The High School in early days, 1937. Courtesy of the North Grenville Historical Society.

The news that the old North Grenville District High School [NGDHS] building on Prescott Street has been put up for sale by the Upper Canada District School Board was met with sad resignation by many ex-students in the community and beyond. Ever since it first opened in 1936, replacing the older structure that had been destroyed in a suspicious fire, generations of young people from the area had passed through its doors. There are more stories about the place than there were students, it seems!

When a new High School was announced some years ago, the Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee engaged with Carleton University to see what possible use could be made of the building. The suggestions were creative and seemed quite practical. One local company actually specialised in adapting similar school buildings into condominiums. It seemed, at the time, that there could still be a future for the old school.

But the School Board asked an architectural firm from Cornwall, PBK Architects, to conduct a study of the structure, and the results ultimately removed any hope of maintaining the building without serious and expensive renovation. The company’s report stated quite flatly that much of the building’s infrastructure would need to be replaced. The estimated cost of re-purposing the building for other use was around $12 million.

The cost to the Board of simply keeping the building as it is, unoccupied and unused, would run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, and the decision to sell it was inevitable. Under the regulations governing the disposal of surplus Board buildings, it had to be offered to neighbouring school boards and municipalities to purchase at fair market value. After 90 days, if there were no takers, the building would be put on the open market. This has now been done, and the future of this iconic structure, which has dominated Prescott Street for eighty years, is now unclear.

But the memories and stories of those who walked its halls and filled its classrooms will last much longer and remain part of North Grenville’s history for ages to come.


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