Victoria Public School is one of the finest school structures in Ontario and is still considered a key public landmark. Located in the Victoria Park Heritage District, at 25 Joseph Street in Kitchener, Victoria Park School is a gorgeous example of Edwardian Baroque architecture. Built in 1910, it opened as a public school in 1912. A heritage designation has been granted by the City of Kitchener.
The architect was William Lawrence Munro of Munro & Mead. A total of eighteen designs were submitted in the design competition. The exterior has been preserved; arches and Doric columns add a monumental statement to Joseph Street. The original slate roofs, wide fascia and soffits, grand main entrance with its fanlight, and heavily built stone foundation are other prominent features.
Two wings, designed by Charles Knechtel, were added to the original school in 1919. In 1960, the elaborate tower above the main entrance was removed safety reasons.
Demolition of the school was considered more than once in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. By the 1980s, low enrollment and the expense of safety upgrades threatened the school with closure. The “Save Victoria School Committee”, a group of citizens rallied to save the school. By 1989 the school was closed, but a City of Kitchener heritage designation was secured for the building. However, without a new use, the building’s long-term protection was limited.
Without a new use for the school, Kitchener Housing, a non-profit organization, stepped in with a reuse plan for the building. After restorations, Kitchener Housing bought the landmark in 1989. The school was redesigned into housing units and maintained the heritage exterior. By 1993 the work was completed.
A friendly resident allowed me to enter the foyer. With camera and dog in tow, I was able to see many original interior features, including the terrazzo floors.
The school building now houses 40 original renovated apartments. Kitchener Housing added new buildings behind the school, creating the 116 affordable rental units of Victoria School Village. The addition of the east and west wings by Kitchener architect Charles Knechtel completed the U shaped form as seen in the present building. These additions conform to the original design, and enhance the overall grandeur of the building.