|Original Sir John Franklin School River Heights|
The red brick school originally designed by J.N. Semmens in the Collegiate Gothic style and built by Fraser and MacDonald contractors cost $52,000. Day labourers from Sutherland Construction built the one floor, six room schoolhouse on what was the very edge of the city at the time.
Sir Sam Steele school was built in the same red brick style and renovated in much the same way on Chester Street in Winnipeg in 1921.
|Sir Sam Steele School was similar in design in 1921|
The school was U-shaped with a courtyard facing to the back lanes. The front of the school and a small staff parking lot faced out to Beaverbrook Street. A play structure was built in the 1980s at the front of the school. Tether ball poles, four square courts and hop scotch were set inside and around the courtyard.
For a time, an outdoor curling rink existed in the 1970s by the parking lot. There were two soccer fields, one baseball diamond and a single basketball hoop. The entire school was surrounded by a chain link that was open on the Beaverbrook side. Narrow openings existed to the street at Lanark. There were also a few waist level holes ostensibly to let dogs in and out. It was not unusual for River Heights people to just let their dogs out on the 1950s through 1970s and see them in the school yards at recess.
|The view from Lanark Street, a single basketball hoop|
The official address of the school was 386 Beaverbrook Street and a red mail box was right at the corner of Beaverbook and Grosvenor Avenue to handle to mail from the school and Westworth United Church across the street. It was in the 1980s that a daycare was established at Westworth Church as a before and after program for school kids.
It all came to an end in 1989 when the school saw dwindling enrollment and with too many other schools nearby, the school was shuttered. In 1990, the old school was demolished.
Sir John Franklin Community Club made use of the school for many years for soccer as well as baseball. Throughout the 1990s, it was typical to see a few games going on each day.
|What Sir John Franklin looks like today|
The clashes between the community club and dog owners were ferocious. People not cleaning up after their dogs being a primary concern. No trespassing signs and barricades were torn down by the dog people. Eventually the club gave up.
Irresponsible dog owners and droppings remain a problem even now.
|The bushes and trees and oaks along Lanark fence.|
The status quo suited some as long as someone was mowing and taking care of the property. The school division eventually made the move to sell and a debate has gone on for some time.
Dog owners wanted the land to become an official dog park. There certainly is a demand for an off leash park and the city is woefully behind in setting a policy for it. Many cities have quite a few of them. Winnipeg really only has unofficial kinds. Sir John Franklin often has dozens of owners in the park with their dogs.
|A valuable postage stamp property in River Heights|
All three of the above are correct. The city should offer up an off leash dog park somewhere else in River Heights. It is not the job of the school division to offer one. Dog owners must accept that the unofficial off leash park was temporary despite the trespass of all these years.
My personal preference to set up an official off leash dog park is off Edgeland in Tuxedo, close to the neighbourhood Safeway.
|The square property near Tuxedo Safeway|
|Can't be the only one looking at those swaths of land|
|Going to the Dogs?|
|If housing, what kind?|
If housing was to go on the site, what kind of housing? A number of people, including a nearby church, thought maybe seniors housing. Such a project requires someone taking the bull by the horns and no one did so the idea fizzled. The Free Press suggested high density housing but as pointed out Lanark Street might not be able to accommodate it. And Jane Jacobs said high density can't simply bowl over a neighbourhood without consequences.
The school division eventually sold the entire site to a developer called 386 Beaverbook Developments.
Public hearing were held and the development company showed a design similar to the bay designs that line the west of Lanark Street now. The city flatly said no. When they said no more parks, they meant it. There might have been wide support ultimately for the design which also included housing on Beavebrook Street but the city did not want a bay.
|Bay meant more traffic on Lanark Street|
Moreover, Lanark Street has become busier and busier ever since the traffic lights were placed at Academy and four way stop signs at Kingsway. The popularity of the shops and coffee places on Academy plus homeowners parking on the street means that most north River Heights streets are a unbroken line of parked cars 24 hours a day.
Lanark Street is the primary street used to turn left at Academy and it is always busy. The traffic circle at Lanark and Grosvenor funnels even more traffic down the street. A bay would put more traffic on the street. Lastly, Grosvenor Avenue would have been broken up by an alleyway and a pathway to the bay. This would have squeezed Westworth Church even more than roadway changes have already done.
So no bay support from the city.
Another proposal was for houses east and west and the east side of Beaverbook Street with a pocket park at Beaverbrook and Grosvenor.
|East and West and Beaverbrook and park|
|Still problems with the configuration|
It appears the city favoured an extension of the lane for garbage pick-up and a east-west road and another public lane for garbage pick-up and garages. The one major concession to parks was preservation of a green strip down Lanark and the mature oaks at the corner of the lot.
|East-West road, Oaks at top preserved|
|Houses facing Grosvenor, Church squeezed?|
No one will be completely happy but the construction of 31 new homes in River Heights represents compromises. It puts money in the budget for the Winnipeg School Division to do something else. It gives the city new tax money from homes in a high value area, infills land inside the city, increases density using existing infrastructure.
The church while unhappy that they may have fewer spots in front to park might find they have new church goers as well. Ironically, new homes might attract more families seeking schools in the area...of what once was a school.
Dog owners need spaces. Time for the city to get off their duffs and help find them. I think I have pointed out a few spots already.
"Not in my backyard" cannot prevail without challenge. More people need to take the position of "Not without my involvement" or we achieve nothing.
River Heights gets 31 new family homes. Welcome to the neighbourhood.
By the way, I am looking for many more old Sir John Franklin school pictures. Please send my way.