Historic Sites Walking Guide
London Normal School

165 Elmwood Avenue


On February 1, 1900, the first class of prospective teachers began their studies in the new London Normal School. Coming from diverse backgrounds and communities in southwestern Ontario, they were attending what was considered to be the most modern teacher-training school in Canada. The faculty consisted of Principal Francis Walter Merchant, Vice-Principal John Dearness, and four teachers.


The decision to locate this new school in London was influenced by Premier G.W. Ross, local MPP Colonel F. B. Leys, and chair of the London Board of Education Dr. C.T. Campbell. They had promoted London as a desirable site owing to its location, size, and excellent educational facilities.


In 1898, ground was broken in South London for the third normal school in Ontario. The structure is trimmed with cut stone, and its now weathered brick was once red-orange in colour. A tower dominates its facade. Rising from the roof (originally of slate) are several miniature cupolas, typical of Victorian architecture. The grand staircase is the most striking feature of the building’s interior. Several rare varieties of trees were planted on the grounds, and oaks and maples were later added in memory of deceased members of the faculty, including John Dearness.


By 1958, the London Normal School was no longer adequate, and a new teachers’ college was built on Western Road. The old building functioned briefly as a junior high school. It became the administrative centre of the London Board of Education in 1963, and of the separate school board in 1986. In 2005, the London District Catholic School Board will move to new quarters, and the future of the former London Normal School is uncertain.

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