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Malpeque residents want 18th-century Fanning School to see new life

Residents in the Malpeque area want to see Fanning Schoolhouse resurrected. – Josh Lewis
Residents in the Malpeque area want to see Fanning Schoolhouse resurrected. – Contributed

By Josh Lewis

MALPEQUE, P.E.I. – It's been 48 years since Fanning School closed its doors to students, but Malpeque residents want to give the building new life.

About 20 residents met Oct. 6 at the Malpeque Community Centre to discuss renovations to the building, which hasn't been in use since 2015.

Local engineer Ian MacGougan visited the site in Cabot Beach Provincial Park and issued a report with recommendations.

According to the report, it will cost nearly $90,000 in the next five years to get the school running again. That includes $50,000 for a new foundation.

Mold and animal feces are a "significant issue," McGougan said, and the building needs to be secured in the near future to prevent more animals getting in.

One of the Island's oldest schoolhouses, and with two storeys, Fanning School was built in 1794. It was named as such in the mid-19th century after a donation of land by governor Edmund Fanning's daughter.

After nearly two centuries of education and two decades of disuse, the Save Fanning School committee took over the school in 1992 and moved it inside the provincial park.

Evelyn Mill ran the building for the next 23 years as a community centre of sorts, selling ice cream, snacks and postcards.

"We did whatever we could to keep it going," Mill said during the meeting.

After years of running a shoestring budget with diminishing income, the decision was made to close the building in 2015.

"There comes a time when you're struggling so hard and no one is coming, and you get so burned out," Mill said.

Although a lot of work needs to be done, it could be worse, she said.

"The building is in much better shape now than it was in 1992."

Several people raised concerns about what would happen if the province sells Cabot Beach Provincial Park.

Local resident Earle Lockerby said Fanning is on the register of historic places, but that doesn't protect it from demolition. He suggested applying for a designation under the Island Heritage Act.

"I feel pretty confident, in my mind, that we could get the designation."

MacGougan's report also recommended raising the building to improve air circulation, removing flowerbeds to allow for better drainage, replacing sagging window frames and first floor structural repairs.

The entire cost in the next 15 years is estimated at $140,000.

Residents will meet again Nov. 28 to approve plans.

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