Ren­o­vat­ing his­tory

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.

Photo by An­drew Robin­son/The Compass

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.

Sub­mit­ted pho­tos

The Mos­quito School House was moved next to Bris­tol’s Hope’s Wes­leyan Chapel in 1856. The church was even­tu­ally torn down.

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