Ian Warwick, executive-director of Sunnybrook Farm Museum, talks about the latest Calder Corner School project. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Vintage schoolhouse gets repurposed at Red Deer’s Sunnybrook Farm

New foundation to be poured for old the Calder School

A one-room schoolhouse where students from east of Innisfail learned their ABCs, is about to become a permanent fixture at Red Deer’s Sunnybrook Farm Museum.

Sod was ceremoniously turned on Monday for the construction of new basement foundations for the Calder School. After much planning and $570,000 of fundraising, the one-room schoolhouse from 1932 will be moved on top of a new poured concrete foundation by mid-September.

The structure that’s been sitting on the museum site since 2008, will soon gain a basement that will serve as a community centre. As well as a 600-square foot addition to the school will accommodate the new offices of the farm museum. Sunnybrook Farm’s two full-time administrative staffers will relocate closer to the south-side entrance to the property, off Botterill Crescent.

This will become the museum’s main gates starting next year.

Having an interpretive historic schoolhouse at a museum site that already preserves so much rural history — including vintage agricultural equipment and motor vehicles, and re-creations of a general store and garage — will help new generations better understand this province’s history, said Ian Warwick, the museum’s executive-director.

“It’s lovely inside. I can’t believe how well preserved it is,” added Warwick, who noted some antique tables, chairs and benches were already donated as furnishings. Museum volunteers will be on the hunt for vintage school desks.

Red Deer South MLA Barb Miller praised the “worthwhile” Calder Corner School project, saying “Sunnybrook Farm helps Albertans experience farming the way it used to be… it’s a gateway to a different kind of life in a very different time. “

While the school building is historic, it was actually built as a replacement when the original Calder School, from 1903, burned down in about 1931.

Warwick said the Calder Corner School, located 20 km east of Innisfail, became the only high school in the area, drawing older students from a wide swath. After being shut down, it served as a community centre for some time.

By 2004, the building was sitting empty, and the Sunnybrook Farm Museum was asked whether it wanted to preserve the old schoolhouse.

Warwick said many volunteers have actively supported the project over the years, either with their time or money.

The Calder School Project, which received funding from the Province of Alberta ($275,000), the Red Deer City and Red Deer County ($50,000 from each municipality), was also supported by the estate of Vladimir (Laddie) Novak, who left $185,000 to Sunnybrook Farm.

Construction is being completed by Shunda Construction.

lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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