Original Lorne Ave. school bell link to past

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When Lorne Avenue public school comes down, a small token of its history will remain.

After a years-long battle to save the London school, the city has given the green light for its demolition. It’s a stark reminder of the empty schools and spaces that plague Southwestern Ontario’s largest school board — about 15,000 empty student spaces altogether across the Thames Valley board.

But when the building is razed, the aluminum letters that make up its name and an original cast iron bell from the 1870s will become part of a park planned for the site.

“These are two really easy-to-understand and articulate elements that could help to provide that tangible link to the history of the property and its future life,” said Kyle Gonyou, a heritage planner with the city.

“We always look for opportunities for salvage and retention, if there are artifacts that can be incorporated.”

The original school was built at 723 Lorne Ave. in 1875, the same site where the school sits today. The property has been home to a school for more than 140 years.

Lorne Avenue public school was declared surplus by the school board in 2015 and closed at the end of the 2015-2016 year. The site was purchased by the city “to meet a critical need for parkland in the Old East Village neighbourhood,” says a staff report.

Residents rallied to save the school, but had to say goodbye. They capped off the school’s tenure with an “End of an Era Bash” in 2016. Though it’s part of the Old East Heritage Conservation District, the site was assigned a D grade — the lowest ranking — because of its newer construction. The current structure was built in the 1960s.

Demolition of A, B or C-grade buildings is “highly discouraged.” But the Old East Heritage Conservation District Plan says D-ranked properties “may have great value and be dearly appreciated, but . . . are not representative of the collective heritage of the area.”

“Most of the properties in the Old East are from a much earlier period of settlement, which contributes to its heritage character,” said Gonyou. “It really does stand out from the rest of the character of the area.”



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