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Visiting Central School, Woodstock, Ontario: Ornate, Monumental Structure Dating from 1880

Updated on May 1, 2019
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Central School in Woodstock, Ontario
Central School in Woodstock, Ontario | Source

Pediments and Syrian arches combine in a pleasing eclecticism

Dating from 1880, this fine, imposing structure which houses Central School — more fully, Senior Public School — in Woodstock, Ontario, is a facility with an especially ornate exterior (1). This is particularly so at Hunter Street, where this ornate frontage (see photo, above) is viewed.

Yellow brick seems to be a consistent vernacular among various buildings in Woodstock's Courthouse area; and Central School follows this trend. Various other historic buildings are in the vicinity of Central School; and indeed a very suitable way to explore Woodstock's architectural heritage in its Downtown area is on foot.

The style of the building, characterized also by a monumentality popular in the Victorian era, seems to radiate a confident Beaux-Arts eclecticism, in which elements of Neo-Classicism and the Romanesque are both present. Thus, the large, protruding, broken pediment, enclosing a smaller pediment, expresses a Neo-Classical contrast to the Syrian window arching which evidences Romanesque influences (2).

The protruding pediments also blend with a very prominent cornices. The theme of entrance way pilasters is continued in similar detailing at the level of the cornice.

Just visible in the photo, above, are the tops of two enormous chimney stacks, which only add to the imposing effect of the building's ornate monumentality.

In 1942 the building was damaged by fire, necessitating extensive repairs. Some significant enlargements to this educational facility have occurred over many decades.

Interestingly, during one of the enlargements to the building, a bell tower was removed and it was not thought feasible to replace it.

Historically, the land on which Central School is built was part of the clergy reserves in Woodstock.

In my humble view, the ornate lines of Central School are especially shown to effect when, as is often customary today, this fine building floodlit.

May 1, 2019


(1) See also:

(2) In the last decades of the 19th century in North America, the style known as Richardson Romanesque was particularly popular.

Map location of Woodstock, Ontario
Map location of Woodstock, Ontario | Source

Also worth seeing

Woodstock itself has various examples of fine ecclesiastical architecture, including Old St. Paul's Church, dating from 1834; other buildings, including the City Hall, the Oxford County Court House, the Old City Hall, the former County Jail building, the Old Registry Office, the 1909 Public Library building and the Old Armoury, among others, are also worth seeing.

In London , Ontario (distance: 43.4 kilometres) prominent buildings and visitor attractions include: Eldon House; St. Paul's Cathedral; the Middlesex County Court building; the former Armouries; the Fanshawe Pioneer Village.

Kitchener (distance: 57.7 kilometres); Woodside, former home of long-serving Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King is a National Historic Site of Canada.


How to get there: Air Canada flies to London International Airport, from Toronto Pearson Airport, from where there are wide North American and other connections. Car rental is available at London International Airport. VIA Rail serves Woodstock, connecting with Windsor and Toronto, and other cities. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada


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