Sunday, September 13, 2009

The County Academy

Now that teachers and students are back to work I figured that I could safely make a few school related posts. Annapolis Royal has been home to a number of schools through the years. From the early Acadian school operated by Roman Catholic nuns to the modern Champlain Elementary, Annapolis Royal Regional Academy (ARRA) and Annapolis West Education Centre (AWEC), the education of children has always been a priority. In some cases, Andrew Henderson and Icabod Corbitt would be examples, the documented quirks of the school masters tell very interesting stories about the times in which they lived.

Aesthetically, perhaps my favorite Annapolis Royal school was the County Academy which was built in 1900. This school replaced a school known as The Grange which had once been home to Judge Thomas Ritchie. The County Academy sat in much the same location on St George Street as the current ARRA. This was a very impressive building. As with many late Victorian structures, we see a blending of architectural styles. The Gothic Revival style gables frame a distinctive Italianate Style turret. This particular blending of styles has in some cases been called Chateauesque. The windows are treated differently on both floors. A simple peaked transom on the ground floor is paired to great effect with a series of fanlights on the second floor.

The two elm trees shown in front of the building were reputedly brough to Annapolis Royal as saplings by James W. Johnstone when his relatives the Ritchie family still owned the property. Later in life, the Hon. James W. Johnstone was Premier of Nova Scotia from 1857 to 1864. Victims of Dutch elm disease, the trees were removed in 2001.

While the County Academy was an impressive structure it was destined for a short life. The building burned to the ground on January 4, 1939. My wife's grandmother, who was working as a student teacher at the school which was located off the Dugway Road (now part of the golf course), saw this fire from a distance as she was walking to class. She quickly returned to the Goucher house where she was boarding and took some pictures from the hill looking across Alains River. These photographs as well as some interesting images of the aftermath of the fire can be found in the AHS Archival collections.

Please note that the Annapolis Heritage Society has started a new Twitter account. You can now keep up to date with our activities in an almost stream of consciousness manner. While I am still having some problems with the Twitter concept, I think that I have figured out how to make it useful as a heritage resource.

All for now,
RGS

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