Photo courtesy City of Richmond Archives
Part one of a four-part series.
Every name tells a story.
And in the case of Richmond schools, a history lesson too.
From Sea Island Elementary—Lulu Island’s first school originally dating back to the pioneer era at the turn of the 20th century—to Mitchell Elementary, home to the first Richmond High School, the longest continuously operating school in the Richmond public education system, first opening its doors in 1908—the tales are as fascinating as they are factual.Many details are from the City of Richmond Archives, and specifically its Richmond Schools online exhibit.
Henry Anderson Elementary
Opened in 1996, the school is named after W.H. (Henry) Anderson who arrived in Marpole (Vancouver) in 1909 and later moved to Richmond, settling on property in the Brighouse district. After attending both Bridgeport (Richmond) and Cambie schools, he became a bricklayer with his dad and brother Eric. He was active in Kiwanis as well as local politics. Anderson served as reeve (mayor) from 1967 to 1972.
Archibald Blair Elementary
Opened in 1997, the school is named after Archibald Blair whose family has a long history in the city. After arriving from Ireland in the late 1800s, the family began farming south of Steveston Highway. Archibald served in the Canadian Armed Forces overseas in the First World War and fought at the historic battle at Vimy Ridge. He also gave many years of service to both the Richmond School Board and Richmond City Council, and his son Gilbert (Gil) served as a city councillor as well as mayor from 1974 to 1990, leaving his own legacy of public service in the community.
Opened in 1954, the school is named after the former Blundell interurban station that was nearby. T. Blundell-Brown was an employee with the British Columbia Electric Interurban Company which operated the tram.
William Bridge Elementary
Opened in 1969, the school is named after William Bridge who moved from Atlantic Canada to settle in Richmond in 1896. He served as reeve (mayor) from 1908 to 1917, and for a brief period in 1920. At the time of his passing in 1928, he was chair of the local school board. The present-day school is adjacent to the farmland he cultivated.
Samuel Brighouse Elementary
Opened in 1965 to serve the burgeoning Brighouse estates, the school is named after Samuel Brighouse who was a prominent Richmond settler. Upon returning from the Cariboo gold rush in 1864, Brighouse purchased nearly 700 acres to raise thoroughbred horses and graze cattle on what is now the downtown core. He also petitioned to incorporate the township of Richmond and served on council in 1883.
Lord Byng Elementary
Originally Steveston School but renamed Lord Byng in 1922, the school pays homage to Viscount Byng of Vimy who commanded Canadian troops in the First World War, distinguishing both himself and the corps with the capture of Vimy Ridge in 1917.
Replaced by a modern facility in 1995 on the No. 1 Road site which has housed a school of some sort since 1897, the first Steveston School expanded by four classrooms with financial assistance from the Steveston Japanese-Canadian community. it was replaced by a 14-room school in 1930, with further additions in 1959.
William Cook Elementary
Opened in 1954 near what has become Richmond’s downtown core, the school is named after settler William Stanley Cook. In 1906, Cook bought 40 acres of land which the family farmed until 1925. Born in Nova Scotia, he travelled around Cape Horn en route to Vancouver by ship because the Panama Canal had not yet been completed. After his arrival on the West Coast in 1883, he became a successful businessman with interests in hotels, logging and other construction activities.
Howard Debeck Elementary
Named after Howard Debeck, who along with his two brothers purchased 1200 acres of land from Hugh McRoberts in 1869, the school named in his honour has a unique history. Opened as as annex to Garden City Elementary, it closed in 1953 due to a lack of enrolment but re-opened in 1966. A new school was built in 1992.
Debeck was the first of Richmond’s settlers to have a child born here; his daughter Emma in 1871 on Sea Island. After several years of farming, the brothers sold and bought the Brunette sawmill near New Westminster.
John Diefenbaker Elementary
Opened in 1981 to relieve the pressure of an increasing student population on the southwest corner of Richmond, the school is named after John Diefenbaker. A flamboyant lawyer from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, he became leader of the national Conservative party in 1956 and became Canada’s Prime Minister in 1957; the first Conservative Prime Minister after the Second World War, following 22 years of Liberal rule. Diefenbaker introduced the Bill of Rights in 1960 which made him a hero in the eyes of many Western Canadians.
AB Dixon Elementary
Opened in 1959 to serve a new West Richmond subdivision, the school named after early settler Alfred B. Dixon was first an annex to Lord Byng Elementary.
Alfred Dixon farmed in West Richmond from 1895 to 1920 and also served as a municipal councillor, school trustee and dyking commissioner.
John Errington Elementary
Opened in 1959, the school is named after settler farmer John T. Errington who purchased 210 acres of land from Hugh Boyd in the 1870s. Errington was also among those early settlers who successfully petitioned for Richmond to be incorporated in 1881, and in 1890 he served as a municipal councillor, spearheading a move to build the Marpole Street Bridge to Sea Island. He also donated land for the building of the first Presbyterian church in Richmond.
William Ferris Elementary
Opened in 1960, the school is named after the first recognized European settler on Lulu Island. William Douglas Ferris and his family arrived on Lulu Island in 1866, after residing for a short spell in New Westminster. He was among those who successfully petitionedthe province for Richmond to be incorporated in 1881. Ironically, when it came time for the documents to be signed, he had sold his Richmond property and moved back to New Westminster where he became that city’s mayor.
Garden City Elementary
Opened in 1948, the same year as Grauer Elementary, the school is named after the street on which it sits. Built to serve post-war Richmond during the baby-boom era, the school also shares a popular nickname for the city.
General Currie Elementary
Opened in 1920, the school was replaced by a new one-level facility on the original General Currie Road site, while successfully integrating old architecture into the design. Named after General Arthur Currie, one of Canada’s Second World War heroes who led troops into the second Battle of Ypres. He thus became the first Canadian officer to command Canadian troops. Currie was vice-chancellor at Montreal’s McGill University until his passing in 1933.
James Gilmore Elementary
Built in 1959 to serve the needs of Gilmore Park residents, a new subdivision on the west side of Richmond, the school is named after James Gilmore who was a pioneer farmer known for his herd of Holstein cattle. Born in County Down, Ireland, he moved to Richmond around the age of 20 in 1884 and served on Richmond’s police commission from 1917 to 1928.
Built in 1948 to serve the northwest sector of Richmond, a farming neighbourhood with emerging families of veterans returning from the Second World War, the school is named after Rudolph (Rudy) Martin Grauer—a prominent local resident. The city’s first reeve (mayor), a position he held from 1930 to 1949, Grauer also established a general store on Sea Island in 1914 at the junction of the Middle and North Arms of the Fraser River. The store was torn down in 1981 after serving the community for 67 years. Grauer also served on Richmond School Board and was an active member in local lacrosse.