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McKay Avenue School

McKay SchoolEdmonton’s oldest surviving brick schoolhouse also served as Alberta’s first Legislature. On March 19, 1906, the newly elected Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) gathered in the third-floor assembly hall of McKay Avenue School, which had been rented from the Edmonton Protestant Public School Board for $400 per session. Here, in 1906 and 1907, the elected representatives charted the orderly development of the new province.

Among the legislation enacted in the historic McKay Legislature was confirmation that Edmonton would remain the capital city of Alberta. Other centres considered or proposed for the capitol site included Calgary, Red Deer and Banff. Residents of the new Village of Vegreville also lobbied members of the provincial parliament to consider their burgeoning settlement as the logical geographic site for the capitol.

Other legislation originating in the 1906 McKay Avenue School Legislature included the following:

  • Establishment of a system of provincial courts

  • Chartering of six railways 

  • Founding of the University of Alberta 
    Passage of an act to prevent excessive speed by motorists. (Motor vehicle speed limits were set at 20 m.p.h., except when passing or meeting horse-drawn conveyances when the speed could not exceed 10 and 5 m.p.h. respectively.) 

  • Approval of construction of long distance telephone lines between Edmonton and Calgary 

  • Provision for the erection of a provincial Normal School in Calgary 

  • Erection of 140 school districts 

In 1907, the province erected its own temporary assembly near the present site of Alberta’s Legislature. The Terrace Building, as it was called, was a less impressive structure than McKay Avenue School but also less costly to the province. Alberta MPPs met here until they moved into the new Legislature in 1911.

McKay Avenue School expanded, though without its former tenants. Four rooms were added to the school in 1912 at a cost of $68 000, and enrolments continued to grow, reaching a high of 456 pupils in 1916. The school population declined steadily until 1983, when it was finally closed. With assistance from the federal and provincial governments and other sources, trustees of the Edmonton Public School Board redeveloped the former school as a museum and archives. Visitors to the museum will find several classroom displays and, on the third floor, Alberta’s first legislature as it appeared in 1906.

You can visit McKay Avenue School today and see it as it was during the first sitting of the Alberta Legislature! On the top floor of the building is the re-creation of Alberta's first legislature, right down to the same furniture. This is a must-see for all political enthusiasts and historians!

To learn more about McKay Avenue School, visit their website!

 

Reprinted in part with permission from Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum


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