History & Archive
Donald Alexander Smith (1820-1914) was born into poverty in Forres, Scotland, but our hero eventually became one of the wealthiest and most influential men in Canadian history. After immigrating to Canada at the age of 17, Smith worked as a clerk at the Hudson’s Bay Company in Labrador (a proud tradition that many of our students continue part-time to this very day), eventually becoming governor of the company.
Both a realist and a visionary, Donald Smith was sent to negotiate with Louis Riel during the famous rebellion that we’ll teach you about in Social Studies 10. After being elected to parliament in 1870, Smith helped drive the railroad across Canada, championing the need to unite Canada from coast to coast. Driving the last spike in the railway was apparently the final straw; a grateful Queen Victoria tapped him on the forehead and Donald Alexander Smith became Lord Strathcona.
The legend lives on…
Aside from the achievements of our graduates, our namesake is best known for his Lord Strathcona’s Horse, an armoured regiment he raised as a private militia to fight in the Boer War (we’ll get to that in Social Studies 20). The regiment still operates Leopard tanks and Coyote Reconnaissance Vehicles out of Edmonton today. Not busy enough, Strathcona found time to serve as the chancellor of McGill University and the High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.
So, all that being said, Strathcona High School is Edmonton’s oldest school, opened to 71 students in the fall of 1908 in a smaller building ten blocks away (Old Scona). In 1955 we moved to our present location -- and what a location it is. Set in a beautiful park lined by tennis courts, a skating rink, a swimming pool and one of the finest outdoor track facilities in Western Canada, Strathcona is an oasis in the middle of the city.
Blocks from the boutiques and coffee shops of trendy Whyte Avenue yet surrounded by quiet, tree-lined streets, there is a calm focus to our school that rubs off on the 1400 students who call it home. This unique culture has spawned famous graduates ranging from Alberta icon Lois Hole, to city councilor Don Iveson, from Kids in the Hall comedian Bruce McCullough to recent Olympian Megan Metcalfe.
Some traditions are sacred…
One last history lesson -- when the doors to our current school first opened in 1955 the students decided to honour the legendary Lord Strathcona by never walking on the crest embedded in the floor of the main entrance, a demonstration of respect that continues to this very day. Some say it’s because it hides a trap door that takes you ten blocks away to Old Scona, but we don’t think that’s true. All we know is that history is filled with traditions and at Strathcona we’re proud of where we come from so we don’t walk on the crest. Let’s just leave it at that.