The Trouble With Trying to be Normal– The Ottawa Normal School




A normal school is a school created to train high school graduates to be teachers. Most suchs chools are now denominated “teachers’ colleges”.

The Normal School is today part of Ottawa City Hall. It was originally built in 1874 as Ottawa Normal School and served as a teacher’s college. The Gothic Revival building stands at Elgin Street and Lisgar and several extensions were added to the rear of the building.

It was part of Ontario’s normal school system of teacher’s colleges that had been set up by Egerton Ryerson. When Ryerson’s system was replaced by a more modern system it was renamed the Ottawa Teacher’s College in 1953. In the 1960s it was decided that Ontario’s teacher’s colleges should be merged into universities and the teacher’s college was merged into the Faculty of Education of the University of Ottawa in 1974. Four years later the building was closed and the building was sold to the federal government.– Journey to Nationhead

In 1986 it was purchased by the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, to serve as part of a new RMOC headquarters. To the north of the college the main building of the new RMOC building was erected and links were created to the old school, which was re named the Heritage Building. With the creation of the new city of Ottawa in 2000 the building became part of Ottawa City Hall. The mayor has his office in this building, overlooking Elgin Street.



Photo –Wikimedia Commons


The photos below are ones I took at a local auction of the 1935 Ottawa Normal School Annual. Unfortunately I didn’t win it so I was glad I took photos.






I could not believe how many unmarried teachers there were.  In 1872, some female teachers could be dismissed for getting married–and things weren’t a whole lot better in 1915. Imagine being forbidden to loiter in ice cream shops if you were a teacher. I bet there was no telling what might happen if you ordered half vanilla and half chocolate!

It seems men were not exempt either. Any teacher who smoked, used liquor in any form, frequented pool or public halls, or even got shaved in a barber shop would give the board good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity, and honesty.

In 1915- female teachers were not allowed to marry either during the term of their contract- nor keep company with men. They had to be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless attending a school function. You couldn’t under any circumstances dye your hair or dress in bright colours. Well, there went my chances!

The reason for the rule against marriage is that it would normally be followed by pregnancy, and no one wanted a pregnant woman teaching their children.  Oh the horrors! Also, the teacher would most likely be unable to finish the term if she were to become pregnant and it would be difficult to replace her. As for the other rules, if they felt it was improper for a teacher to behave that way–they made rules prohibiting that type of conduct.








Normal School Graduation Group- Carleton Place 1900- Photo from Public Archives.


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The Ottawa Journal29 May 1935, WedPage 3


Norah Craigie (Nora Pombert)–
I was a little girl approximately five years old, I went as a student to the school called the normal model school. We had to line up to enter and shake the teachers hand and curtsy first thing in the morning.


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun


related reading..

Ladies & Gentlemen- Your School Teachers of Lanark County 1898

Straight Outta Carleton Place High –Teachers 1963

Too Hot for Teacher? What Happened to Yours?


About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

8 responses »

  1. I was a little girl approximately five years old, I went as a student to the school called the normal model school. We had to line up to enter and shake the teachers hand and curtsy first thing in the morning.

  2. Hi Linda, I’m a student in the Master of Public History program at Carleton University and I’m currently doing a project on the history of teaching in Ottawa. I see you’ve made some references to the social life of teachers in 1915, and I’d like to include some of these details in my project (especially the rules surrounding marriage). Could you let me know where I could find your source for this information? Thank you!

    • I would love to tell you I got it in one spot. But most of my day is spent researching newspaper archives. Sure there are some ‘Alternative facts” but I think the community stuff is far more interesting. I do the Ottawa Journal Newspaper archives which does have a 7 buck cost a month.. but for free and it is where I got a lot of info.. The Almonte Gazette which is free and dates back to 1867 has some great stuff from the Ottawa Valley and is FREE..
      BTW if you find anything in my blogs you can use it. That is what it is there for. Good luck HUGGG

      • Ahh I see. I did spend some time looking at the Ottawa Journal online but my free trial expired and I’m not sure I have the time/money to keep looking around there. But thanks very much for responding! I’ll keep doing my own searching in the meantime. 🙂

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