"Cornerstones" were articles that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Calgary Herald between 1997 and 2000. The following article appeared March 5, 2000.
James Short School
(formerly Central Public School)
• 1st Street and 5th Avenue
• Built: 1904 – 1905
• Architect: Plans sent from Winnipeg were adapted to Calgary needs by William Dodd. A few years later Dodd designed city hall.
• Contractor: Addison and Davey
• Original cost: $75,000. The land cost $8,400.
• Construction materials: Sandstone from the McArthur quarry north of the Bow River.
• Architectural style: Romanesque and Classical. According to architectural historian Bryan Melnyk, Central School featured "an elaborate Baroque cupola which became a noted landmark in the community." The cupola was designed to accommodate a tower clock, but a clock was never installed.
• Interior details: Three storeys. Ten classrooms, a third floor assembly hall, "free lending library" and basement. Each 30 ft. by 30 ft. classroom included a cloakroom with drinking fountain, "so that scholars desiring a drink need not waste time by leaving the room." The basement consisted of washrooms, furnace room and two playrooms, one for boys and one for girls, for use during inclement weather. "The building is lighted by electric lights, and between each room and the janitor’s quarters there are speaking tubes to permit the teacher to ask for more or less hear as the occasion may demand." Interior trim and doors were oak, ceilings were metal and the two large stairways located at each end of the building were made of birch.
• The old four room brick Central School, located on the same block as the new Central School, was built in 1887 and torn down in 1914.
• The building contract for the new Central was awarded in December 1903.
• At 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday May 24, 1904 Major James Walker, Calgary pioneer and early chairman of the public school board, laid the cornerstone. "A glass jar well sealed was placed in the cement bed in the centre of the stone. This jar contained various stamps and coins in circulation; the last school report; the names of school staff; the names of the present board; copies of the Daily Herald and Morning Albertan, together with the signatures of the children who took part in the chorus." The Calgary Fire Brigade Band provided the music.
• Only two days after the cornerstone was laid the newspaper announced "the staff of stone masons working on the new central school were laid off because of the shortage of stone." Although there was lots of stone at the quarry, Canadian Pacific Railway was "too busy to bring it into the city."
• The children moved into the new school in March 1905, but the official dedication ceremony took place May 24th . Local lawyer and Member of Parliament (later Prime Minister), R.B.Bennett spoke "at length" about the duty of the state to the children and the obligation of the children to the state. "he reminded the little chaps that no boy was a better man or better able to make his way in the world because he could swear or smoke a cigarette."
• In January 1906, a teachers training class, (the forerunner of Provincial Normal School) opened on Central’s third floor. Classes moved into the newly built Normal School (now McDougall Centre) the following year.
• The old brick Central was torn down in 1914. In 1919 a two-room bungalow was built on the site to accommodate the overflow from the new Central, located next door.
• When enrolment decreased in 1933, the Commercial High (with 15 teachers and 722 students) left the Travelers’ Building and moved into Central.
• In 1938 Central was reorganized as a junior high and renamed James Short in honour of a former Principal of the old Central School. Short was born near Elora, Ontario in 1862 and graduated from the University of Toronto. He taught school at Chatham Collegiate in 1885 and in 1889 moved to Calgary. In January 1889 he was appointed Principal of Central School, (Calgary’s first multiple room school) a position he held until 1892. In 1893 he left teaching to study law with the old Calgary firm of Costigan, McCaul and Bangs, entering into practice with G.C.McCaul in 1897. Short was appointed Crown Prosecutor for the Calgary Judicial District 1901-1926. Throughout his life he maintained his interest in public education as a member of the Public School Board. Short married teaching colleague, Janet Lafferty. At the time of his death in May 1942, Short was a senior member of the firm Short, Ross, Shaw and Mayhood.
• Special classes for students with speech and hearing impairments were organized in 1941.
• James Short closed in 1968 and was demolished in July 1969 to make way for a new Greyhound bus terminal.
• The contents of the cornerstone and the distinctive domed cupola were salvaged. The cupola sat in a city storage yard until 1973 when it was moved to Prince’s Island Park. In 1991, the Rotary Club donated $120,000 to renovate it for display in the new James Short Park located north of the Petro-Canada tower. The group located the old clock that was salvaged from the Burns Building (Centre Street and 8th Avenue) when it was demolished in the mid-60s. The Calgary, Alberta Clock and Watch Club contributed more than 1,000 hours of volunteer labor to restore it for installation into the James Short cupola.
“Then & Now” columns appeared weekly in the Calgary Herald between 2002 and 2005. The following article appeared October 22, 2003.
James Short School
Centre Street and 4th Avenue S.W.
Then: James Short School (formerly Central Public)
• The original Central Public School, a four-room brick structure, was built in the centre of this city block in 1887 and demolished in 1914. By 1905, increasing enrolment led to the construction of a $75,000 three-storey sandstone school to the west of the "little" school. Architectural plans for the new 10-room school were sent from Winnipeg and adapted for Calgary use by local architect William Dodd, who also designed City Hall. The distinctive 40-foot domed metal cupola was designed to accommodate a clock but, for unknown reasons, it was never installed. In 1938, Central was renamed James Short in honour of a former principal who later became a lawyer, Crown prosecutor and school board trustee. The James Short School closed in 1968 and was demolished in July 1969 to accommodate the construction of a Greyhound bus depot. The school's domed cupola was salvaged and stored until 1973, when it was moved to Prince's Island Park, where it remained until 1990.
Now: James Short Park and parkade
• In June 1991, the James Short Park and parkade opened on the half city block formerly occupied by the old Central schools. This unique "urban oasis" in the heart of the city integrates surface green space with an underground parkade and a Plus-15 walkway. The landscaped park and gardens feature a Chinese gateway and the domed cupola from the James Short School. A substantial donation from the Rotary Club, volunteer hours provided by the Calgary Watch and Clock Collectors Association and private funding led to the relocation and refurbishment of the cupola, including the repair and installation of an old clock salvaged from the Burns Building (southwest corner of Centre Street and 8th Avenue) when it was demolished in the 1960s.