When you think of a haunted building, you may conjure images of a Victorian manor on a high hill, overlooking the rest of its neighbourhood like some watchful protector. You may think of an abandoned prison or hospital; a place where thousands of souls have passed through, shaped and molded by the wicked authority that dwelled within its walls. These are the truly classic images of a haunting, but do you ever think of a public school? A building not haunted by vengeful spirits, but by the like-new memories of the people that live, work and play in the city that still surrounds it. This is the image we bring you now; a place of learning, still loved and remembered by the people who grew up in its halls – halls that, until recently, had gone unused.
The important thing to note here, is that a haunting doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. In this case, it’s what shapes a reimagining and reconstruction – one that remembers and cherishes those that came before. Ensuring its preservation as a fond remembrance of the people who shared memories there, and to realize the dreams of others, forever celebrating their dedication, and honouring their memory. It’s important to understand the impact of these places, and to recognize why it’s so special that we at 360 Insights have the privilege of calling R A Sennett our new home. Just take a quick look at the school’s history for a taste of what we’re talking about.
In 1920, the Henry Street Public School in Whitby burned to the ground. Following its destruction, a new schoolhouse was built on the same land within the corners of King, Dunlop, Henry and Gilbert Streets, completed in 1921. It would be known as the King Street School for decades, eventually renamed to honour its first principal, who served the school and its surrounding community for over thirty years between 1921 and 1952; Robert Allan Sennett. The school saw immense enrollment growth following World War 2 and in 1958, an addition was added to the school’s north and south sides, focusing on additional classroom space. A second and final expansion was performed in 1987, adding a gymnasium on the side of the building facing Henry Street.
R A Sennett Public School, as it was officially renamed in 1979, has played a part in the Whitby community since its construction through to its closing in 2010, almost an entire century later. Purchased by the Town of Whitby in 2014, the site was designated a heritage location in an effort to preserve its features and cement its place in the town’s history. What was once deemed too costly for repair and upkeep by the city and School Board, has since been agreed upon as ‘just right’ for a local company just down the road.
For such an important place, it’s crucial that we remember what it is we’re doing with the building. Since 1854, the property has been used for places of learning – that’s one year before the Town of Whitby was even founded, in 1855. After just shy of a decade being closed, its doors will be opened once more – this time as a place of business, and a place that will make real the dreams of many people who worked tirelessly to make it happen. Now and always, the spirits that haunt its halls will be those of hard work, dedication and passion; exactly what makes R A Sennett our perfect new home.