Vancouver History Blog

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5 Historic Vancouver Schools That Are Still Standing


by Kendall Walters

It’s that time of year again and there’s one thing on everyone’s minds: back to school. With classes commencing again soon (albeit a little later than usual), check out five Vancouver schools you probably didn’t know have been around for 100 years or more.

1. Queen Mary Elementary School          

North Vancouver, 1914

Queen Mary Elementary School, 1920.

Queen Mary Elementary School, 1920, via School Website.


Designed by William Gillam, an English-born architect, Queen Mary Elementary School was built in 1914. Gillam also designed the nearby Ridgeway School. The North Vancouver of the time was an affluent neighbourhood that possessed both a streetcar line and electric lights. Unlike many temporary schools of the time, such as those close to waterfront mill sites, Queen Mary was built to last. In 2004, the province planned to knock the school down, but community members and heritage advocates teamed up with a campaign to save the structure. Queen Mary recently underwent two-years of construction where the school was rebuilt inside and received a seismic upgrade. The heritage façade outside was retained.

2. Britannia Secondary School          

Grandview-Woodlands, 1911

Britannia Secondary School, 1920.

Britannia Secondary School, 1920, via Vancouver Archives.


Britannia was Vancouver’s second high school. It is now the oldest remaining secondary school. Classes were held in the Admiral Seymour building in 1908, then moved to the partially-completed Britannia High School in 1910. At that time, the school’s colours were red, green and white and its motto was “Per Vias Rectas,” which means “straight-forward.”

3. Lord Strathcona Elementary School

Strathcona, 1891

Lord Strathcona Elementary School, 1902.

Lord Strathcona Elementary School, 1902, via Vancouver Archives.


The East School was built in 1891. The name was changed to Lord Strathcona Elementary in 1900. Additions were made in the 1910s through the 1930s. In the 1930s, Lord Strathcona Elementary was nicknamed “League of Nations” and often described as the most cosmopolitan school in the world, thanks to the cultural diversity of the area’s large immigrant population. With a high number of foreign-language speakers, the school struggled with teaching English. This was exacerbated by large class sizes, a high of 50 students per classroom. Students new to Canada were placed in regular classrooms in the hope that they would learn by “osmosis.” It took until the late 1940s for special provisions to be made for language instruction.

4. Bayview Community School          

Kitsilano, 1914

Bayview School, 1925.

Bayview Community School, 1925, via Vancouver Archives.


The opening of Bayview Community School is associated with the rapid expansion of Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood. While the first phase of the school – the north wing – was built in 1914, the more substantial south portion of the school and gymnasium were added in the late 1920s, with further improvements made following the Second World War. Bayview was home to Vancouver’s first Parent Teacher Association (PTA).


5. Sir Richard McBride Elementary School

East Vancouver, 1911

This school, located in central Vancouver, was built in 1911 and named after then B.C. premier Sir Richard McBride. He was the first B.C. premier to be born in the province. He lived from 1870 until 1917, serving as premier from 1903 to 1915. Sir Richard McBride Elementary is listed on the Heritage Register. School buildings received seismic upgrades in 1996 and 2009.

We couldn’t find an archival image of Sir Richard McBride Elementary. If you have an old photo of the school, please send it to us! Email to [email protected]