Barrier Free Access to Historic Places: the Little White School

At the 2012 Municipal Heritage Forum Ann Ramsden, Director of Heritage at the Musée Héritage Museum, provided a presentation on the conservation work completed at the Little White School. Specifically, she spoke about ensuring barrier free access. Thank you, Ann, for sharing this case study.

Little White School, St. Albert

Little White School, St. Albert

The Little White School is a two-room schoolhouse in the City of St. Albert. It was constructed by the St. Albert Roman Catholic School District #3 in 1946 and used as a school until 1987. It was designated as a Municipal Historic Resource in 2009 because it is valued for what it can tell us about Roman Catholic public education in St. Albert. The school is now owned by the City of St. Albert and managed by the Arts and Heritage Foundation.

When the museum acquired the building, it needed some conservation work. The stucco, doors and windows needed to be rehabilitated. The shingles were replaced and a ventilation system was incorporated into the roof to prevent condensation. Water was also leaking into the basement through the foundation. The biggest challenge, however, was ensuring barrier free access to the building.

Rear view of the Little White School, St. Albert

Rear view of the Little White School, St. Albert

The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada not only provides advice on how to rehabilitate building elements like stucco, windows or a roof, it also provides advice on planning additions (or other alterations) needed to accommodate changing uses of a historic place. Historic places certainly do not lose their integrity by adding a means of barrier free access. Additions that are compatible with the historic place, yet visually distinguishable from and subordinate to it are welcome, especially if they help ensure the continued use of the place.

Classroom, Little White School, St. Albert

Classroom, Little White School, St. Albert

The Little White School gained an addition that contains a wheel-chair accessible entrance and elevator. This is now the main entrance and provides room for students who visit the school to store their coats and boots. The classrooms received a preservation treatment; one of the classrooms is now being interpreted as a 1940s era classroom. The Musée Héritage Museum invites primary school classes to the school to learn more about St. Albert’s history. Students can come and spend a day at the historic school and learn how students from the 1930s thru to the 1950s experienced school. (The Musée Héritage staff has developed several lesson plans around various themes in St. Albert history.)

Download Ann Ramsden’s presentation: Little White School, St. Albert.

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

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