Here’s the Vancouver High School on Dunsmuir Street, with the ‘Public School’ (as it’s referred to on the 1901 Insurance Map) in the background, on the same block, further north on West Pender Street. That was also called the Central School, and was designed by Thomas Hooper in 1889 (with Balston Kenway, the supervising architect for the Provincial government). This image dates from 1893, which explains why the new board sidewalks are level, but the streets aren’t – the High School was very newly built.
Charles Russell Oldershaw was apparently the architect – although quite how is a bit of a mystery. This cutting from 1892 clearly identifies the name of the architect as Oldershaw, but there’s no one with his name in any of the local street directories (or in Victoria). The only Oldershaw who is an architect is in Chatham, Ontario, and although he moved to Vancouver, that apparently wasn’t until 1898. He didn’t even advertise as an architect in Ontario before 1895, so how he might design an important building like this is unclear. (There is another newspaper reference to him being in the city in 1894, but no other apparent architectural work. There was a 52 year old bricklayer called Alfred Oldershaw in Victoria, but he seems an unlikely designer as well – and his was the only Oldershaw family in the province in 1891. He was originally from Nottinghamshire in England, but had met his wife in Chatham, Ontario so was probably a relative of the architect).
The term ‘High School’ is a bit misleading – it doesn’t really refer to a secondary school, but rather a post-secondary institution. Of the forty-two students enrolled during the 1890–91 school year, eight were successful in gaining teaching certificates. ‘The First Fifty Years: Vancouver High Schools’ explains that “In 1894, the passing of an Act which permitted the affiliation of high schools in the province with recognized Canadian Universities, made possible the beginning of the work normally done in a university. In the academic year 1898-99, Vancouver High School made its first systematic attempt to matriculate students; eight candidates were successful.
The next school year the high school was actively affiliated with McGill University in First Year Arts, taking the name of “Vancouver College”. The school was also officially known as “Vancouver High School and College”. In 1899 – 1900, a class of six students took the full First Year University Course in Arts and four passed the McGill University examinations.”
Today it’s still a Vancouver College – Vancouver Community College is located here.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives SGN 49