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Principal Sparling School was constructed as a part of an
ambitious expansion program by the Winnipeg School District prior to the First
World War. Like other public institutions, the District was
hard-pressed to meet service demands caused by the
city’s rapid growth from the mid-1890′s onward. Its chief architect, James
Bertram Mitchell, completed a dozen new facilities from 1907 to
1913, all intended to respond in a cost-efficient manner to
enrolment pressures and public concern about safety.
The District had relied on a three-storey, solid brick, square model
for its buildings. Disastrous fires elsewhere on the
continent, however, prompted Mitchell to develop a new plan for a
two-storey rectangular school that could be evacuated quickly, yet
would maximize available space by providing a well-lit, raised
basement for classroom use. Interior corridors also were widened, staircases
and exits were strategically located, and fire-resistance of boiler
rooms and stairwells was improved.
The dominant features at Principal Sparling School are a 1.5 storey,
classically detailed Tyndall stone portico, above which
extends an open tower in the centre of the school’s symmetrical front
(east) facade. The round-arched portico rises from a rusticated base to an
ashlar superstructure. It is topped at the front by a round
pediment with a carved medallion set in a floral motif. The arch
theme carries through to the large main entrance and to the tower where
openings are highlighted in tracery-like fashion by square and
round stone columns. The tower also features a curved belt course
bracketed by corbelled brick and a stone-capped parapet.
Other details on the main facade include two small gable dormers
containing trios of multi-paned windows; a series of diamonds
and a belt course below the eaves; windows trimmed with stone lug
sills and continuous heads; brick arches; and shallow pilasters to
delineate the tower. A plaque inscribed with the school’s name and
protected by a hood molding appears above the portico. The outer
limits of the facade are defined by the projecting gable ends of the school’s
side wings. These sections are windowless save for solitary round
openings (now boarded up) near the top. Ornamental relief is
provided by patterned brickwork and stone coping along the parapet
The building’s side and rear elevations are similarly designed. At the
rear are two classically detailed porches, one of which has
been connected to a gymnasium addition. On the side elevations,
projecting central sections feature arched windows, corbelled brickwork in
an arcade pattern, and curved parapet gable ends outlined by stone
coping and finials.
The school sits on a raised, rusticated stone base. It has load-bearing
brick walls of local sand-lime brick and a low pitched hip
roof. Large rectangular windows dominate, several of which retain
stained-glass upper panes, a device commonly used by the
Interior finishes include dark wood trim around the doors and windows.
Classrooms, offices and other rooms run off wide central
corridors. A second-floor multi-purpose area has been converted
into a music room and computer laboratory. Several classrooms and a craft
room (originally the”manual training” room) are
in the basement.
Opening of the Original School
Construction of Principal Sparling School began in 1912. The corner
stone was laid in 1912 by Mr. Johnson Douglass, with Mr. Duncan acting as
chairman. The present site was purchased in 1911 for
$30,500.00 and the building was constructed at a cost of $142,000.00 by local
contractors Brynjolfsson and Son.
The school was formally opened on August 18, 1913. They had 200
students in attendance from grades 1-8, eight teachers (Mary
Richardson, Nora Thorvelson, Jennie Johnson, E. Sinclair, C.
Schofield, J. Ellis, Miss Dunbar and Aileen Scarth) and the principal, Harry
Industrial Arts and Home Economics were also taught. By 1922, there
were 19 teachers and 814 students.
On May 8, 1987 a double ceremony, officiated by His Worship William
Norrie, was held at Principal Sparling to celebrate the 75th
Anniversary of the school and to celebrate the opening of the new
addition. The new addition which cost $ 552,000.00 to build, included a new
5,330 square foot gymnasium, equipped with a boys’ and girls’
changing rooms with showers, kitchen, instructor’s office with link
way, (foyer) including handicap access connecting the new addition to
the existing building.
The existing small gymnasium was renovated and converted into a
resource teaching area, multi-purpose room with adjacent storage area, male and
female washrooms and the existing multi-purpose room was converted to a new
classroom. Mechanical and electrical work on the fire alarm
system and ventilation was carried out to current building code
Joseph Sparling was born in Blanchard, Perth County, Ontario in 1843.
After graduating from High School, he attended Victoria
University in Cobourg, Ontario, where he received his B.A. and his
M.A. degrees. He received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Garrett Biblical
Institute in connection with North Western University, Evanston,
Illinois. In 1871 he was ordained to the ministry in Belleville,
Ontario. Before he came to Winnipeg, he served as pastor in churches in
Montreal, Ottawa and Kingston.
As principal and “Father” of Wesley College (later known as the
University of Winnipeg) he witnessed the college grow from a
small class in a rented room, to a flourishing institution. He
opened the College with three students and left it with four
Born in Ontario, Mitchell (1852-1945) was a former soldier and member
of the North-West Mounted Police who had studied at the
Montreal Art Institute. He was elected to the Winnipeg School Board
in 1888, and then later became its Building and Supply Agent. Except for
wartime service with the Winnipeg Grenadiers, he continued to
direct the District’s building program until retirement in
Seven of his pre-1914 two-storey facilities are still in use. Although
they are comparable in overall plan and design, they vary in
size, interior organization and ornamentation. In particular, Mitchell
drew from a neoclassical repertoire to provide each building with a