War and Remembrance
Within days of the outbreak of hostilities in 1914, the Women's Institute became a focus for community war work. On August 12, the Richmond Hill branch purchased a bolt of cloth to be rolled into bandages to help equip a Women's Hospital Ship. In December, it sent five boxes of clothing and groceries to needy soldiers' wives in Toronto. In June 1915 and again in January 1916, it sent 108 jars of jam and jelly to Canadian Army hospitals. It collected money for relief efforts in Belgium and Greece, China, and Armenia.
In February 1918, Reeve William Pugsley raised the idea of erecting a memorial to Richmond Hill men killed in the war. Community residents debated whether a monument or a memorial hall would be most appropriate. Council authorized Pugsley and Clerk A.J. Hume to obtain prices and descriptive data for a possible monument. By March, Hume had letters and sketches from several marble dealers, and Council chose the Thomson Monument Company of Toronto. Money would be raised by popular subscription, and a fund-raising campaign was launched at a December meeting in the Masonic Hall.15
Meanwhile, Council had invited the Board of Education to work co-operatively on the memorial question. The board had recently built a new public school on the west side of Yonge Street in the core of the village - an ideal spot for a war monument that would help impart such attributes as duty, sacrifice, and honour to youthful as well as adult minds.
The new Richmond Hill Public School was designed and built during 1914 by two local men, John Innes and William Graham. It stood on the site donated by James Miles a century earlier, and has been in continual use for educational purposes ever since. With its three-part facade with central projection, semi-circular fanlights over the doors, and numerous other architectural details, the Richmond Hill Public School of 1914 "displayed a return to classical architecture following the exuberance of the Victorian period." 16 Most prominent of all, however, is the cenotaph in front of the building, honouring those who served - and fell - in war. This memorial arch was unveiled at the Grand Re-Union of 1923.
Copyright © Richmond Hill Public Library Board, 1991