The Metchosin Schoolhouse welcomed its first students through its door 150 years ago and on Saturday (Sept. 24), it welcomed the first visitors after extensive renovations restored it as a museum.
The project was more than two years in the making for the Metchosin Museum Society, and president Jim MacPherson said its completion was only one of the things being celebrated. It was also the society’s 50th anniversary and descendants of some of the school’s key historic people.
“It’s all part of our history. We are disappearing now, but a lot of us grew up experiencing a one-room schoolhouse,” said MacPherson. “The upcoming generations have no idea of what that was like. It’s about imparting a sense of history, of the way things were, and maybe how lucky we are today.”
The restoration process was extensive. MacPherson said there were a lot of structural problems with the building which needed fixing, plenty of cleaning needed to be done, and a rethink of how best to display the artifacts inside.
When the school ceased teaching activities in 1949, it sat vacant until 1972 when the museum society formed and converted it into the original museum. Funding from the province allowed the society to undertake the renovations.
MacPherson said much of the project was completed by dedicated volunteers from the wider Metchosin community.
Those same volunteers also did the research to find Ann Stewart, the great-great-granddaughter of John Witty who donated the land for the school to be built on; Diane Cowden, great-granddaughter of Emily Fisher who was the school’s first teacher; and Isabel Tipton, great-granddaughter of Hans Helgesen, the first chairman of the school board.
The trio were given the honour of cutting the ribbon and officially reopening the museum.
“This project forms part of the bigger picture, which is bringing people to our community to see what we actually are,” said Mayor John Ranns. “When we have people that can come out and visit amazing facilities like this … this is what we can offer the region.”