Schools of the Glebe Annex

By Sue Stefko
(Appeared in the Glebe Report, April 2024)

We have had a number of schools in our small neighbourhood over the years. The first two schools were on Bell Street, with the next two, including the only one still standing, on Powell.

The first school on Powell, which was built on the corner of Bronson, no longer exists. It was initially known as the Bronson Avenue School and was built to replace the old Bell Street Public School that was in use from 1876 until 1905 (see Glebe Report, “Bell Street Public School,” March 2024). The Bronson Avenue School was officially opened in February 1906 by Sir Robert Borden – who at the time was the Conservative leader of the opposition and MP for Carleton Ward. (The choice is somewhat puzzling, as the party was not in power, and this was not his ward.) The new school was lauded as being modern, clean and, unlike the previous Bell Street school, healthy. It doubled the previous classroom space from two to four rooms, with the community particularly appreciating that this school was now big enough to host a kindergarten class.

The opening ceremony was full of pomp, ceremony and speeches, including one by a Dalhousie Ward trustee, Mr. McClenaghan, who took the opportunity to advocate for higher teacher salaries to ensure that men continued to be teachers. McClenaghan noted that if salaries did not increase, it wouldn’t be long until there were no male teachers in the country. As quoted in the Ottawa Journal, he stated, “It was necessary that the higher classes should be taught by men, and they could not hope to have good men unless they paid good salaries.” (The implication is of course that women teachers would have been content with a lower salary but could only teach lower-level classes.)

As population grew in the area east of Bronson and north of the St Louis Dam (Dow’s Lake), more space was soon needed. In 1914, an addition was built at the back of the school, increasing the size from four classrooms to 16. Sir Robert Borden again officiated at the 1915 expansion ceremony, this time as prime minister. At the ceremony, the name was changed from t Bronson Avenue school to Borden Public School. This was controversial, as some thought that naming schools after people would be precedent setting and confusing, and that names based on location made more sense. As there have been at least three schools in Ottawa bearing Borden’s name, including the present-day Sir Robert Borden High School, which for many years operated at the same time as the Borden Public School, it is difficult to argue the point.

Once again, the school grew dated, and a new school was needed. The Borden Public School closed in June 1966 and was quickly demolished, becoming the playground for a new school which was built next door. The new school was sleek, modern and topped by a greenhouse – it was so impressive that plans for the school were selected for display at a national exhibition of school architecture in 1966.

The new Borden school was opened in October 1966 at 515 Cambridge Street. Over the years, it has been referred to as the Borden Public School, Borden Technical School and Borden High School. It was designed to be a vocational school, focused on teaching career-specific skills that students would need to perform a particular job. Classes included gardening, food preparation, automotive maintenance, merchandizing (for girls training to be cashiers) and horticulture. The school also provided counselling staff to help students find employment upon graduation.

The technical school closed in 1990, after which the building was used as a welcome centre, administrative space and an interim school for students as other schools were being rebuilt. In 2002, the property was put on the market for $2.9 million; in 2003, it was developed by Charlesfort Developments. The project included the conversion of the existing school building to 47 condominium units (the Powell Lofts at 300 Powell Avenue), a new six-storey, 45-unit condominium apartment building fronting Bronson Avenue (the Glasgow at 290 Powell Avenue) and six freehold townhouses on Clemow Avenue. The Powell Lofts were designed to work in harmony with the existing structure, resulting in an imaginative layout that includes the maintenance of the school’s original terrazzo floors, 14-foot ceilings where industrial arts workshops once stood and two-storey condos in what used to be the gymnasium. This building is the only physical reminder of the four schools that once stood in this neighbourhood.

The Borden Technical School at 515 Cambridge Street, which has been redeveloped into the Powell Lofts at 300 Powell Avenue.
Courtesy of Powell Lofts