Alex Taylor School: A History
This former elementary school on Jasper Avenue is now a repurposed historic site housing E4C.
Alex Taylor School is a well-known city landmark on Jasper Avenue just west of Alex Taylor Road. Since 2001 it has been the home of E4C, the Edmonton City Centre Church Corporation. For more than 90 years before that, it was an elementary school.
City Archivist Kathryn Ivany says, “This building, which is part of a corridor of old buildings representing the city’s earliest history, is an example of effective repurposing for a modern use.”
Ivany also notes that the building is one of Edmonton’s more visible historic sites since so many people drive past it ever day. Facilities Manager Lubo Urda adds that the prominence of the site is further enhanced by its visibility from the River Valley and the way the surrounding schoolyard leaves it more open to public view.
Constructed in 1907-08, the three-storey Alex Taylor School is “robust, symmetrical and grandiose,” Urda says. Each of these qualities are goals of the Classical Revival style that Architect Roland Lines used – a style that was based on the structures of ancient Greece and Rome combined with those of Renaissance buildings. As if to testify to its “robustness,” the building has survived several fires, a landslide, and plans to demolish it to make room for a road.
The school’s name was chosen to recognize a prominent early citizen, Alexander Taylor (see sidebar). Another name that is closely associated with the school is Steve Ramsankar, principal for 30 years (1970 until its closure in 2000). Ramsankar was an exceptional educator who created a community school that served the needs of the students and their parents. The area, originally the centre of a booming new city, had become a neighbourhood of low-income families who often needed to learn English and get a foothold in a new society. Ramsankar’s efforts were recognized in 1983 with an Order of Canada award.
Note: Watch for a future story about the school’s current tenants, E4C, which works to prevent and eventually eliminate poverty. E4C delivers multiple programs including adult literacy, hot lunch programs, family counseling services, and services to schools in the mature areas of the city.
Anita Jenkins is a retired writer and editor who moved to Boyle Street four years ago and loves her new community.
Alexander Taylor (1853-1916)
Alexander Taylor arrived in Edmonton from Ontario in 1877. At first he worked for the Dominion Telegraph Service, which was part of the railroad. But within a decade he had begun working with a committee to establish Edmonton’s first phone and electrical companies (Edmonton Electric Light Company). The first official phone call occurred on January 3, 1885, between Edmonton and St. Albert. Taylor was also co-founder, with Frank Oliver, of the first newspaper, the Edmonton Bulletin, and he served on the Edmonton public school board from 1899 to 1909.