Our History

Nelson Hall

31st Scout Hall in 1976. Photo credit Alison Jackson.

A look back at the first 50 years.

In 2022 we celebrated our 70th anniversary and our hall has over 110 years of continuous service in educating Calgary youth.

Capitol Hill Cottage School, built in 1912, is architecturally significant for being one of just four surviving "cottage" type schools in Calgary. Sixteen such cottage schools were built from 1910 to 1913 in one of three prototypes. Capitol Hill Cottage School is one of two remaining schools of its type in the city (with the Grand Trunk School).

During the great 1909-13 economic and population boom, the Calgary Protestant Public School Board (District 19) was challenged with accommodating the exponential growth in the number of school-aged children and embarked upon ambitious building program. The program included the construction of substantial sandstone structures as well as the modest, 'temporary', woodframe cottage schools. These cottage schools could be constructed quickly and economically, and later sold and converted to residences or apartments. Between 1910 and 1913 three cottage-school prototypes were introduced for the sixteen cottage schools to be constructed during the period. Each of the three plans met the basic construction requirements set forth by the Alberta Department of Education in 1906. Each school had to have at least 15 feet of floor space and 200 cubic feet of air per student with windows that measured 3½ to 4 feet high placed at the left and behind the students. At least 60 feet of blackboard space was also required, as was proper ventilation in the form of interior storm-sash windows that could easily be opened at anytime in the year.

In 1911 School Board Superintendent J. McClelland assigned the newly hired Assistant Superintendent, William Branton, to formalize a standard cottage-school plan. The resulting plan, which was employed for the Capitol Hill School, was a more refined design than those previously used. Stylistic improvements of Branton's design included a full-width, front veranda with nicely turned supports and a pedimented roof. Functionally the design was improved over an earlier prototype, and incorporated an internal staircase for movement between the first, second and basement levels. The design also included a first-floor teacher's office and cloak rooms on each floor. The basement came equipped with a hot-air furnace. Contractor H. Church was responsible for constructing the school as well as an identical structure in South Calgary.

Of the three cottage-school variants, the design employed for the Capitol Hill school was the last to be developed, and was the most stylistically-elaborate. Schools such as the 24 Avenue Cottage School (1910-11), in the Cliff Bungalow area, represent a slightly earlier prototype and were much larger but more plain. The earliest prototype was the most modest, and is represented by the Hillhurst Cottage School (1910).

The Capitol Hill Cottage School is simple but attractive in character, retaining its lapped wooden siding, one-over-one hung-sash windows, pedimented hipped roof and front veranda. It has also retained many of its interior features such as window, door and other mouldings, blackboards, and original floor plan.

From the time Capitol Hill Cottage School was completed, until the time of its closure in 1961, the school was an important community fixture and place of learning for generations of area children. The building which always functioned as an elementary school holds the status as the oldest school in the community. Since 1961 the building has been the home of the 31st St. Cyprian’s Scout Troop and is also valued for its long-time association with that institution.