200 Years of Harmony Public School

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Harmony Public School was closed in 2012 due to low enrolment, but its story goes hundreds of years.  In fact, all the way back to 1807, when Benjamin Stone and his wife Catherine moved their family to east Oshawa and settled down on 400 acres of land, and Stone built a school house for the local children, including his daughter Mary and her siblings.

Enter John Ritson, an immigrant from Northern England on a disgruntled journey west across Ontario from Ottawa, after being refused cash payment for work in what would become the nation’s capital city. Land, in Ritson’s eyes, was not a suitable exchange for the job he had completed, but he eventually agreed to take a horse, wagon, and one hundred dollars cash to fund his travels out of Ottawa.

In 1820, Riton’s wagon made it as far as Oshawa when it broke down on the road in front of Stone’s property. Ritson, then 30 years old and in need of a job, was encouraged by the lack of teachers in the area, and, perhaps also, by the introduction to Mary, the Stone family’s pretty, teenage daughter.  He quickly decided to take on the top job of Oshawa’s first school teacher in Stone’s log cabin school.  John and Mary married two years later, and went on to have seven children in the area that’s now known as Ritson Road.

The log cabin school house was eventually replaced by sturdier brick on land donated by the Farewell family which, as the population in the area swelled, was again replaced by a larger building. After more growth, in 1924, Harmony Road School as we know it today  was built at the cost of $25,000, and opened its doors to welcome another generation of children.

However, as the population of Oshawa shifted, enrolment at Harmony Road School declined, and in 2012, the decision was made to permanently close the school.  Despite being ranked as having high potential for historic designation by the City of Oshawa, today it stands derelict and sad, its simple, once-welcoming sign, overgrown with weeds.

Used occasionally by the Durham Region Police Service as a training facility, little has changed since the last bell rung in 2012, except obvious signs of erosion and the passage of time.  Weeds now fill the kindergarten playground, rusty basketball nets rust over an expanse of cracked concrete.  The once noisy playground that was second home to generations of Oshawa’s children, sits empty and unused, a  poignant reminder of how quickly Oshawa’s past can be abandoned and slip from collective memory.


For more information about Harmony Public School, check out the Oshawa Museum blog about Ritson Road, or the Heritage Oshawa report on the history and historic importance of the school.  

 

 

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