Metchosin Schoolhouse celebrates 150 years and reopens after renovations

Metchosin Schoolhouse celebrates 150 years and reopens after renovations
Metchosin Museum Society
The Metchosin Schoolhouse is reopening after renovations, and celebrating 150 years since it originally opened.

The Metchosin Schoolhouse is celebrating three milestones Saturday: 150 years since the schoolhouse opened, 50 years since the museum society formed, and the schoolhouse reopening after renovations.

To mark the milestones, there will be celebrations and a re-opening ceremony at the Metchosin Schoolhouse at 4430 Happy Valley Road at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Two years ago, the schoolhouse closed for renovations, and Judith van Manen, the Metchosin Museum Society‘s vice-president and interim curator, says lots of work was done in the time it was closed.

“The building was lifted and a foundation put underneath it and rotting wood, you name it, was replaced. So it was quite a process,” van Manen said in an interview with CHEK News. “And then over the last year, once the building was complete, I and a number of volunteers worked on developing a native teaching garden as an extension of the school.”

The museum society has spent months putting together exhibits for the interior of the museum for visitors to learn more about what attending school was like when the schoolhouse was operating.

“This is the first time that our community will be able to see what our new museum looks like,” van Manen said, noting the school was used as a Grade 1 to 8 one-room school until 1914.

Between 1914 and 1922 the schoolhouse remained closed after a newer schoolhouse was built and opened.

“Then it was moved behind the other school in Metchosin and…it was kind of used as a portable,” van Manen said. The schoolhouse was only open for one year for this use, then it reopened again in 1942 and stayed open for seven years.

“Drastic changes occurred,” an article by the Metchosin Museum Society says. “The three windows on the left side of the room were shuttered and covered over with a long chalkboard. The windows on the right side of the room were enlarged and one electric light was installed because so much light had been lost.”

In 1949, the school was once again closed when an army hut was built in Metchosin with a new school main floor.

“The old schoolhouse was no match for the army hut which showcased a new classroom and indoor washrooms,” the article states. “The poor original one-room school house was now moved even further away from its initial location to the far eastern boundary of the field.”

In 1953, it was once again used as a school for a small senior class for one year, then it remained closed until 1972 when the Metchosin School Parents’ Association formed and turned it into a museum.

It continued operating as a museum until 2020 when the museum received grants from BC Heritage and Eric Clay to renovate the museum.

As the schoolhouse reopens, van Manen says there are some differences visitors might notice.

“It looks like a different museum, they’ll recognize some of the artifacts that sort of got lost, because it was absolutely crowded, because people in Metchosin would drop off things over the years,” van Manen said. “And we didn’t have a Pioneer Museum…we now have a Pioneer Museum, which is becoming the place for, you know, pioneer artifacts.”

Although some artifacts have been moved over to the other museum, van Manen says there is still lots to see at the Schoolhouse Museum.

“The biggest difference people will see is in all the research and the writing that’s available, so people can spend quite a bit of time if they want to read,” van Manen said. “Many people, when they go through museums, just like to look at things, and there’s certainly enough there that they will be engaged, regardless.”

She says part of the importance of museums like the Metchosin Schoolhouse Museum is to connect the local community with its history.

“If you want to really look at how a community has evolved, what it looked like, and what it looks today,” van Manen said. “And for the people who live here and their descendants, this is important to them, it’s their heritage. We have a B.C. Museum, for our province, and we’re reflecting on what it was like through history, this is one way to do it.”

Van Manen says the museum also provides students in Metchosin a chance to learn what school was like for their great-grandparents and how it has changed over time.

“We also learn from our past, the mistakes we made when we go forward,” van Manen said. “We have a Native Teaching Garden, we want to get rid of invasive species, and we want to recognize our First Nations people and what they have contributed, so we have acknowledgments to them, so it’s quite a process. It takes us time to learn all these things.”

Van Manen says three of the descendents of the people who closed the schoolhouse in 1949 will be at the re-opening ceremony and for the ribbon cutting at 2 p.m.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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