dawson of Bells Corners, and Ralph Hodgson of Woodroffe. This trustee board is now fully empowered to act on behalf of the County in matters pertaining to the high school going forward. "The way is now well paved for the erection of a new high school to serve most of the Township of Nepean" writes the Journal.
Thursday February 23 - Nepean Council appoints three trustees to represent the Council on the six-person board. Selected were John E. Cole of Westboro (who owned much of the land in Westboro, and operated the Highland Park Dairy Farm, one of if not the first electrified farms in Canada), George Spencer of Westboro (a high-ranking public servant, Chief Operating Officer of the Board of Railway Commissioners), and a young Cecil Morrison, just a few years after opening his Standard Bread Company with Richard Lamothe on Hilson Avenue.
|John E. Cole in 1913|
|Cecil Morrison in 1919|
March and early April - A brief reprise from developments as Nepean deals with new fire and building bylaws, a proposed cemetery at Britannia Heights (the area south of Carling now including Frank Ryan Park), spring road repairs, as well as a split of the City View school section (where the existing school is up near Meadowlands Drive, requiring students residing near Carling Avenue walk 2-3 miles. A house by Carling is to be used while plans to build a proper schoolhouse are made). In an important move, the architect firm of Richards and Abra (Hugh Richards and William James Abra) is secured by the trustee board to design the high school. Early blueprint plans are drawn up during the Spring.
|Ad for Richards and Abra from April 1922|
Meanwhile the board of trustees are narrowing down a list of possible locations for the school; a list of eight different sites around Westboro are initially considered. Also during this time frame, John E. Cole was selected as Chairman of the trustee board. There is no individual more instrumental in the establishment of Nepean High School than Cole.
Friday April 14 - This afternoon, the members of the high school board take a road trip out to visit the leading four sites which are under consideration for the school. The sites are located in McKellar Townsite (now McKellar Park), Main Street (now Churchill Avenue), Broadway Avenue in Highland Park (now Broadview Avenue) and on Richmond Road. Unfortunately, no records seem to exist of what sites exactly were being considered. However the map below provides potential likely guesses as to what was being considered, based on open space at the time.
|Potential locations for NHS considered by the board in 1922|
Following the field visit, no decision is made, but the list is narrowed down to three: McKellar Townsite, Broadway Avenue and Main Street. The plans for the school (by Richards and Abra) are nearly complete by this date.
Tuesday April 25 - The location of the high school is announced! Of course it is the site that is just north of Broadway Avenue public school, at the corner of what was then called Princess Avenue (Princeton). The five-acre spot is said to be the highest elevation between Ottawa and Britannia. Conflict of interest? The site chosen is owned by board chairman John E Cole (who owned most of the land in the neighbourhood), who not only benefits from the land sale to the school board (for $13,000) but also in the increase in value of his properties surrounding the school. Surely that must have helped the Broadview site gain the edge over McKellar Park and Churchill Avenue! The announcement also notes that the school will cost over $50,000, and will be a ten room school (these projections will grow two or three times over the coming months).
|Announcement in the evening edition of the|
Ottawa Citizen, April 25, 1922.
Thursday May 11 - Architects Richards and Abra publish newspaper advertisements calling for tenders for the excavation of the property on Broadway Avenue to commence construction of the high school. Bids accepted up until May 17th.
Thursday May 18 - It is announced that Ottawa firm Bate, McMahon & Company are awarded the contract for excavating the property. 13 bids are received by the board, the lowest offer being that of Bate, McMahon & Co. for $2,000. The work is to be completed by the first week of June. The land would have been largely flat and likely grass covered, with few or no trees visible in the rare aerial photos of the era (see below for an aerial photo from 1920). The land is still only 11 years removed from being farmland (the McKellar family sold to a real estate syndicate who established the McKellar Townsite in 1911).
|An ad for Bate, McMahon & Co. from|
the period (July 13, 1918)
Late May and early June - Excavation work on the site performed by Bate, McMahon & Co. On June 3rd it is reported that "excavation work is almost completed".
Friday May 26 - Architects Richards and Abra publish ads calling for tenders for construction of the high school. Bids accepted until Saturday June 10th at noon, at their Sparks Street office.
|Ottawa Journal, May 26, 1922|
Friday June 2 - At a meeting of the high school board, held at the offices of Richards and Abra, the name of the new school is selected: Nepean Collegiate Institute. The name of the board is also to change from the Nepean High School Board to the Nepean Collegiate Board. (The primary difference in a "Collegiate" versus a "High School" is that traditionally, collegiate institutes focused on arts and humanities for students intending to attend university, whereas high schools focused on vocational and science programs for those planning to enter the workplace upon graduation. Over time the roles blurred and eventually they merged in a single secondary school system. The term ‘Collegiate Institute’ largely has disappeared, remaining only for the oldest and most established secondary schools). Though the plan as of June 2nd was to go the "Collegiate" route, this plan was clearly short-lived, as not long after, the terminology would revert back to "High School".
Also at this meeting on June 2nd, the final plans and specifications for the building are approved. "The building is to be two storeys in height, with ten class rooms, an assembly hall, gymnasium, domestic science room, and chemical laboratory. It is to be entirely fire proof and will be built of reinforced concrete and brick. It will cover a space measuring 170 feet by 90 feet."
Concurrently, Richards and Abra, as well as Nepean Township, were focused on the planning and construction of the new schoolhouse at Merivale and Coldrey, for the new SS 16. Built at the same time as Nepean High, it is now the old section of the Carlington Community Health Centre.
Thursday June 15 - Nepean Township council grants the Nepean Collegiate board's application for the issuance of 30-year debentures for $200,000 towards the construction of the high school. (Over $2.9 million in 2019 money, using the Bank of Canada inflation calculator). This money will go towards the purchase of the site, building of the school, and its fit-up.
To fund the construction of the school, I suppose Nepean Township had a few options: they could spend their own money to do it (which they didn't have); they could levy the entire Township, and even set higher levies for residents in school sections closest to the school (not a popular move, and likely not even financially possible); they could borrow from a bank or lender (potentially high interest rates and restrictive clauses); or they could issue debentures (which is what school boards commonly did in the era for building projects). Debentures are still a bit confusing to me how they worked, but essentially they were like bonds, in that lenders could bid for the right to loan the money essentially, at terms the board set out. In the case of NHS, the debentures were set at 30 years at 5.5% interest per annum. Bidders would bid at how much they would be willing to discount on the nominal value (usually in the 2% range) in order to win the loan essentially. Typically a debenture from a school board or a municipality was a safe investment.
Mid-June to late-July - Construction begins on Nepean High School. The contractors who won the bid process were Taylor and Lackey.
Robert Taylor and James Lackey were both Irish-born, Taylor 60 and Lackey 51. Their firm had been one of Ottawa's top builders dating back to the 1890s. They took on many large projects, and had a large contingent of top tradesmen in Ottawa at their disposal. They would also win the contract to build Elmdale Public School a few years later.
|Ottawa Citizen, July 19, 1922. Taylor and Lackey,|
contractors for the construction of Nepean High invite
bricklayers to apply to help build the school.
30 to 40 workers work on construction of the foundation of Nepean High, which is complete in mid-July. Construction on the brickwork begins around August 1st, and the crew of 30 to 40 workers grows by "many more" once the team begins work on the structure of the school.
Monday July 24 - John Cole speaks to the media this evening and announces that the new high school will be the finest high school in the province of Ontario. Though original estimates were $80,000, the costs now appear to be over $100,000. The school will provide classes for over 400 students, in 12 classrooms, with a gymnasium and auditorium. The debentures for $200,000 will be ready to be issued in late August. Nepean Township council has also made backup plans to secure funding if there are delays in funding.
Wednesday August 2 - Nepean Council approves the issue of $235,000 debentures total for the high school and the public school on Merivale. Tenders for the debentures due by August 17.
Friday August 11 - The first classified advertisement is run in the Ottawa Citizen looking for teachers for Nepean High School. Annual salary of $1,800. The ad would run daily for two weeks.
|Ottawa Citizen, August 11, 1922|
Thursday August 18 - The bid of R.A. Daly & Company of Toronto on the $235,000 debentures was accepted by Nepean Council this evening at 98.69% with interest at 5.5%. An impressive 14 other tenders had been received. Meanwhile construction continued on the school itself.
Monday September 11 - A big day in the construction of Nepean High. The corner stone is laid today by Hon. R.H. Grant, Ontario Minister of Education, at 4 p.m. A large ceremony is held at the site, which includes all six members of the high school board, the full Nepean Township council, and large numbers of the public including hundreds of school children, all excited for the arrival of the school.
|Laying of the cornerstone of Nepean High. September 11, 1922.|
(Source: City of Ottawa Archives, CA-18367)
John Cole presides over the ceremony, which starts with an invocation (prayer) by Rev. A.E. Kelly of Westboro Methodist Church. Cole then began "with an introduction eulogizing the ideals which the school would represent" (reported the Citizen), and details an outline of how the school had gotten to this point. Cole then introduces Hon. Grant for the cornerstone ceremony. Mr. W.J. Abra of Richards and Abra present Hon. Grant with a silver trowel for the job. After the stone is laid, Hon. Grant makes "an inspirational summary of the benefits of good schools, congratulated the local councils and school boards on the fact of being able to erect the fine building he now saw in process of construction. He made reference to the many invitations which he received asking him to perform similar functions. In many of these cases, he regretted having to send some one to represent him. In the county of Carleton, he said, this would not do. No such thought had struck him. He considered it an honor to be able to perform such a ceremony in his own constituency."
"In speaking to the children he reminded them that one or more of them might some day find themselves in the same position he was in, minister of education. That although there was nothing sensational in the laying of a cornerstone, there was a great significance in it. He remembered that when going to the old high school in Ottawa, which used to be situated where the Russell theater now stands, the students were called out to attend the laying of the cornerstone of the present Ottawa Collegiate (Lisgar) by Lord Dufferin. He had never forgotten that day and hoped that they, the children, would not forget the present one."
Grant closes by stating: "Even if you are not my supporters politically, I will forgive your remissness in that respect if you will support me in my endeavors to improve the educational facilities in the province of Ontario."
Following Hon. Grant's address, the school children present sing "O Canada" and the official National Anthem at the time (God Save the Queen). On the platform (in the photo above) are the members of the Nepean Council (J.H. Slack, M.N. Cummings and A.B. Ullett), Rev. W.H. Cramm of the Westboro Presbyterian Church, Rev. A.N. Frith of Westboro Baptist Church, Col. (Rev.) R.H. Steacy of All Saints' Anglican Church, T. Saunders and John Shouldis, school trustees of Woodroffe, John Gamble, Nepean Township clerk, and key local figures Percy Halpenny, Jack Ashfield, E.H. Stewart, W.C. Harnett, M.Honeywell, Dr. J.S. Nelson, S. Bradley, Dave Mowat, and many others.
At the time, the school is projected to be ready for January 1st, 1923. It will have eight teachers under the principalship of Miss Anita (Annie) J. Stewart (currently the principal of Broadview Avenue School). The plan at this point has changed again, to now 15 classrooms, plus a science room, manual training room, chemistry and physics labs, biology lab, auditorium with seating for 400, and a gym. The school will be built to accommodate 600 students.
September to December 1922 - Construction continues on Nepean High School, but it will not be ready by January 1st as hoped, so a decision is made to postpone opening until the fall of 1923. The bulk of the the construction was likely completed by the Spring of 1923, barely a year after the initial steps were taken to have the school built.
|May 1933 aerial photo of the same area (I've never seen|
an aerial photo of Westboro/NHS for any period between
1920 and 1933). Princeton and Denbury now appear.
|2017 GeoOttawa photo of Nepean & Broadview|
Nepean High School opened in September 1923 with 195 students in attendance. There were a total of six classes: two Form I's (grade 9), two Form II's (grade 10), one Form III (grade 11), and one Form IV and V (grades 12 and 13). Just prior to the school opening, Mr. H. Loucks was appointed principal in the summer of 1923, and the first staff at opening were Mr. Loucks, Miss Annie J. Stewart, Mrs. Kathleen H. Crain, Miss Lena L. MacNeill, Miss Jean McIntosh, and Mr. W.R.M. Scott. Later in the year, when the auditorium was completed, the official opening took place. The Journal and Citizen both dedicated large articles and a photograph of the school to celebrate the official opening, and the successful project that impressively had gone from concept to classes in barely over a year!
|Nepean High School at opening, fall 1923|
(from Ottawa Journal, December 15, 1923)
|The original Nepean High School as it was in the|
early 1920s (and with a little snow)