Poplar School shortly after construction in 1914. Students lined along and standing on porch railings. Note the boy climbing through the right window. The Reach Gallery Museum archives (Ref: P5593)

PHOTOS: Top 5 oldest schools in Abbotsford

Check out how some schools looked over 100 years ago

Abbotsford’s elementary schools are old, well over a century old in some cases. Here are some photographs and information detailing how the more ancient buildings have changed over the decades. The next time you travel past your local school, maybe you’ll be able to spot the historical remnants.

5) Abbotsford Virtual School (Phillip Sheffield) – opened 1929

A photo of Philip Sheffield High School from around 1936. The Reach Gallery Museum archives (Ref: P13437)

Originally named Sumas-Abbotsford Consolidated High School when it opened in 1929, Phillip Sheffield High School was named after the first director of education of the Matsqui-Sumas-Abbotsford School District in 1936. The director was responsible for the addition of the community auditorium and a trades wing in 1936, but died suddenly the same year.

The high school was converted into an elementary school upon the completion of Abbotsford High School in 1955, which alleviated a massive overcrowding at Phillip Sheffield.

“Desks which normally accommodate three students are required to care for four or five, or in some cases, students sit with their backs to the instructor,” The Abbotsford, Sumas and Matsqui News said at the time. “There are 58 students in [one] class. It is one of two Grade 10 social studies classes with that number of students enrolled.”

4) Bradner Elementary – opened 1925

A photo from 1983 showing the older section of Bradner Elementary School. The Reach Gallery Museum archives (Ref: P3166)

The initial two-room school was build shortly after an older schoolhouse from 1913 was destroyed by fire on Dec .16, 1924. Two additional classrooms were added to the south side of building in 1951, followed by a gym in 1961 and four more classrooms to the east end of the schools in 1968. In 1972, a staff room, office and two more classrooms were built. The latest addition was a full-size gym, added in the year 2000.

3) Upper Sumas Elementary – opened 1918

A photo of Upper Sumas Elementary from 1948. Apart from a gym built in 1960, the dimensions are the same. The Reach Gallery Museum archives (Ref: P543)

Built as a replacement for York School – a 20 by 32 foot schoolhouse open from 1888 to 1910 – the original Upper Sumas Elementary had a total of four rooms. Two extra classrooms were built in 1927, followed by an unnamed addition in 1931, four more classrooms in 1939 and a new gym in 1960. Today’s school has the same dimensions as it did in 1939.

2) Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts (North Poplar Elementary) – opened 1914

Poplar School shortly after construction in 1914. Students lined along and standing on porch railings. Note boy climbing through window. The Reach Gallery Museum archives (Ref: P5593)

Poplar School was originally built as a one-room school in 1914. A second classroom was added in 1922 followed by the third in the early 1930s. South Poplar was built in 1933 and Poplar School was renamed to North Poplar Elementary. The main building of today’s school was build in 1951, adding two classrooms, a furnace room, washrooms and an office. Four more classrooms were constructed in 1966. A fire destroyed the original section of the school from 1914. The school was renamed the Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts in 2006.

1) Mt. Lehman Elementary – opened 1905

Blue print photo of a school class in front of Mt. Lehman School. Inscription on the back reads, “Early picture of Mount Lehman school taken in 1905.” The Reach Gallery Museum archives (Ref: P53)

As the oldest school still standing in Abbotsford, Mt. Lehman has 115 year history to its name. It still contains the first two rooms from its original dimensions. It has undergone a decent amount of change since that time: the school was lifted in 1935 for a basement and gym to be added, and additional classrooms were added in 1945, 1967 and 1968.

After immigrating from England in 1900, Lucy Owen remembers attending the school in 1907.

“It was a little red schoolhouse, which I can remember quite well, with a verandah in front, a small cloakroom, a fairly small classroom with two windows at the rear, teacher’s desk on a raised platform, and the desks were all wood, no metal about then at all, and they were double so that you sat two to a desk.”

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