Edmonton

Demolition begins on century-old Ritchie School

A small crowd gathered Saturday to watch as crews began tearing down Ritchie School, which first welcomed students and teachers for the 1913-14 school year. 

The school first welcomed students in 1913

After serving thousands of students and several school boards, the historic Ritchie School is being demolished. (Danielle Kadjo/CBC)

Demolition on the historic Ritchie School in south Edmonton is underway.

A small crowd gathered Saturday to watch as crews began tearing down the red brick building, which first welcomed students and teachers for the 1913-14 school year. 

Louise Perkins' father was a student when it opened.

"He had arrived from England with his parents and they bought a house in the neighbourhood," she said.

Perkins, herself a former student, said the destruction was a sign of changing times.

"The old is coming down, it's changing, and the new is on the other side."

The Edmonton Public School Board voted to close the building in 2008 following efforts by parents to save it. Only 89 students were registered at the time.

In 2009, the French language Centre-Nord School Board moved into the building and opened École Joseph-Moreau. Construction has just finished on a new, modernized building beside the old one.

Ritchie School Demolition

2 years ago
Duration 0:31
Ritchie School gets demolished over the weekend.

"This building was built over 100 years ago to welcome generations of students and now we have a new facility that will do the same thing for the Francophone students," Superintendent Robert Lessard said.

"It was time," he said. "Good things last for a while and then it's time to move on."

Demolition is expected to take three to four weeks. Lessard said the former site will be converted to a soccer field and community space.

Saying farewell

Chico Sen lives across the street and has been a resident of the neighbourhood for a decade. He called the demolition bittersweet.

"On the one hand, it's nice to have a new school to bring in new families to the neighbourhood," he said. 

"But it's really disappointing to see such a beautiful, historic site that helps make Ritchie such a beautiful place to live be torn down."

Louise Perkins attended Ritchie School from 1952 to 1961. (Gabrielle Brown/CBC)

Perkins attended Ritchie School in 1952. She said despite efforts by residents and alumni, the school fell into a long decline.

"Nobody really put a lot of money into it," she said.

Perkins said the neighbourhood itself also fell in standing but has since been revitalized in the last two decades by infill projects.

"We've had a tremendous number of young families coming into the neighbourhood," she said.

Just as Ritchie did for immigrants like her father more than a century ago, Perkins says École Joseph-Moreau is now welcoming newcomers to the community.

"Hopefully it will be an icon for the neighbourhood for the next hundred years, just as this one has been."

With files from Danielle Kadjo and Tricia Kindleman

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