Wednesday, 28 May 2008

The end of Lady Alma.

I have a been huge supporter to save Alma College here in St.Thomas. It is a beautiful 130 year old building that was a private school for young ladies for over 100 years. The first cornerstone was laid in 1878 and the doors officially opened in October 1881 with it's main intention being "for the higher education of young ladies". The school closed during the teachers strike in 1988 never to open again. Alma has seen many changes over her lifetime but she persevered until Alma was purchased by the Zubick demolition company from London. They applied for a demolition permit and were denied. The owners then took it upon themselves to gut the building and set it up for deterioration making Alma extremely vulnerable to the elements. In just 2 years the building has nearly fallen apart. Before this time, it was salvageable. It would have been an expensive undertaking but with the right investor Alma could once again be the gem of St.Thomas.

Something that may interest some...two movies were filmed here in the within the last decade. Disney's Mr. Headmistress in 1997 and the horror movie Silent Hill in 2003 (released in 2006).

Taken from the internet...

Quick Timeline For Alma College.

1877: Alma Chartered as Private girls' school.

1881: School opens under principal Benjamin Fish Austin.

1886: School filled to capacity prompting new construction of new wing.

1918-1953: Principal Perry Dobson and his wife Harriet , nurture the school from near collapse to international stature. New athletic facilities, a chapel and an amphitheatre constructed.

1973: Officials from the debt-ridden college ask city and county for finacial help.

1988: Alma college secondary school closes after bitter teachers strike. Primary grade and music continue.

1993: Board of directors announce the high school to re-open in September

1994.1994: Low registration scuttles reopening. College is shutdown and reciever appointed.

1995: The Alma College International Alumnae Association announces plans to buy and reopen the school as well as a retirement home, preforming arts centre and train depot.

1996: A long, legally bidding war for the property breaks out between the alumnae and Royal Cambridge , a Toronto development company headed by William Fong.

Dec 1996 : Royal cambridge wins the legal battle to buy the property for $1.5 million. Fong plans to open a co-ed school and restore the building.

Nov 1997: Alma College is used as a set for Mr.Headmistress , an Disney/ABC made-for-tv movie.
Dec 1997: Royal Cambridge defaults on mortgage payments and school is for sale again.

May 1998: A judicial sale of the building is aborted when all bids fall short of the reserve bid.

Aug 1998: Alma college was bought by Alma Heritage Estates, a consortium made up of Brian Squires and George and Jill Zubick. Their plans were to build a retirement community on the site.

Dec 2002: St.Thomas council selects Burwell road as preferred site for new Valleyview seniors' home, rejecting Squires' bid to build it on the Alma site.

Jan 2003: Squires applies for a demolition permit for Alma College.

October 2007: Demolition permit approved for alma college.

Alma's History


Unfortunately, our fight has been in vain. As I type this, Alma in all her glory, is burning to the ground. It is suspected that the owners have deliberately started the fire to end the long fight. This of course has not been proven but either way it is a tragic loss for our city. If only city council had done something sooner, our beautiful Alma would still be standing majestically.

I can hear the fire engines right makes me so sad.

It started sometime shortly after 12:00pm on Wednesday May 28, 2008

This is all that is left as of 1:54 pm Wednesday May 28, 2008....

From Facebook group: Eerie and Endangered: Celebrating the Beauty of Alma College.

IT'S A VERY SAD DAY,FOR ST.THOMAS.Alma College was set ablaze today(Wednesday May 28th,2008),bringing our hopes & dreams of saving her to an end.She was neglected by her owner,Mr.George Zubick for well over 10 years.He slowly dismantled her inside & out,leaving her vulnerable to this very outcome.I've been worried since joining the cause to save Alma College,that one day flames would bring her down.Mr Zubick should be very ashamed of allowing Alma College to end her stand on Moore Street in such a horrific way.He had every oppurtunity to sell the property,to people wanting to restore Alma,and bring her back to life.Instead Mr.George Zubick chose to completely gut the interior,remove all the downpipes,and windows,leaving Alma vulerable to our brutal Canadian winters.In 1881 Alma College opened her doors for all to enjoy,today 130 years later,Mr.George Zubick has closed those doors for last time.I want to thank each and every person who has supported "Miss Alma",she has inspired us,she has brought joy into all our lives.Im glad I got the chance,to stand on the front steps of this "grand old building",because Im sure I will not see the likes of her again,in my lifetime.Thank you Alma for giving us 130 years of your beauty.Rest in Peace my good friend,knowing you will always be loved..Bob Foster