Architectural Significance of the Site
The Bowmanville Boys School is one of the few juvenile reform schools that was purpose-built in the interwar period that embodies in its architecture and layout a modern philosophy of juvenile social reform. The school may be said to be the built expression of the values expressed in the long-awaited Juvenile Delinquents Act of 1908.
Although constructed 17 years after the Act was tabled, the Bowmanville school was the first known work of architecture to be built in light of its principles. The Act stated that “every juvenile delinquent shall be treated, not as a criminal, but as a misdirected and misguided child.” The architecture of the Bowmanville Boys Schools flowed from this central principle. The majority of the other schools illustrate Victorian architectural styles and express less progressive, distinctly nineteenth century approaches to juvenile reform. Many are located in or near cities.
Historically, the cottage plan has been applied across several interrelated buildings types. Cottage plans became increasingly popular for hospitals, asylums, and schools during the period when early prisons and reform schools for youth were being enveloped. The campus/cottage plan opened up the possibility of a less formal, more dispersed, and humanly-scaled environment for treatment and education.
The architect of the Bowmanville Boys School undoubtedly knew of these precedents in hospital and school design, the Scottish-born James Govan, was more likely influenced by the designs of insane asylums in his choice of a cottage plan for the Bowmanville Boys School.
The School buildings constitute a rare and exceptional example of Prairie School architecture in Canada. Its buildings are characterized by open plans, natural materials, geometric ornamentation, and a horizontality that suggests the openness of the prairie landscape. This style of architecture is most often associated with Frank Lloyd Wright.
The Cafeteria (1924), Triple Dormitory (1928), Kiwanis House (1927), Gymnasium/Natatorium (1927), and Jury House (1924) were designed by James Govan, a consulting architect to the provincial Department of Public Works.
The Infirmary/General’s House (1937) was designed by George White, the Chief Architect of the provincial Department of Public Works.
The site buildings are laid out on a campus-style plan. Five buildings are grouped inside an oval-shaped ring road that gives form and cohesion to the campus. The buildings are visually and functionally connected to each other by a network of paved pathways. The campus is otherwise completely open to the countryside, as its planners intended. The sixth and largest building is just outside the perimeter road. All six buildings are of masonry construction, finished on the exterior in brick and stucco, with shingle roofs. The four earliest buildings, the Cafeteria, Jury House, Kiwanis House, and the Gymnasium, bear the hallmarks of the Prairie Style most strongly. They exhibit open plans, fragmented volumes, natural materials, a horizontality that reflects the flatness of the prairie landscape, geometric ornamentation, and flat roofs. These buildings are strikingly modern in sensibility. Though technically institutional buildings, Jury House, Kiwanis House, and the Cafeteria are relatively intimate in scale and therefore bear greater resemblance than the other buildings to the domestic architecture through which Frank Lloyd Wright first articulated the Prairie Style at the turn of the 20th century. The Triple Dormitory and the Infirmary/General’s House present designs that are more traditional in their aesthetic approach. They adopt elements of the Prairie Style and the Arts and Crafts tradition, such as open interior spaces and fragmented volumes, natural materials and geometric ornament, but retain the pitched roofs and sash windows that were abandoned in institutional architecture once the International Style took hold in Canada (over the following decades).