‘You do not tear down recollections’: Former college students rally to guard Oshawa’s Cedardale PS

Former students are concerned about the future of Oshawa’s historic Cedardale Public School. May 6, 2022

Residents are rallying to protect a century-old school building in south Oshawa.

“Cedardale Public School is NOT just another old school,” said heritage advocate and Cedar Dale resident AnnMarie Snider.

Cedardale Public School, at 827 Gordon St., opened in 1920 in the Hamlet of Cedar Dale in south Oshawa. (Oshawa didn’t become a city until 1924). The two-storey red-brick school welcomed students until 2002, when it was closed and sold privately. ?

Last year, when the old Cedardale school was again listed for sale, a petition was signed by approximately 300 concerned residents who want to see the former school site preserved.

“My main concern for the future is that the building will be torn down, and the land around reshaped to the point that history is forgotten … The school has memories that will never be replicated. Not just for me, but for so, so many more,” said former student David Talbot via email.

The old school building is considered a “Class A” heritage site but it’s not a designated heritage property. Oshawa residents and former students want to see the building protected with a heritage designation.

“The former Cedardale Public School has a rich history in the Cedardale area, and it was a beloved school to many of its former students and teachers from past generations,” Snider said in an open letter.

A group of residents with ties to the school (students and teachers) met with this week outside Cedardale to discuss their desire to protect the building.

When former students talk about the school, they mention the year they enrolled, but not the year they graduated — as if Cedardale Public School was a community they entered but never really left.

In their own words, here’s why the school is important:

• “It’s our childhood. It was my safe place to go. It’s where I learned right from wrong,” said Margaret Arnold, a student in 1956.

• “It was a wonderful school. There isn’t a better school in all of Oshawa. It was like a family. I wasn’t like going to work every day, it was like going to spend time with family. I would love to see the building preserved. I fought for years to keep it open as a school,” said Sharon Zawacky, an EA at the school from 1979 until it closed.

• “I remember gym in the basement and hockey,” said Mike Hartwig, a former student in the special education class.

• “I have so many friends from here. My parents went to this school,” said Isabel Carey-Locke.

• “It was a big family. Everybody knew everybody. Everyone looked out for each other,” Gina MacLean, 1969.

• “It was always a fun place. I remember every teacher, every classroom,” Gloria Taylor, 1952.

• “I went to this school, I want to see it stay. I was in the classroom right up there when John F. Kennedy was shot. It’s 40-50 years later and the friendships are still there,” Doug Robertson, student in 1963. “You don’t tear down memories.”

Last fall, a heritage research report found the property merits designation under the Ontario Heritage Act and recommended the City of Oshawa consider pursuing designation. The report was received for information and the building still hasn’t been designated, yet.

In April, the Development Services Committee received several letters from residents concerned that the Cedardale school has not been designated. Oshawa council members seemed open re-evaluating the decisions and asked city staff to approach the current owners of the property to discuss designation. Private heritage buildings are usually designated at the request, or at least with the approval, of the owners.

“I fully support the designation of Cedardale School. It is one of the last reminders of the former hamlet of Cedar Dale, one of founding communities that formed Oshawa. I believe that Council supporting the designation will send a message to future development companies that … we need you to be creative and find ways to respect the heritage of our city as you build out for the future,” Oshawa Coun. Brian Nicholson said via messenger.

Story behind the story: Heritage advocates reached out this week to discuss their concerns the future of the historic Cedardale Public School building.

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