Enoch Turner Schoolhouse – a citizen’s legacy

Enoch Turner Schoolhouse

Photo: Enoch Turner Schoolhouse


Beth Hanna

Buildings and architecture

Published Date: Feb 14, 2008

When the province of Ontario introduced the 1847 Common Schools Act, municipalities were given the power to introduce taxes to fund public education. Toronto city officials refused to do so. In response, local brewer Enoch Turner built Toronto’s first free school to provide education for the children in the neighbourhood of his brewery.

Little Trinity Church donated the land and, in 1848, the Schoolhouse was built – providing learning opportunities for 240 pupils. Enoch Turner was the sole provider of finances for the Schoolhouse for three years. In 1850, school trustees were elected by the public to oversee educational funding, and free public education officially began in Toronto in 1851.

Just as a concerned citizen stepped forward to build the Schoolhouse, so too have dedicated citizens ensured its preservation and ongoing use.

The Enoch Turner Schoolhouse Foundation was created in 1971 as a not-for-profit organization to operate this unique historic site. It has become a well-respected museum and a busy special-events venue. Over the years, the Foundation has raised funds, interpreted mid-19th-century education, operated public programs, worked with community organizations and conserved this architectural treasure.

A year ago, recognizing the provincial significance of the site and concerned for its long-term preservation, the Foundation approached the Ontario Heritage Trust about a new partnership. In 2008, the Trust will be assuming ownership of the Schoolhouse and responsibility for its operation and care. The Foundation will continue as an independent not-for-profit organization that will provide support to the site through fundraising and special events.