The former Brunswick West Primary School building, dating from 1888 onwards, is architecturally significant as one of a group of twenty-five schools built to a characteristic and striking design (known as the "Horsham type") between 1877 and 1904. They were the first schools in Victoria to incorporate verandahs. Of this group, Brunswick West was the only one in Melbourne, the others being located in country areas.
Brunswick West also has a distinctive courtyard plan which is comparable to only two other schools, both in rural areas.
Brunswick West Primary School No 2890 opened to 210 students on 16th July 1888 with four substantial classrooms sited on the northern, Victoria St frontage. The school was constructed to serve the needs of the growing western parts of Brunswick and to accommodate the children of mining families from the nearby clay pits.
Within six months enrolment reached 505 students occasioning the construction in 1889 of two further classrooms to the south of the original building on the eastern side of the school. Continued rapid growth saw the addition of two matching classrooms on the west in 1891. The accommodation pressure was eventually eased by the development of the SS3585, Moonee Vale Primary School.
However, the numbers had risen to 900 by 1910 and four classrooms and an assembly hall were constructed in that year to allow for the creation of a new Infants' School. This development completed the enclosure of the courtyard.
The assembly or drill hall was introduced as part of a government program of the day to roll out drill halls to schools throughout Victoria. This was post Crimean War and pre-World War One, a militaristic era that required better drilling of our students. The drill halls were beautiful structures and can be seen in many primary schools throughout Victoria. They feature barrel-vaulted Baltic pine-lined ceilings and superb stain-glass windows.
Immediately following the additions to the school, a timber caretakers' residence was built in Victoria St to the west of the school building adjacent to a laneway (that was named School Lane by WestWyck in 1995). In 1995 this residence was relocated to 46 Hunter St to the south west corner of the then school site. It has since been renovated in accordance with the heritage requirements of the Moreland City Council.
School # 2890 deteriorated to the extent that in 1939 articles appeared in the Age and the Argus under the heading "The Worst School in Victoria". In April 1940 plans were commissioned for a major renovation and facelift for the building.
The plans included a quite dramatic transformation of the building and the loss of its Victorian character. Features of the renovated building included removal of all verandahs including the internal courtyard verandahs, removal of fireplaces, modernisation of the roofline and windows, demolition of the northernmost original classroom and its replacement with a low, sleek office building, addition of concrete verandahs in the courtyard, rendering and painting of all brickwork and upgrade of all outbuildings.
In April, 1941, school # 2890 was closed for remodelling and the pupils distributed to their nearest primary school. When the school was re-opened in February 1942, it was as 'Brunswick Boys' School' in keeping with a directive that 'the Education Department should provide extra facilities for boys not able to be absorbed in Junior Technical or High Schools.' Brunswick West, School # 2890 remained a boys' school until the intake of 1970.
Brunswick West returned to its primary school status in 1970 with an enrolment of 321 which gradually fell away through the 1970s and 1980s.
In 1990 the school was decommissioned and the Kirner State Government negotiated with the then Brunswick City Council to use the site for a mix of public and private housing and community use and preliminary planning was commenced. In 1992 the incoming Kennett Government did not pursue this arrangement and instead handed the site over to a private ethnic Greek Grammar School which only lasted for a few brief months before becoming insolvent.
In late 1993 the site was auctioned and purchased by WestWyck Pty Ltd, a company formed by community people concerned that the school should retain a viable existence within the community it had served for more than one hundred years.