For forty-seven years the pitter-patter of tiny feet could be heard in the playground and hallways.  For forty-seven years parents dropped off their wee ones, watching with love as their little person disappeared into the crowd eventually to find their way into school for the day.  Some would stand at the fence on tippy-toe, trying to catch that one last glimpse.

This is the story of Glen Lake Elementary School, in Langford, BC, Canada on Vancouver Island.  Langford is one of the fastest growing communities in BC, and perhaps even Canada to some degree.  Along with this fast-paced development and all the excitement that comes from that we also find stories of change and loss.  These may very well be some of the last photographs of this old school before it disappears forever.

Glen Lake Elementary School - Langford, BC, Canada

Glen Lake Elementary School - Langford, BC, Canada

Never take anyone or anything for granted, you can never be certain of when or if you will ever see them again.  For many in our community, rapid changes to our surroundings and landscapes result in rather uneasy feelings.  A sense of losing touch with our past.

The world continues to grow, both in terms of population and the resulting densities in our communities and cities.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, along with change comes opportunity and a burgeoning sense of excitement.  But change is also the harbinger of loss.

Glen Lake Elementary School - Langford, BC, Canada

Glen Lake Elementary School - Langford, BC, Canada

2008 was the last year Glen Lake Elementary was in active use.  Structural issues, specifically seismic upgrades that were required, would have been terribly expensive to facilitate.  A study showed that refurbishing the building would be considerably more expensive than just tearing it down and replacing it with a new structure.  Enrollment numbers were also cited as a reason, as the number of children attending the school did not come near to the capacity it supported.

Glen Lake Elementary School - Langford, BC, Canada

Glen Lake Elementary School - Langford, BC, Canada

Glen Lake Elementary may not be designed using Victorian or Gothic architectural styles, but it is still an important cornerstone in the community.  It still reflects the character of the area at the time is was built, and thus is no less interesting than our heritage buildings.

It’s near impossible to silence the energy that all the children who came here over the years have left behind in the hallways and walls.  Many of these children have since grown, and in turn become community leaders and members of society that contribute greatly.  It’s their stories that are left behind.  It’s their stories you can almost hear on the wind as you walk around the facility trying to imagine what it must have been like when it was full of little people scurrying about their days.

Glen Lake Elementary School - Langford, BC, Canada

Glen Lake Elementary School - Langford, BC, Canada

The main issue of contention in this area is not so much the growth or loss of heritage buildings.  There aren’t terribly many here as this specific area is much newer than the city of Victoria proper.  But even with that being said, there is something comforting to people in seeing structures and artifacts of an area that act as an anchor to a time past.  It’s the sudden change, the almost near removal of all things familiar, that causes a feeling of trepidation in many.

Glen Lake Elementary School - Langford, BC, Canada

Glen Lake Elementary School - Langford, BC, Canada

Haunting scenes pepper our landscape.  Scenes that were once filled with activity and a gale of sounds now find themselves in complete silence with the periodic outburst of birds and the wind in the trees.

Glen Lake Elementary School - Langford, BC, Canada

Glen Lake Elementary School - Langford, BC, Canada

These rooms were once filled with laughter and light.  Today they are boarded up tight, the entire facility is secured and undoubtedly very dark inside.  Slowly, natural decay is setting in.  Some of the pieces of fascia are weathered or missing.  The tarmac is starting to pitch and bow from neglect and settling.  In some ways it almost takes on a bit of a post-apocalyptic feel to it with the lack of life.

Glen Lake Elementary School - Langford, BC, Canada

Glen Lake Elementary School - Langford, BC, Canada

The last goal has been scored in the field.  What once were shiny, white goal posts now are beginning to rust and wear.

Soon all this will be gone.  The current plans are to tear it all down and replace it with a new, modern and massive high school.  This is a much-needed facility for the area and will result in further growth.  The current high school, Belmont High, is rife with its own problems.  It truly needs to be replaced.  Not to mention, the land it sits on is very valuable and I am sure that there are a legion of developers out there with plans to build more high-density housing.

Glen Lake Elementary School - Langford, BC, Canada

Glen Lake Elementary School - Langford, BC, Canada

And yet I find myself hit with a sense of melancholy as I take this scene in.  No more will we hear the sound of the school bell ringing, followed closely by these doors being flung wide open to find a sea of young, beaming faces all running out to daylight at the end of their day.  The gentle weathering we see on the cement staircase here is a direct result of this deluge as the tiny feet scurried over the steps.  And just as the waves of the ocean gently wear the rocks on the shore, these stairs too have their own stories to share.

It’s only a matter of time now before these stories are silenced forever, like the flame of a candle that has burnt itself out.  At first, the flame begins to flicker…  and then it extinguishes itself forever.

Even though big, new things are coming I also find myself hoping that we don’t forget what came before.  I really hope that we can remember Glen Lake Elementary School for what is was, what it stood for and what it accomplished.

We really appreciate your visit here today, thank you for taking the time to pop by.  As always, we encourage everyone to leave us any comments that you may have as we love to hear from all our visitors.

  1. A poignant tale and great images to match

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you ever so kindly, my friend! We really appreciate your visit and kind words of support!!

  2. avatar Jerry Denham says:

    Great job of story telling and description in both your words and photos Toad. It’s almost like a part of the town dies when places like this disappear.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks, Jerry, I totally agree with your sentiments here. Thanks so kindly for your visit and for leaving us your great comments, my friend, we really do appreciate it more than we can express properly.

  3. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    You have captured the essence of some of our run down schools Toad. These schools are starting to pop up everywhere and you have nicely told their stories through prose and images. Another great post.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks so very much there, Len, your kindness & support of our work here really means an awful lot to us, my friend!

  4. avatar Heather says:

    Well done Toad….

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you ever so kindly, Heather, we sure do appreciate all your friendship and support here!

  5. avatar Edith Levy says:

    I do so enjoy reading your posts. There certainly is a sadness when change is afoot. And I agree I don’t know that its so much the change when you think about it but that comfort feeling we have when we know what’s just around the corner. You should take pride in these posts because through your storytelling and pictures Glen Lake Elementary will live on.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Edith, that’s just so awfully kind of you to say, my friend. Thank you SO much for taking the time to visit us here today, and for leaving us these just wonderful comments!

  6. avatar A.Barlow says:

    Did you report to the office before your visit?? I sure hope so!

    Love your work and your commentary here, adds so much thought provoking material to your posts. Keep it up!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      There’s no way, my friend, I was out in the playground after the buzzer!! LOL Thanks so much for your visit here Aaron, it really means so very much to us!

  7. Another great story told of days past and the importance of remembering what was. I’m amazed at how the weather effects these buildings so much, so quickly. I’m beginning to thin Vancouver’s a little rougher than I’ve always believed it to be.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      The rainforest aspect of the weather cells up here really do lay havoc on our buildings. I think I saw somewhere that it only takes a few years for most structures up here to really start falling apart if left unmaintained. Thanks for your kind visit, my friend, we sure do appreciate it!

  8. avatar Rich McPeek says:

    I really enjoy reading your posts and seeing your photos that go along with them! A sad tale, but you’ve captured it wonderfully! Terrific work! Have a great weekend!

  9. avatar Rick Louie says:

    Sad to see the school just sitting there. This day and age it seems like more and more just gets abandoned. No longer are the days when people will fix things. Thanks for sharing.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      I hear you loud and clear, my good friend! I also find it a little odd that ripping stuff down and replacing it is almost always cheaper than fixing what stands. Whether or not this is true is secondary in most cases to the loss of character to an area, I find. At any rate, thanks for your kind visit and most wonderful comments here today, Rick, we sure do appreciate it!

  10. Nice series of images, Toad. As usual, you have managed to capture the essence of the scene so well. I must say, though, that this is one architectural style that I would not be sorry to see the back of.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks Mark, we really appreciate you taking the time to pop by and leave us your thoughts like this. I hear your point on the architectural styling involved here, this sure isn’t one of our classic Victorian or Gothic stylized buildings. At any rate, once again we thank you so much for your continued support my friend!

  11. avatar Fred Norris says:

    Wonderful storyline and powerful images,I love the stairs in the last one!Thanks for taking the time to share these Toad.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      And many heartfelt thanks to you, Fred, for your kind visit! We really appreciate you taking the time, my friend!!

  12. avatar Eden says:

    Your processing really brings out some great details, especially in the trees 🙂

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you ever so kindly Eden, that is so nice of you to say, my friend! Thanks a ton for taking the time to visit and for leaving your comments!

  13. avatar Oc12 says:

    Perfect words!Perfect pictures!Those pictures make me think of my school time in the rural area.THAT so nice.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      We are so delighted to hear is, my friend, thank you! Your visit here is very much appreciated!

  14. Great story Toad! This just proves how important photography truly is. When this school is long gone, the pictures and memories will be all that remains. It’s sad to see something like that sit there and be reclaimed by nature.

    As always your photos really help to tell the story my friend!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you ever so kindly, Michael, that really means an awful lot to us here my friend!

  15. avatar Adam Allegro says:

    Well said Toad. While I agree it is sad, hopefully one day there will be something majestic built here! Nice work as usual Toad!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      You sir, are a scholar amongst gentlemen! Thanks for your kind visit and most wonderful comments here, Adam, it really means a lot to us!

  16. It ‘s amazing how many buildings with tales to tell are torn down or allowed to fall to pieces. Those are my favorite places to photograph, but I wish there were less of them. Thank you for sharing this story.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      What absolutely profound comments to share with us, Brenda, thank you! I totally agree with your thoughts, my friend. Thanks ever so kindly for taking the time to visit, we sure do hope to see you again!

  17. avatar Renee Besta says:

    What a beautiful setting this school is set in. And what a wonderful job you have done in depicting its history in words and images, Toad. I’ll bet it’s a little easier to be an urbexer when you’re an amphibian and can squeeze through small spaces! ;))

    I really enjoy reading your posts. Are the Canadian authorities as strict about visiting derelict structures as their American counterparts I wonder?

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      It’s a total advantage being green and short, Renee, you are oh so right! But, alas, our authorities are just as, or moreso, strict than the police in the States when it comes to trespassing. Not only that, almost all these facilities are very well secured and are within easy sight of folks nearby making it impossible to get in unnoticed. What we have learned is that by leaving the inside to be painted by our words and the readers imagination, we get an extra dimension from our work! 😀

      Thank you so much, our dear friend, for once again taking the time to come and visit us and leave us these most wonderful comments. It means so much to us.

  18. avatar LensScaper says:

    An excellent documentary written with real feeling. Photography has such a crucial role to play in recording what went before. Having lived and worked in the same area for over 35 years there has been a lot of development near me – roads, housing, infrastructure. But I cannot now recall clearly what it looked like 30 or so years ago before development took place. I have no reference to refer to. We so soon forget what came before the present. Posts like today’s will in time be such important historical documents – keep up the good work, Toad. We need folk like you.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Geez, Andy, that’s just so kind of you my friend, thanks! Your ongoing support and friendship here means an awful lot to us!

  19. avatar Jimi Jones says:

    Fantastic post as always, Toad. Love the images, man. Nice that you’ve captured these.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks so very, very much there Jimi, we sure do appreciate all your kindness & support here!!

  20. avatar Pat Kennedy says:

    I grew up across the road from the school and was a student there (’72 – ’78). I heard this morning that it was finally torn down yesterday. So many memories… Great photos and commentary. Well done!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks, Pat, that’s awfully nice of you to say! We love connecting with local folks like you here, so your comments mean an awful lot to us. Thank you kindly for taking the time to visit, and for leaving these awesome thoughts for us, we really appreciate it!

  21. avatar Bill Kennedy says:

    Went to Glen Lake, and lived across the road, but can’t find any warm feelings for the brutalist pile of cinder blocks. What I will hate to see go is Glen Lake’s scenic setting. Haven’t lived on the coast for 20 years, and really miss the shades of green, which you have captured so well.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      What terrific thoughts to share here, Bill, we thank you very much for taking the time to share these with us all. I completely understand your feelings about all of this, and both my wife and I are quite sad to see how that whole area has changed over the years. Thank you so much for taking the time to visit us, and for your comments, they really add a great dimension to our story, and Glen Lake’s story, too.

    • avatar Roy says:

      I’d gone there as well Bill and knew Kathy. I agree, half the apples in that barrel were horribly rotten. A few however were simply outstanding.

      That said, these images are very well done and do spark a host of memories from my childhood. Toad in my opinion, you’ve done a wonderful job capturing the school and it’s settings.

      Thank you.

      • Hi Roy, what a pleasure it is to meet you here at The Hollow today! Thanks so much for popping by to see our post, and for leaving your wonderful comments that I am sure everyone will thoroughly enjoy. We just love connecting with folks like we have here with you, and we really hope to see you again!

  22. avatar Phil Cockroft says:

    Thanks Toad for the photos of my old school. I went there for the first three years when it first opened. Just toured the area with my old mom xmas of 2013 and could not believe the changes. Been in Alberta since ’77. I miss the old west coast. Thankyou again for such a valuable archive.

    • Thank you so much Phil, we really appreciate your visit and you taking the time to leave us your comments that I am sure everyone will enjoy. I was born and raised in Edmonton, myself, so I can appreciate your sentiments here. We’re so happy we were able to connect via this post, thanks very much and we hope to see you around here again!

  23. avatar Numa Starck says:

    May I have the address if it’s not torn down?

    • Hi Numa, thanks for popping by and commenting here today! I am sorry to say that this school is now long gone. We love documenting the island and all the changes it seems to be going through these days. Sorry to share the news here this morning, but thank you for your kind visit.