Ainslie School was opened in 1927 by the Rt Hon Stanley Melbourne Bruce in the building that is now the Ainslie Arts Centre. It was the second Canberra School after Telopea Park, which opened in 1924, and was surrounded by sheep paddocks during its first few years.
The current school was built in 1938 and is a fine example of the era's Art Deco style, especially in the symmetrical facade, chevron ventilators, front foyer and library mural. It was destined by C Whitely under the direction of Chief Architect E H Henderson of the Dept of the Interior Works and Services Branch. After its construction, the original building became the infants department of the school while the new building housed the primary classes.
It is claimed to be the first school in Australia with a library, needlework room and lecture room with tiered seats. The well-treed grounds and front landscaping link the current site to the original building. The school is of particular historical and social importance to North Canberra.
There have been changes to the buildings and the use to which rooms have been put over the years. The current sports store room has previously been both a classroom and a theatre. The building on the eastern side of the site, now used for music, was once the canteen. The building on the western side was a health centre, including a dentist. The Assembly Hall was built in 1960. In 1970, an addition was built at the back of the building above the back entrance, opposite the library.
Work completed in 2007 restored some of the ageing infrastructure including the parquetry flooring and the large light fittings. The library is still largely in original condition. The basement houses the heating system which is now powered by natural gas, although previously oil was used and originally the school was heated with a coal fired boiler. The door through which coal was shoveled is still in place.
The school's Building the Education Revolution project was a multipurpose building, including an open space, a kitchen, offices and two classrooms, located on the Elder Street side of the school. It was named Yerra and opened in 2011. The space is used by the After School Care program and for school programs.
During the war years, students were taken through drills in case of air raids and there was a shelter along the Limestone Ave border. For the next few years, prior to the construction of other schools in neighboring suburbs, Ainslie School catered for over 1000 students, who were housed in every available space. Consequently, there are many ex-students and it is not uncommon for them to visit. Many of them ask to go upstairs to the library to renew their acquaintance with the Peter Pan mural.
For a decade between the 1960s and 1970s. an Opportunity Deaf class operated in the school. In 2014, past students came together to celebrate a fifty year reunion.
Ainslie School is located in Braddon, which was originally part of Ainslie. The current Ainslie and another early neighbouring suburb, Reid, were originally called 'North Ainslie' and 'South Ainslie'.
An Interesting fact about our school logo:
The three columns on the logo architecturally read symbolically from left to right, representing growth and increasing development as civilisation continued improving and striving for ever higher attainment. The first shortest column is Doric, the simplest and oldest of the three. Next is the Ionian column, developed later by the Greeks, finally the Corinthian was the highest Greek column and taken up by the Romans and used in the most sophisticated temples.
This elegantly reflects the school motto: Altiora Conde Templa which translates literally to 'create higher temples', as we strive ever higher to create respect, excellence and community at Ainslie.
Ainslie School Architects
The original Ainslie School (now the Ainslie Arts centre) was designed by John Smith Murdoch in 1927. The current school building was designed by Cuthbert Whitely in 1936, and the building completed in 1938.
John Smith Murdoch
John Smith Murdoch CMG (29 September 1862 – 21 May 1945) was the chief architect for the Commonwealth of Australia from 1919, responsible for designing many government buildings, most notably the Provisional Parliament House in Canberra, the home of the Parliament of Australia from 1927 to 1988.
Murdoch persuaded Walter Burley Griffin to come to Australia from the USA, and who went to Sydney to greet him on his arrival in 1913. Later, however, he had a difficult relationship with Griffin.
Murdoch designed the Provisional Parliament House in Canberra. However, he had no enthusiasm for the project, saying expenditure on it could not be justified at the time; and he thought the whole idea was a waste of money.
Murdoch also designed many of Canberra's first public buildings, such as:
- Kingston Power Station (1913–1915). This was decommissioned in the early 1960s, and reopened 25 May 2007 as Canberra Glassworks, a glass artist studio.
- the Hotel Canberra (Hostel No. 1) (1924) – now the Hyatt Hotel
- the Hotel Kurrajong (Hostel No. 2) (1926)
- Secretariat Buildings No. 1 and 2 (1927) – now East and West Blocks
- Gorman House (Hostel No. 3) (1924–25)
- Ainslie Public School (1936)
- several residential hotels necessary for public servants and politicians
Cuthbert Whitley was a talented architect the bulk of whose work reflects the Inter-War Functionalist style. He moved from Melbourne in 1929 to work for the Department of the Interior under the supervision of E H Henderson. In 1935 he was promoted to senior architect. Whitley designed the Donaldson Street site of Ainslie School in 1936, successfully combining function and elegance and including Art Deco motifs such as the chevron ventilators and vertical flutes. The building was completed and opened in 1938.
Cuthbert Whitley also designed the original Canberra High School, now the School of Arts at the ANU.
Whitley was a talented sportsman who played for Australian Rules football for Hawthorn and won trophies for his skills in golf. He died in 1942.