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McKay: The School

McKay Avenue School has played a very significant role in the educational and political history of Edmonton and of Alberta.

McKay School: Front DoorEdmonton's oldest brick school bears Dr. William Morrison MacKay's name, albeit incorrectly spelled, on the sandstone tablet above the 1904 entrance doors. Born in Scotland, Dr. MacKay joined the Hudson's Bay Company in 1864 and served as the firm's doctor until 1898 when he retired to Edmonton.

Construction of the school commenced in 1904, when Governor General Lord Minto laid the school's cornerstone. Designed by architect H.G. Johnson, the eight-room structure was completed by contractor Robert Manson in the summer of 1905, the year Alberta became a province.

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. A number of prominent individuals are recorded in the classroom registers of the historic school. Among the illustrious alumni are such names as Ronald Martland, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada; Leslie Nielsen of Hollywood fame; Clarence Campbell of the National Hockey League; author Lotta Dempsey, and famed bush pilot Wop May.

In 1983, after 78 years of operation, McKay Avenue School was closed because of declining enrolments. A trustee committee established that it would be best to restore the school to its original grandeur so that it would reflect the educational and parliamentary history of Alberta through displays and interpretive programs.

McKay School: Historic ResourceIn 1976, McKay Avenue School was designated a registered historic resource by Cultural Minister Horst Schmid. On September 18, 1987 Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Jeanne Sauvé participated in a cornerstone ceremony to re-dedicate the school to another century of service.

Albertans may now enhance their knowledge of our educational and political past within the historic school wherein so much of our history originated.  

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

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