Bristol’s Hope school house dates back to early 19th century
It’s not a large building by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s a lot of history inside the four walls that make up the former Mosquito School House in Bristol’s Hope.
A structure built at some point between 1818 and 1828, classes have not been held inside the one-room school house since the mid-1950s. However, there’s still plenty of local interest in the building, and residents of the community are moving closer to breathing new life into the school.
The Bristol’s Hope Historical Society has focused its efforts on restoring the old school house ever since the committee formed in 2010.
Through fundraising and volunteer work, exterior renovations are now complete, with close to $16,000 spent on building materials. The Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador designated the school house as a Registered Heritage Structure in 1988. With that designation comes a responsibility to be mindful of its heritage value when renovations take place to preserve the structure.
Richard Johnson, a committee member of the historical society who also chairs the Bristol’s Hope Development Association, hopes the building will someday accommodate visits from local school children.
“Our plan is to have that school open to the general public as a small museum and also as a learning device for teachers in the area, to bring their kids down to this one-room school house and show them … what kids went to school with back then. It’s a great learning tool.”
The old chalkboard is still on the wall, and there are several desks inside, plus an old organ and two wood stoves, one of which is still hooked up to the roof.
Plans are in place to hold a rededication ceremony on the weekend of Aug. 8-9. There’ll be an open house event at the school house on Aug. 8 and a hot roast beef dinner in Carbonear later that day.
On Aug. 9, a non-denominational church service will be held on the field outside the school house. The community’s Wesleyan Chapel used to stand right next to the school house. Johnson expects there’ll be some former students on hand for that weekend.
The school house was originally built on land located on the south side of the brook. Following a community meeting in October of 1856, the school was moved to the land it now occupies. When the last round of significant renovation work took place in 1989, the school house was moved back from the road and placed on a concrete foundation.
The latest renovations started the summer of 2011. Eric Coleridge, a carpenter from the Trinity area who specializes in work on heritage structures, built a new door and windows for the school house.
New clapboard and shingles were also installed. Cal Penney, the man who has spearheaded efforts to restore the school house, notes that stainless steel nails were used to secure the latter items to the building.
For the interior, Johnson surmises they’ll mostly need to focus on securing the walls, painting them, and tidying up the room. Penney said they’re also looking to build an outhouse behind the school.
The school house’s place in the history of Bristol’s Hope has inspired others to show community pride. A few residents banded together to create a Christmas parade float based on the Mosquito School House. It earned third-place honours last month at parades in Harbour Grace and Carbonear.
“We’re looking at this as the building blocks of bringing this little community together,” said Johnson, noting there’s talk of building a small community centre behind the school. Land has also been identified for a potential park.
Cal Penney, left, and Richard Johnson are excited about what the future holds for the former Mosquito School House in Bristol’s Hope.
This is what the old school house in Bristol’s Hope used to look like before the community’s Main Road was paved.
The Mosquito School House was moved next to Bristol’s Hope’s Wesleyan Chapel in 1856. The church was eventually torn down.