St. Albert’s first dedicated high school building will be reduced to rubble by the end of this month, say city staff.
Crews put up fences around 13 Mission Ave. last week as work commenced on the building's demolition. The building has been unoccupied since the Northern Alberta Business Incubator (NABI) moved out in 2021.
In May 2021, St. Albert council asked administration to make plans to redevelop 13 Mission Ave. after it was determined the roughly 73-year-old building had reached the end of its economic life. In May 2023, council voted to fund the building's demolition with money left over from the demolition of the old Fire Hall #1. The demolition has a $250,000 budget.
Crews started removing asbestos from 13 Mission Ave. on Sept. 5, city project manager Chadwick Paddick said. A backhoe will arrive in late September to demolish the building, which should take about a week.
First high school
The 2010 St. Albert Heritage Inventory describes 13 Mission Ave. as “a simple, modern, International-style building” that was the first purpose-built high school in St. Albert. Prior to its construction, high school students were taught in the same buildings as junior high and elementary ones.
13 Mission Ave. was built around 1950-51 to serve as a school for the region’s burgeoning student population, according to the Gazette’s archives and St. Albert historian Ray Pinco. It was initially known as the Mission Park School, and housed Grades 3-6.
The school was the first in St. Albert to have built-in lockers, green chalkboards, and linoleum floors, the heritage inventory report notes. It featured eight classrooms, an Industrial Arts shop, a typing room, a lab, and a gym complete with a stage. Pinco noted that the gym and stage were almost immediately converted into classrooms when the school opened.
Former Mission Park School student Anne Marie Venne recalled the gym was so cold in the mornings, staff had to warm it with portable heaters. Mischievous boys would sometimes unplug the heaters to make the gym too cold for teaching, forcing staff to cancel classes for the day.
Further population growth necessitated the addition of a second storey to the school in 1953, Pinco said. Musée Héritage Museum archivist Vino Vipulanantharajah said in an email that the school officially opened as the St. Albert High School on Jan. 12, 1953.
The school was not-at-all finished when Pinco entered Grade 9 at the school that September.
“The classrooms were ready — mostly — though workmen would occasionally come in during classes to do work on the heating system and other necessities,” Pinco said.
“The hallways and washrooms were a different matter,” he continued, with the washrooms unfinished and the halls, “a clutter of scaffolding and workmen plastering walls and ceilings.”
The last group of Grade 12s (which included Pinco) graduated from 13 Mission Ave. in 1956. St. Albert’s Grade 10-11 students moved to a new dedicated high school next door (the building now known as École Father Jan) in 1957.
In April 1957, school boundary adjustments saw the Sturgeon School Division take over 13 Mission Ave. for several years, during which it was known as the Sturgeon Division School, Vipulanantharajah said. Pinco said the school served Grades 1-9 until it was replaced by Sturgeon Heights School in northwest St. Albert in 1971.
Vipulanantharajah said 13 Mission Ave. became the Percy Page Centre on Sept. 15, 1973, and served as the headquarters for minor sports associations. The building was turned over to city council In 1987. In 1989, it became home to the St. Albert Business Development Centre, now known as NABI.
Paddick said crews have salvaged some lockers and the address plate over the front door from the building for the Musée, and will watch for other artifacts of interest during the demolition. Once the debris has been cleared, crews will fill in the crawlspace under the building (which did not have a full basement) with gravel and clay to create an empty lot.
Benson said administration will ask city council for direction on what to do with that empty lot later this year.
“We recognize it is a fairly important site for our downtown,” he said, and it could help with efforts to revitalize the region.
“I don’t think it will be bare land.”
Questions on the demolition should go to [email protected].