The Charlotte Street School, situated at 732 Charlotte Street in Fredericton, is recognized as a Protected Provincial Historic Site due to its significant architectural features typical of late-19th-century urban primary schools in Canada, and its association with eminent architects H.H. Mott and J.C. Dumaresq.
This sophisticated Italianate brick primary school was devised by H.H. Mott and J.C. Dumaresq as a replacement for a nearby school located in a barracks. Local builder Joshua Limerick initiated the construction in 1884, and the school was finished by 1885. This structure represents the oldest remaining primary school building in Fredericton, and one of the few Italianate-style public edifices in the city. It shares striking architectural parallels, albeit on a smaller and more understated scale, with Dumaresq’s New Brunswick Legislative Assembly Building from the same period. The original T-shaped extension comprised six classrooms (three per floor) and a broad double stairway, which still commands attention in the main corridor. In 1917, a rear extension was added, integrating two classrooms on the ground floor, an auditorium on the upper floor, and restrooms on both levels.
During refurbishment of the former Grade One classroom, workers stumbled upon an unerased blackboard beneath newer slates, bearing a list of student names dating back to 1917. Additional inscriptions on the board suggest that the list was put up in November. Owing to the kind contribution of two former Charlotte Street School pupils, Canadian artist Mary Pratt and her sister Barbra Cross (whose grandmother’s name can be seen on the blackboards), these chalkboards have been conserved under glass. The significance of the stars placed next to the names, however, continues to intrigue as their meaning remains unresolved.
The “School Days” film from 1936, showcasing the Charlotte Street School, stands as a precious public resource. It’s the only known video documentation of this historic educational institution. Filmed by Reid Picture Equipment Service and sponsored by Fredericton’s Board of Trustees, this silent movie provides a glimpse into the daily routine of different grades (1-8) within the school, with captions providing context for each scene. It presents an array of subjects taught, from singing and drawing to grammar, writing, math, and physical education.
In the footage, students can be seen sitting orderly in their desks with hands folded, while teachers lead instruction from the front— a scene not unlike current classroom practices. Young students at the Charlotte Street School, akin to their modern counterparts, also enjoyed recess periods. They had access to a large playground at the back of the school for playing games, using punching bags, and other recreational activities. Elements that conspicuously hint at the era of the footage include glass milk bottles, early 20th-century cars, and individual chalkboards. In addition to chalkboards, students utilized pencils and paper for their drawing classes, showing that a variety of writing tools were in use.
The final academic session at Charlotte Street Elementary School took place during the 1974/75 school year. Subsequently, students were transported to Priestman Street School.
In 2005, the school underwent restoration and renovation, emerging as the Charlotte Street Arts Centre, a versatile cultural space open for public use.
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