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Union School - 1873

 Controversy surrounded the construction of a new combination High and Public School, or Union School, in Port Perry throughout the later part of 1872 and well into the following year, as the Ontario Government prepared legislation for the construction of high schools in the province.
  Questions surrounded the willingness of ratepayers to dig deep into their pockets to pay for the erection of a "palace" in which to educate their children, and the huge and ongoing expenses involved in equipping and maintaining the building.
  In February 1873, the Ontario legislature was flooded with petitions from High and Union School boards, looking for a slice of the public school's budgets. Residents living in the hamlets and villages surrounding Port Perry argued against the cutting of public school budgets and the fact their education taxes would be used for construction of a High School in Port Perry.


Despite the pleas of ratepayers, construction began on the new Port Perry Union School during the summer of 1873, which would combine the high and public school in the same building.
  An article published in the Ontario Observer, in September that year indicated the building was finally underway, when it reported the School House was one of eight buildings in the course of construction in Port Perry. The two other most significant buildings were the new Town Hall and Geo. Currie's Grain Elevator.
  About a month later, as construction was moving along, the Observer noted that the proportions of the magnificent new educational building (Union School) were rapidly moving along and that it promised to rank among the finest school buildings in the Province.
  Later that month, in preparation for the school's opening, council called for repairs to the sidewalks between the new Town Hall and the School House.
  Construction on the building continued throughout the winter and finally on March 6, 1874 the school was opened. The Observer reported the new and magnificent school building, having been sufficiently advanced to admit the pupils, held a celebration to which the public were invited. So successful was the celebration that twice as many attended as could be accommodated in the large room in which the program of entertainment by the students took place.
  The school served the community for over 50 years, before being destroyed by fire on April 7, 1926.

Union School Fire


After serving the community for more than 50 years, Port Perry Union School went up in a blaze of glory.
  Fire ripped through the magnificent structure on the evening of Wed., April 7, 1926, devouring the building and all its contents.
  The fire was discovered by the caretaker, Mr. A.W. Allin, who returned to open the school for a meeting of the Board of Education. He had put on a fire in one of the furnaces to heat the board room, then went home.
  The alarm was given, and the fire brigade was soon on hand, and while every effort was made to save the property, the fire had too big a start, and the firemen were powerless to save anything.
  The newspaper reported: "It was a wonderful spectacle. That
roaring furnace of flame, situated as it was at almost the highest point in town, lit up the whole countryside. The walls had been splendidly built, and retained the fire like the sides of a huge furnace. The flames would leap high above the walls, where the wind would at times catch them, and whirl them forward in quest of new fuel.

Facts About The Fire

  •  Nobody was seriously hurt although a few firemen did have a narrow escape when the tower fell in.

  •   The Fire lasted three hours and damages was estimated at $65,000.

  •   Following the fire, students attended classes in the basements of area churches and the town hall.

  •   Mr. Orchard's house, right next to the school was saved. His windows were also saved by hanging wet blankets over them.

  •   Principals: Thomas Follick was principal of the high school and Marshal Rae principal of the public school at the time of the fire.

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