3. Henry Hudson wooden schoolhouse (1912)

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3. Henry Hudson wooden schoolhouse (1912)
Wooden yellow schoolhouse (1912) at Henry Hudson Elementary SE corner of Cornwall Avenue & Maple Street, in Kitsilano.

Threatened with demolition due to the main school’s seismic mitigation program, the wooden school house was built as a Manual Training School in 1912, with a twin structure built in early 1913 at General Gordon Elementary on Bayswater Street.

If no individuals, community groups, or organisations express interest in a partnership with the VSB, or could take on moving the schoolhouse off the property, it will be demolished.


Henry Hudson Elementary will be completely demolished as part of the Province’s seismic mitigation program, resulting in the loss of all structures on the entire block, including the masonry main building and the stand-alone wooden schoolhouse constructed in 1912.

The new school is being constructed at the western end of the block, and this schoolhouse will be demolished for the slated parking lot entranceway.


Built as a Manual Training School in 1912 and designed by Vancouver School Board Architect N. A. Leech [2], it is now being used for Out of School Care. An identical building was also built in early 1913 at General Gordon Elementary, which has successfully been restored and repurposed as a Montessori School, maintaining a historic community link to the school’s beginnings in Kitsilano.

Henry Hudson wooden schoolhouse, built in 1912. View from the rear/side.

The Manual Training Movement, the precursor to vocational training, started in the United States in the 1870s and “emphasized the intellectual and social development associated with the practical training of the hand and eye” [1]. It was not meant to teach a specific trade but rather to enhance the traditional curriculum and thereby develop the full potential of an individual.

“Another feature of the school work is the exceptional interest being shown in the manual training and domestic science classes by the day school pupils. In October [1912], 2482 pupils were enrolled for manual training and 1,484 for domestic science. This is very encouraging to members of the school board who have made great efforts to foster and equip the more technical side of the public school educational system”
The Province, Nov. 11, 1912 p8


We propose that VSB staff be asked to investigate the feasibility of retaining the historic yellow school house that is now used for Out of School Care and leasing it to a private operator, instead of demolishing the building. (Presentation Board No.3 included in the Virtual Open House, July 8, 2020). We understand that the VSB has made a decision to replace the main school and that it is not feasible at this time to retain the main historic structure. However the retention of the small wooden schoolhouse is feasible – if there is public interest, as the VSB alone will not save the structure.

There are at least two highly successful precedents for retaining the small historic wooden buildings that are found on some school sites, where both were initially slated for demolition.

At General Gordon Elementary School the heritage yellow school house (1913) was retained, updated and leased to the privately operated Mosaic Montessori Preschool.

In the Collingwood neighbourhood, Carleton Elementary School includes Carleton Hall built in 1896 and Vancouver’s oldest surviving school building. Following a fire, the Vancouver School Board announced that it was going to demolish the building. Instead, in 2010 the Green Thumb Theatre Company came forward due to newspapers reports of its impending demolition, and offered to restore Carleton Hall as well as an adjacent wood frame outbuilding into creative and administrative spaces. The restored historic facility has allowed Green Thumb Theatre to create an active arts engagement with both the local and wider community, and a prime example of how a VSB partnership can work, albeit Carleton has a much larger overall land mass.

In addition, there have been a number of other projects around Metro Vancouver where single-room or small wooden schoolhouses have been successfully repurposed, as community assets. A few of these projects are:

  • School 472 (1901) at 19th Avenue W & Laurel Street, community rescued and now used as a rear infill residence;
  • Annidale School (1891), moved within Surrey to Cloverdale in 2018;
  • Bridgeport School West Annex (1908), also originally a Manual Training School, and relocated to Ladner in 1992, and restored as a woodworking studio;
  • Inverholme schoolhouse (1909), moved in 1982 within Delta to Deas Island Park;
  • North Canoe Annex (1924), in Shuswap, Canoe, BC, a one-room schoolhouse, sold to a private buyer who is restoring and repurposing into a residence;
  • General Currie Elementary School (1920), restored in place, in Richmond.

Given its prime location in Kitsilano, and with the upcoming Squamish First Nation Senakw development that will see 6000 homes built at the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge, it should be possible to find a positive use for the restored yellow school house at Hudson Elementary School.

For example, it could be retained for public use, in order to provide much-needed meeting space for local community organisations – but would require a community group or organisation to express interest in a partnership with the VSB, or who could take on moving the schoolhouse off the property. The VSB has stated that they will not be taking on retention for a structure without interest.


  • The City of Vancouver obligates private sector owners to prepare a Statement of Significance (SOS) in all cases where a building of historic significance may be demolished. We urge the Vancouver Board of Education, as a public institution, to follow the same protocol.
  • Write/contact Janet Fraser, Chair of the Vancouver School Board; Jim Meschino, Director of Facilities of the Vancouver School Board.
  • Contacting community groups/associations potentially willing to take on/interest/lease; Carleton Hall was saved because of the Green Thumb Theatre’s expression of interest, leading to its successful restoration and reuse.


Our initial letter to the Vancouver School Board
September 15, 2020

Our subsequent letter to the Vancouver School Board, in response to the VSB Facilities Meeting
October 2, 2020

VSB may spare century-old school house from wrecking ball
Twin designed school house, at General Gordon Elementary (since saved)
Naoibh O’Connor, Vancouver Courier; May 24, 2017

[1] Endnote

Manual Training Movement

[2] Call for tender; The Province, April 25, 1912

Tender for construction of the Henry Hudson manual training schoolhouse in 1912