Today’s story is one of hope and renewal.  Sometimes in life, the most seemingly random events can lead to truly wonderful adventures.  A chance finding of an old, abandoned school quickly turned into a story of hope and renewal, and new-found friends.

This post is a follow-up story to our two previous posts “School’s Out” and “The Playground Children Forgot“.  As a result of those two previous posts, we were contacted by several folks who live in the community of Cowichan Station, and they had great news to share.  The school is not abandoned, after all!  No, rather, a community association has been formed, funds raised and plans created to refurbish and re-purpose the school.  The idea is to turn the school into a community Hub!  Businesses, community functions, classes…  you name it, it’s going to be a multipurpose facility.  Please feel free to visit the Cowichan Station Area Association website to get all the great details.

We were thrilled to get an invitation to return and visit some of the great people involved in this project at an Open House event hosted.  Of course, we asked if we could take some photographs and were thrilled to get a yes.  So, without further ado we’d like to share a new set of photos taken at the Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School.

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

The entire facility is still boarded up, just as we found it a few short weeks ago.  But, the doors were open, the lights were on and the wonderful sound of a crowd was coming from the inviting entry-way.

A tour was being formed of the school and we were all pretty excited to tag along and finally get a little more of the back-story.  One of the first areas discovered during our tour was…

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Eeep.  I have to admit, my friends, the moment we encountered this scene, my mind immediately rushed back to my early schooling as a tadpole.  Mrs. Toad looked at me, and all I could come up with was “nevermind, let’s not speak of this…”

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

As we toured the place, more of the underlying character began to reveal itself.  As well as a recent sordid tale of trouble-makers and this late trend for thieves to pilfer a building of its copper to sell to the local recycling yards.

Here we have a group working hard to revitalize and refurbish a facility for the betterment of the entire community, and on the other hand we’ve got a pair of young men who feel the need to cause over $20,000 in damage to the plumbing system.  If I recall, we were told the thieves sold their bounty for a whopping $750.  All this, and the doors have just been reopened.

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

We turn the corner to find an area that once teemed with little people, busy in their play worlds.  Frozen in time almost, the toys left in the last place they were used.  The windows are still boarded, undoubtedly for security reasons, and we’re told that soon they will be freed and once again light will stream into the heart of the school.

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Mostly empty, but still full of signs of the children who once were the spirit here.  Almost all the furniture is gone, save for the odd room here and there.  The walls in the annex were all still intact and created a bit of a labyrinth.

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

A room full of desks and chairs.  A room full of energy, from all the little ones who sat in these chairs, at these desks, working so hard on their essays.  I remember having to write one on a country in Europe somewhere for Social Studies.  I have nothing against the country, but I did have something better to do after school than write an essay.  It probably was something bound to get me into trouble.  Do you remember any essays you had to write in school?

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

And then we found photographic gold.  This is the main boiler for the old part of the school, full of texture and great details, and still incredible to behold.  In the top picture, you can see in handwriting the words “Keep Filled With Water”.  You just have to wonder what the impetus was behind having to have someone write that on the boiler.

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

It was now time to leave the building and head back out.  An empty hallway, bereft of the sounds of children talking and laughing was all that is left now.  It won’t be long before the renovations begin and this place will change.  Change isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just different.

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

As we make our way to the gymnasium to meet all the folks who are working on this project and say goodbye for this day, we stop to take in some of the outer details of the facility.  The doors and siding are weathered, from years and years of harsh west coast winters, and it won’t be long before this all begins to change as the restoration and refurbishment moves along.  These shots here present great textures and details to take in, and will in the future serve as reminders to those who are working so hard on this project; this is what once was.

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

This section of facility here connects to the old building.  As we understand it, this will be undergoing massive changes in the coming years and it was really great to get the chance to capture this as a form of documentation for the future.  In the distance, we see the original playground for the school peeking out between the support beams.  It really is a little bittersweet to think of all the children who grew up here at this school, and what this place means to them…  and now it’s about to become something totally different.  But, the heritage aspect of the original building will be preserved and enhanced through the restoration project, and future generations will still have the chance to come and learn a little about the history of this area.

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

As we make our final turn before heading into the gym, we see a power line with a skipping rope draped over it.  How long has it been here?  Does the little girl who once played with it miss it now?  And, how did it get there?  These sorts of discoveries always leave us with more questions than they answer.

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

As we enter the gym, I am immediately taken back once again to my own childhood with this climbing rope contraption.  How many times have I fallen from one just like this.  When you’re only 3 feet tall, being at the top is tantamount to looking over the edge of the Empire State Building today.  Mrs. Toad had to lean over and pull me down as I tried to clamber my way up…

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School - Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Cowichan Station Rural Traditional School – Cowichan Station, BC, Canada

Sure, the school part of this facility is forever changed.  But the community spirit is strong and vibrant here.  Future generations will come to the Hub and learn about the history of the old school.  At this time, it’s very hard to imagine what this all will look like in the next few years as work commences.  Rest assured, we’re very excited to be part of this, and are looking forward to coming back regularly to document the process as it unfolds, and to provide support to the community and association in any way we can.  After all, this is why we do what we do.  This is the power of imagery, and specifically photography.

We’ve been in discussions to try and find a way to provide some support to the association.  We are planning on donating a few of our prints for fundraising, as well as trying to spread awareness through our photography and blog.  If you are local to Vancouver Island and are just becoming aware of this situation, we urge you to consider helping out either financially, or in any other manner you can.  This is a great, great project, headed up by a truly wonderful group of people and we honestly would love to see this come to fruition.

As always, we thank you kindly for your visit today and encourage you to leave us any comments you may have.  We love to hear from all our visitors, and I am quite certain that some members of the association will be here and reading your comments as well and would appreciate the support and encouragement.




  1. avatar ChrisdMRF says:

    The Toad does Urbex. Fantastic images Toady and a great backstory as well. I love the images, they convey so much on their own, and the story of how this building is being reborn is just great,

  2. avatar ehpem says:

    Hi Toad – I really like this story, and the pictures – it is good news for the local community. I know people up that way and will send them a link to your post.

  3. What a wonderful post and story. Thank you so much for sharing. The images flow so well with your post. Well done sir.

  4. avatar Jim Denham says:

    Considering its abandonment, the school looks to still be in good shape! You should feel proud to be part of this Toads and thanks for letting us join in as well! Sounds like this place may soon be filled with the life it deserves!

  5. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    What a wonderful follow-up to your original posts Toad. Proves that bringing things under the light can result in terrific results. Great images, especially that boiler. Well done my friend.

  6. avatar LensScaper says:

    A great story that needs all the publicity it can get. If there are enough folk to get a ball rolling then sometimes it can become an unstoppable force for good. Let’s hope this is true for this cause. It deserves to succeed.

  7. Fantastic post Toad. Great story and it’s great that they invited you to come back. You really have a way of finding all these amazing places. Also great shots.

  8. avatar A.Barlow says:

    wow, what a powerful image that chair with the spiderwebs is! Simply amazing man. My wife is a school teacher and things like this get me. Good work my friend!

  9. Super awesome – well executed! reminds me of my school days in Ontario!

  10. avatar Adam Allegro says:

    Wow, fantastic series. These are some awesome images. Takes me back to my school days, especially the principal’s office!!! Awesome stuff my friend!

    • Thank you so very much for your visit & fabulous comments here, Adam, we sure do appreciate it! I see you and I share a strong sense of something when we see that Principal’s office… I can only hope your association is for a better reason than mine!! LOL 🙂

  11. Great story and photos to go with it Toad! Always glad to see a happy ending!

    • And the story continues to unfold, and it’s fabulous! Please stay tuned, Michael, we will be having periodic updates regarding progress and we’re thrilled to be a part of it all! And many thanks to you for taking the time to visit and leave us your comments, it truly means so much!

  12. avatar Jim Nix says:

    wow Toad that’s a wonderful series of shots and a touching story to boot, hope the project gets fully funded and comes to fruition soon!

  13. avatar ehpem says:

    Hi Toad – when I saw this post by Travels with the Blonde Coyote, I immediately thought of your post and had to come for another look. Coyote’s post is where this could have gone without a lot of community effort. Her photos blow up nice and big too, so you can have a close look.
    http://theblondecoyote.com/2011/11/27/cedarvale-ghost-school/

    • Wow, my friend, that is quite the article there! Thank you so much for passing that along, I now have her in my RSS feed so I can follow along. I love this sort of work. Thank you so much for all your continuing support and friendship here, we really appreciate it a lot!