The Still Pumping Heart Of The Wells Street School

The Still Pumping Heart Of The Wells Street School

As I walked outside around the school I heard cracking noises in the pipes and walls. There was no one inside, perhaps a ghost. Perhaps not – it was the still pumping heart, the gas fired steam boiler that was rumbling and keeping the school alive.

Gas Fired Steam Boiler. Wells Street Public School

So let me tell you more about the school, this time a bit of technical stuff.

There is a bit of photographic art everywhere and I found some in the basement of the former Wells Street Public School (Wells Street Schoolhouse Lofts), the boiler room. The deterioration probably due to moisture, rusted piping, chipped paint and the architecture of the plumbing system that drew me in. The engineering part of the system is an added bonus.

Piping, Wells Street Public School

Last time I have seen something like that was on a much bigger scale. It was the underground heating system of the University of Toronto when we had the opportunity to see it during our thermodynamics course in the third or fourth year of engineering. And who would thought that years later I would come face to face with the similar boiler unit, but this time for a different purpose.

Piping, Wells Street Public School

So everything has life expectancy and so does the overall mechanical equipment of the school.

The heating heart of the school is still going – the gas fired steam boiler installed back in 1949. However, according to the inspection reports I read the boiler is approaching its theoretical life and as you can see it is strongly showing signs of deterioration.

Gas Fired Steam Boiler. Wells Street Public School

There is currently no air conditioning in the school, and I am assuming that the school was only cooled via the radiators just by passing the cold water.

That boiler will be history once the school is converted to lofts and there will be a new heating system installed. From my observations it looks like the gas fired steam boiler was assembled inside the basement, and as per Ms. Birch, it will be taken out the same way – just disassembled.

Radiators, Wells Street Public School

So it all started with the crack in the wall.

According to the reports the building is in the poor electrical conditions as well. It is working fine, but it has surpassed its anticipated service life. Same as interior lighting fixtures, heating and cooling piping systems, the heating systems radiators and few fin-tube cabinets were problematic over recent years and also have surpassed their useful service life. And then the gas piping system, plumbing piping systems, and the heat recovering ventilation.

Radiators, Wells Street Public School

Renewal was recommended, and did not look cheap either in addition this could have been disruptive process for the students and the teachers.

There were many other things that needed fixing. The report was lengthy and probably boring to write and it made me laugh when I saw that there was ‘water damaged mirror‘ and ‘soup dispensers appear to be in fair conditions‘, in reference to the condition of the washrooms.

I am not sure if it is now as the temperature sky rocked in the past few days, but when I was visiting the school last month the school was heated. I experienced blast of heat coming out the roof entrance when I did my photographic round from the roof of the school.

I guess the school needed to be maintained after was closed and the owners are doing great job in order to reduce chances of further deterioration of the school.

Radiator In The Closet Room, Wells Street Public School

The fix wasn’t cheap and decline in the enrollment were the closing factors: ‘Over the years, Wells Street Public School has experienced a gradual decline in its enrollment but the Board has directed overflow enrolment from other schools in the area to maintain its viability.‘ – Dave Cooke wrote in the Facilitator’s Report for Wells Street Public School.

Water Piping, Wells Street Public School

For those who attended the school it always will be a school, the memories always last forever. Let us not forget that. Let us not forget that everything has life expectancy as well and we must accept the change. After all, I think we are lucky that the building will stand.
‘Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change – this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress.’ ~ Bruce Barton

About the Author

Anna Lozyk Romeo

I am living in Aurora and this is my photo journal blog. A picture says 1000 words - but not always, so I write. You don't have to travel 1000 miles to find a treasure - all I have to do is zoom through my lens and I will find it for you here in Aurora.


  1. Thank you for these wonderful posts. My mother went to high school here, I attended Wells PS from kindergarten to grade 8 and my son and daughter from Kindergarten to grade 6. These pictures have sure stired up a lot of memories.
    Once again Thanks!

  2. Bruce, welcome to my blog and thank you for sharing your relationship with school.
    I did not even go to this school, but it brought many memories for me too as the school I went to was very old and my dad went there as well.
    Thank you again.
    Anna :)

  3. I agree with Bruce- brings back a lot of memories. I was the youngest out of 4 kids to attend Wells. I was there from kindergarten to grade 5. Love showing my husband and kids the inside as they have only ever seen the outside- and of course it’s been closed. Thank you.

  4. Thank you Michelle for sharing your story and I am glad that you enjoyed it and able to share it with your family.
    I took lot of pictures, so there will be more in the future. Thanks again, Anna :)