Land for a school was purchased from Ezra Hounsfield Riley (of Riley Park) for $700. About 17 cottage schools similar to the one at 455 – 12 St. NW were built in Calgary just after the turn of 20th century. The one at 455 – 12 street was constructed January 1, 1910 – January 1, 2012. These buildings were only meant to be temporarily used as schools, but some continued in use into the 1950’s, including this one. By 1984, only four of the original cottage schools remained standing, and by 2000 just 3 of these were left.
During the early years of the twentieth century, emerging urban centres across Alberta sought out efficient ways of educating children while acting as good stewards of their resources for school construction. Booming young cities like Calgary initiated the building of modest two room “cottage” schools or four room “bungalow” schools as temporary measures while larger, more commodious brick or sandstone buildings were being planned and built.
Between 1910 and 1912, the Calgary Public School Board built approximately seventeen such cottage schools using two primary designs. Two of these buildings remain. The Hillhurst Cottage School now stands as the extant example of the standard plan, while the Capital Hill Cottage School represents the alternate design. The Hillhurst Cottage School remained in operation as a two-room school house until 1965. Situated in a residential streetscape that remains virtually unchanged in character since the time of its construction, the Hillhurst Cottage School remains a very good example of this early era of education in the province, and of this style of school building in Calgary. Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1398)
The character defining elements of the Hillhurst Cottage School include such features as:
• size, form, and massing
• the siting of the building within its residential streetscape
• fenestration pattern and double hung windows
• the configuration of the original two classroom spaces within the interior layout
• original oak flooring, fir door and window trim, baseboards
• original light fixtures on the first and second floors
• wood picture rail
• floor plan and side stairwell
Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) began to sublease the building from the Youth Hostelling Association in 1978. AWA has leased the building from the City of Calgary since 1983.
November 11, 1986 the Hillhurst Cottage School was formally recognized as a Historic Place and the building was added to the listing of Canadian Historic Places.
December 16, 1986 the Province of Alberta issued an order designating the Hillhurst Cottage School as a Provincial Historic Resource. Subsequently a plaque to this effect was placed on the outside of the building.
AWA has continued to be stewards throughout the past 35 years, caring for the restoration and day-to-day maintenance of the building. The building houses AWA’s office, meeting rooms and the only resource library dedicated to Alberta wilderness and wildlife.
The City of Calgary is in process of designating the school as a Municipal Historic Site.