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Saved from demolition, 110-year-old Vancouver schoolhouse sets out to sea to reach new home | CBC News


A bright yellow schoolhouse in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood has been saved from demolition by the Squamish Nation, which is moving the entire building to its new home by barge.

The old Henry Hudson building at the corner of Cornwall Avenue and Maple Street was going to be knocked down to make way for a new elementary school, but the nation stepped forward to preserve and relocate it so it can be used as a school at X̱wemelch’stn, or the Capilano Reserve.

“I’m relieved. I’m excited,” said Glyn Lewis with Renewal Home Development, who pushed for months to have the school repurposed and relocated to another community. 

“We’re proving with this little yellow schoolhouse there are more responsible, sustainable pathways to removing a building. We shouldn’t just be bulldozing everything because it’s the easy thing to do.”

A yellow schoolhouse on a barge is seen off in the distance, with two smaller boats in the foreground.
The old Henry Hudson schoolhouse is getting a new lease on life as a school for the Squamish Nation. (Ethan Cairns/CBC)

Lewis said the schoolhouse project is a victory for the community of people pushing developers, construction companies and other organizations to favour more sustainable building practices, from what he described as the “demolition-first paradigm” in a growing city desperate for quick development.

“I generally support the densification of the region, and I understand why we’re doing that. The challenge is that the process to densify our region is unbelievably wasteful,” said Lewis.

Two people are seen in silhouette sitting by the shore as a yellow schoolhouse passes by on the ocean.
The schoolhouse is moved by barge to the Squamish Nation’s reserve on the North Shore. (Ethan Cairns/CBC)

In a statement, the Squamish Nation said that the building would help meet the nation’s “urgent infrastructure needs.”

“The building will be modernized and repurposed by the Nation as a centre for early childhood education and will teach Sḵwx̱wú7mesh young ones Sḵwx̱wú7mesh sníchim (Squamish language),” it said.

WATCH | Century-old schoolhouse takes boat to new home: 

Vancouver schoolhouse moved to a new home — via barge

The Henry Hudson Elementary school building was located in the Kitsilano neighbourhood for over a century. Now, it’s being moved to the Squamish Nation reserve on the North Shore.

Schoolhouse heads to North Vancouver by barge

On Tuesday at 10 p.m., a team with Nickel Bros. house movers put the entire schoolhouse onto a trailer. Its journey saw it crawl a few blocks west to Kitsilano Beach over the following three hours, then get loaded onto a barge around 4 a.m. Wednesday.

The vessel set off for English Bay an hour later, waiting for high tide before going around the north of Stanley Park and under the Lions Gate Bridge in the mid-afternoon.

It was due to land on the North Shore by Wednesday evening and be moored near the Lions Gate Bridge until Thursday before being taken to its permanent location on the reserve.

“It will be an incredible sight,” said Lewis, who said Wednesday was chosen as moving day because it will be the highest tide of the year.

A small, one-storey yellow schoolhouse is surrounded by construction gates and signs.
The yellow schoolhouse has been a part of Vancouver’s Kitsilano community for over 100 years. Community members rallied to save it from demolition. (Glyn Lewis)

Lewis said he connected with the Squamish Nation entirely by chance.

During a conversation, Bob Sokol, the nation’s director of planning and capital projects, mentioned the community was looking to start a new school to teach children the Squamish language and wider culture.

“I said, ‘Well, Bob, would you be interested in saving, relocating and repurchasing this little yellow schoolhouse from Henry Hudson Elementary? And Bob got really excited about the idea,” Lewis recalled.

Five months later, the plan was in place.

The move will cost $150,000. Just over half of that budget — $80,000 — is coming from money the Vancouver School Board had set aside to tear the schoolhouse down.

The original structure was built in 1912 as a Manual Training School, where students could learn practical skills and crafts like metal and woodworking. According to Heritage Vancouver, it was going to be torn down as part of the school board’s seismic mitigation program.

Lewis said the building was an ideal candidate for repurposing.

“We confirmed that it’s in good condition. It’s 110 years old, but it’s got beautiful, first-growth beams in it, and a lot of the systems were upgraded in the last 15 years,” he said.

“It would have been a shame [to demolish it].”

The schoolhouse's interior shows benches and cubbies for kids on either side of a bright green door.
The school was considered for prospective repurposing, including for duplex housing. (Glyn Lewis)

Lewis said developers and builders have three sustainable options before tearing a building down: infill or build around it, relocate and repurpose it or dismantle it carefully to salvage materials.

He said the Vancouver School Board considered the infill option, but it was ruled out.

CBC News has contacted the school board for comment. 


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