In February 2016, the City of Medicine Hat designated the Elizabeth Street School as a Municipal Historic Resource. In September, a plaque about the school’s history and designation was unveiled. The school is the most recent of Medicine Hat’s historic resources to be listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places.
The Elizabeth Street School is located on 11th Street SE (formerly known as Elizabeth Street) in Medicine Hat’s South Flats neighbourhood. The school’s heritage value, as outlined in its Statement of Significance, lies in its association with the city’s early twentieth century boom period, particularly the effort to build the educational infrastructure needed by the rapidly growing city. It is also an excellent example of the Classical Revival style.
The Elizabeth Street School was built over 1912 and 1913. It was part of a concerted effort by the city’s school trustees to increase the number of schools to meet the needs of the growing population. The Elizabeth Street School was built in the South Flats area of Medicine Hat. This neighbourhood, located south of the railway yard, was located near Medicine Hat’s primary industrial area, often referred to as the Clay District, which ultimately included industries such as Medalta Potteries, Hycroft China and Medicine Hat Brick and Tile. Many of the employees of these industries settled their families in the South Flats neighbourhood, quickly creating a community that required all manner of services, such as schools. The establishment of schools in neighbourhoods like the South Flats area demonstrates Medicine Hat’s industry-fuelled growth in the early decades of the twentieth century.
The Elizabeth Street School is designed in a restrained Classical Revival style. This design style evoked associations with ancient Greece and the values of classical education and intellectual pursuits. These associations made it a popular style for schools and other educational buildings, such as Edmonton’s Old Strathcona Library and Calgary’s Memorial Park Library, establishing them as modern day “temples of knowledge.” The style was also considered to lend buildings an air of permanence, status and stability, which were all characteristics the people of Medicine Hat wanted to convey about their community. The Classical Revival style is demonstrated by the general scale and form of the building, and most obviously through the use of a cornice and the roof line and the voissoir and keystone details around the entry ways.
As of November 2016, Medicine Hat has six Municipal Historic Resources listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places, complementing the nine properties in the city designated as Provincial Historic Resources. These buildings and sites include archaeological sites, schools, government buildings, residences, shops and office buildings and large industrial sites. Together, all of these designated historic resources help to convey the richness of Medicine Hat’s history. The City of Medicine Hat and its Heritage Resources Committee continue to work to understand and protect additional heritage sites and buildings. Along with helping to provide economic, social and cultural benefits, designation of municipal and provincial historic resources helps to ensure that local landmarks will continue to help connect Albertans with their rich heritage.
The Elizabeth Street School’s listing on the Alberta Register of Historic Places can be found at https://hermis.alberta.ca/ARHP/Details.aspx?DeptID=1&ObjectID=4664-0337.
For information about Medicine Hat’s heritage programs, please visit http://www.medicinehat.ca/index.aspx?page=1368.