In late May 2014 we explored the southwest corner of Saskatchewan. For this report, we take a short break from hunting grain elevators and abandoned things to shoot one of our trademark then and now series (well, the now part of it). We’re in Swift Current and our subject is Central School. We have an old postcard showing it, and we return to the spot where it was photographed to see if we can take a similar picture. Our results turn out are pretty good.
Central High School, as it was known when the postcard was shot, or today Central Elementary or simply Central School, was opened in 1914 the same year Swift Current was incorporated as a city. The building is located just north of the downtown district.
This very photogenic brick structure was made in a Gothic Revival style. Technically it belongs to a sub-genre, something called Collegiate Gothic. Many learning institutions at the time were constructed using this design philosophy. Features common to style include an overall balance or symmetry, along with a prominent central entrance, with one or more castellated towers. Arches, parapets and tall narrow windows are other designs features associated with this style – there are many more too, which is well beyond the scope of this article.
The school’s tower was built to house a bell but for some reason one was never actually installed. The person I spoke to in regards to this suggests that severe metal shortages brought on by the war (WW1 1914-1918) meant that one could not be obtained. Interesting.
Like many schools from the era, the building had separate boys and girls entrances. I recall these when I was a kid, the words “boys only” or girls only” carved in stone above the doors. I don’t think by that time the rule was being enforced, however.
When built the school’s address was on 1st Ave NW. Today it’s on Dufferin St W. The change seems to have taken place after the 1970s. This author found an old photo from that time mentioning the school’s address, which matched the earlier one.
In the early years there was a horse stable on the property. I guess a lot of students rode in from nearby farms. When putting in the base for a new swing set, old bits of harnesses and the like were found in the ground. As was common at the time, the school did not have a gymnasium when built. One was added later.
At some point in the school’s history it transitioned from a high school to an elementary. The exact year that happened is not known but research continues and we always welcome input from our readers.
Since the mid-1980s, Central School has been recognized as a municipal heritage property. It looks well maintained and this no doubt means it’s likely to have a solid future.
It’s not known when the original image was shot. I guess no copyright dates were found on it, and since it is unused, we can’t rely on a postmark to give us any hints. I’d dare to guess it was taken sometime pre-1930. Photos after that date show the grounds surrounded by fence and low hedge and in this one they are not seen. In the old photo, In the old picture I’m guessing that the two things on posts are for basketball. But where’s the court…and the hoops?
Notice what’s changed since the first image was captured. Trees have grown up, as did some shrubs, there is the fence and playground equipment. The building itself however looks much as it did.
The postcard image has been hand tinted, a process where a black and white photo is “painted” to make it appear as though shot in colour. This technique was quite popular and was used from the early part of the twentieth century until at least the 1940s. By that date technology had advanced enough that the production of full colour printed postcards was now economical. With that, hand tinting died off.
The postcard seen in this report was sent to us by a reader of this blog. Thank you Kerry of Swift Current. If you have an old card like this and would like us to visit the location seen in it to find out what things looks like today, and then document it all in this blog, let us know. We can accept actual cards (they will get returned) or scanned copies. Contact information can be found below.
To see some other schools we’ve explored, follow these links…
Edmonton then and now – Norwood School.
Calgary then and now – Normal School – Institute of Technology and Arts – Heritage Hall SAIT.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: May, 2014.
Location: Swift Current, SK.