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Rockwood Academy (Ontario)

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Rockwood Academy was a private school located at 477 Main Street South, Rockwood, Ontario. It was founded in 1850 by William Wetherald, a Quaker.


Reputation of the Academy

Wetherald had previously taught pupils privately in the evenings, and the number of these had grown to an extent that he decided to open a school for older boys and young men. The original curriculum was reasonably standard consisting of English, mathematics, and Latin, but was thorough. Tuition cost C$21 for three months, including room and board. This was not a large amount and allowed young men who were not rich to attend.

Rockwood Academy soon acquired a reputation of being superior and having higher academic standards than the grammar schools of Canada West. In 1864 Wetherald sold the school to Donald McCaig and Alexander McMillan and accepted a position as superintendent of Haverford College near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. McCaig left to become principal of Central School in Berlin, Ontario in 1871, but McMillan remained until 1883, when the academy closed. In the 1870s the Ontario government created collegiate institutes, and these institutions were sufficiently efficient that it became hard to run a private school profitably.

The original building was a log building. In 1853 a three-storey stone building with a 2 12-storey annex was built. There was a 2-acre (8,100 m2) playground as well.

Former students of the school include:

  • James J. Hill, member of the Canadian Pacific Railway Syndicate and builder of the Great Northern Railway, who ascribed his success in large part due to his education at Rockwood,
  • Arthur Sturgis Hardy, former Premier of Ontario,
  • Sir Adam Beck, hydroelectric pioneer,
  • Isaac Erb Bowman, Member of Provincial Parliament for Waterloo North,
  • Henry Corby, Jr., Member of Parliament for Hastings West,
  • and several others.

    After the closure of the Academy

    After the academy closed, the building remained, but it had fallen into disrepair by 1960, when Josef Drenters purchased it. He spent many years working on the restoration of the old stone building as well as a log barn and chapel on the property, as well as continuing his career as a sculptor. Drenters bequeathed the property to the Ontario Heritage Foundation under the condition that his family would still be able to live in it. The movie Agnes of God was filmed at the building. An Ontario historic plaque is located at the site of the building.

    Yosef Gertrudis Drenters (1930–1983)

    The sudden death of Yosef Gertrudis Drenters in the winter of 1983 brought to an early close a most distinguished career of a major Canadian sculptor, artist and preservationist.

    Born in 1930 in The Netherlands, his youth was spent in classical studies preparing for the priesthood. At the age of 14 he began to take drawing instructions from a local artist, Willem van Ejendhoven. Yosef was also influenced by his father, a skilled blacksmith, who was adept at making small works in forged iron.

    In 1951 after giving up his monastic life, he came to Canada with his family, who first settled in British Columbia. His first years in Canada were spent working variously as a lumberjack, a rancher, a miner and a farmer. In 1954 the family moved to Ontario and purchased a large farm on Highway 24 north of Guelph, where in 1958 Yosef began experimenting in sculpture after several years of painting.

    His first solo exhibition was organized by Florence Partridge, Chief Librarian of Massey Library at the Ontario Agricultural College. In 1960 his work was exhibited in Toronto at Dorothy Cameron's Here and Now gallery, and he was heralded by critics and collectors as a major Canadian sculptor. He received a Canada Council grant in 1961, was the subject of a CBC documentary film, and was accepted as a member of the Ontario Society of Artists.

    The Canadian Department of Trade and Commerce commissioned him to create a sculpture for the Tokyo Trade Fair in 1965. His Pioneer Family won the competition for sculpture for the Ontario Pavilion at Expo 67, and he was commissioned as well to create a giant toy horse for La Ronde. In 1974, Drenters was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy.

    The Macdonald Stewart Art Centre in Guelph held the last exhibition of his work Images of the Madonna during the winter of 1982–1983 Many of his pieces continue to be displayed in public collections including the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston; the Art Gallery of Windsor, Edmonton Art Gallery, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Princeton University Art Museum, Sarnia Public Library and Art Gallery, The University of Guelph, Wilfrid Laurier University and the Winnipeg Art Gallery.


    Rockwood Academy (Ontario) Wikipedia

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