90 Pearl St. E., Brockville
Brockville Collegiate Institute, built in 1889
Miss Edith Giles who joined the staff of the High School in 1889, and taught there until her retirement in June 1927, wrote the following history in 1930:
The Brockville Collegiate Institute was built in 1889, and was formally opened for the Fall term in September of that year. The grey stone building of simple and dignified architecture stood near the centre of the block between Orchard St. and Ormond St. facing Pearl St. on the south. A beautiful lawn in front extended the length of the block and was terraced to the playgrounds of the boys and girls at the rear.
The school comprised the basement with cloakrooms for pupils and a furnace room, the main floor with office and library in a shallow extension at the front and three classrooms on the north. The second floor held a laboratory above the office, and an assembly room and one classroom; the third floor with two gyms for boys and girls.
Mr. John McMullen, author of “A History of Canada” and editor of “The Brockville Monitor” was head of the building committee. The citizens felt that at last they had a splendid school – one that would serve the town for ages. The new school evidently attracted more pupils, and in a short time, a small classroom was partitioned off the assembly room. Soon the later was required for classes.
In 1908, a north wing was added, containing the gymnasium on the ground floor, above that a laboratory and classroom, and on the second floor, a large assembly hall. But this too proved quite inadequate for the growing numbers, and the assembly hall was divided by means of temporary partitions into three classrooms. The two gymnasiums of the original building had long been used for very unsatisfactory classrooms.
Brockville Collegiate Institute, destroyed by fire on March 8, 1929
The following was written in 1938, by a former teacher, John E. Elliott, who taught Mathematics in 1886-1889 during the time that Brockville High School became Brockville Collegiate Institute:
A look over the present roll of nineteen members of the staff of Brockville Collegiate Institute has put me in reminiscent mood and I have thought back to the time when there were only three teachers and I was one of the three.
My term in the old school began in September 1886, and the manner of my appointment was somewhat unusual. Being out of a position through attendance at the university, I wrote to the High School Inspector, John Sneath, an inquiry about a possible high school suitable for me.
His reply was concise: “Write to A.W. Burt, principal Brockville High School, stating qualifications and religious denomination.” That religious condition nettled me. I would not apply, but I was out and wanted a place, and finally I framed a letter, stating that I was a member of a Christian church, and I hoped no further question would be asked.
A prompt exclamation, with the appointment, was the reply. The high school board had instructed the chairman and the principal to secure a teacher through the high school inspector. Rev. E.P. Crawford, the chairman, Principal A.W. Burt and H.R. Fairclough, the first assistant, were all members of the Anglican church, and the inspector had been informed that they would prefer a man who did not belong to that church. Hence the reference to church affiliation.
It so happened that I qualified as a non-Anglican, and educationally, I put in three and a half very pleasant years under Mr. Burt, one of the best all-round men in the profession at that time. He had come to Brockville in 1885, as successor to Rev. Clare L. Worrell, afterwards Archbishop Worrell, who had been appointed headmaster at Brockville in September 1882, after a very successful term as the headmaster at Gananoque. Mr. Worrell’s predecessor was P.C. McGregor, who after serving a short term at Brockville, had been invited back to his old school at Almonte.
Mr. Burt became principal of Brantford Collegiate Institute in 1893, and there he closed his teaching career. He is not now living.
Mr. H.R. Fairclough, a brilliant classical scholar, taught under Mr. Burt until he received a university appointment in September 1886. He afterwards had a successful career in the department of classics in Leland Stanford University, California.
One of Mr. Fairclough’s fellow honour graduates of Toronto University, Mr. John T. Fotheringham, was his successor at Brockville. He, after a year or two, was appointed to the staff of Upper Canada College, and having graduated later in medicine, he became well known in medical and also military circles as Doctor and General Fotheringham.
Another of my colleagues was Peter Perry, classical specialist, afterwards for many years principal of the Fergus High School.
The lineup of teachers in 1887-88-89 was Burt, Fotheringham, Norrish, Elliott; Burt, Perry, Allan, Elliott; Burt, Perry, McArdle, Elliott.
[These photographs can be viewed full size in a separate window by double clicking on the picture on this page until you reach the enlarged version further in the system]
1892 Teaching Staff
(STANDING, from left) J.D. Dickson (Mathematics) and James S. Copland (Science)
(SEATED, from left) Miss A. Edith Giles (Moderns), A.W. Burt, principal (Moderns + English), Miss Hattie M. Burns (later Mrs. Geo. T. Lewis), Ralph E. Ross (Classics)
Sources: The above photograph was last published in the 1980 BCI 50th Re-union Souvenir Edition. John Elliott’s story was published in the Recorder & Times on December 22, 1938. Edith Giles wrote on the occasion of the opening of new BCI building in 1930.