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Former Alma schoolhouse gets another chance at life

Building was transformed into a residence by Ron A. Coffin

PETER’S ROAD, P.E.I. – A building that used to be the heart of the community now has a new heartbeat.

The old Alma School has been transformed into a residence by Ron A. Coffin, who purchased the one-room school house in 2015, renovated it over three summers and moved in last spring.

He kept interior changes to a minimum so he could preserve original characteristics like the open living space and the multi-paned windows that lets continuous light into the 1915 building.

“I like its simplicity and the idea that less is more,” says the P.E.I. resident, whose passion for preserving the past was recognized last month when he was presented with a Heritage Activity Award by the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation.

“I am greatly honoured to receive the award and quite humbled considering the achievements of the other recipients of awards that evening.”

As for his motivation behind the restoration project, Coffin said he did the work because he cares.

“It's about trying to preserve heritage on a personal level for those who come after us. It’s also a way of giving back or paying forward to so many beautiful places I’ve been able to enjoy, due to the efforts of others,” says the chief administrative officer of Rural Municipality of Eastern Kings.

While walking through his new living space, there’s enthusiasm in his voice as he describes renovation efforts.

“When I bought it, it was raw and unfinished. So, the first thing I did was the bathroom,” says Coffin, pointing out the ceramic tiles running from floor to ceiling and the new sink opposite the existing toilet and shower.

The previous owner had moved the building back from the road, placed it on a concrete floor and added two rooms.

Coffin turned one into a tiny bedroom, adding a window and a pocket door. It was good decision.

“With a (regular) door there’s no room to swing and no room to get around the bed, except to shimmy in.”

There’s also a modern kitchen, with a tiny fridge, stove and laundry sink.

“Because of the windows, I built cupboards on one level.”

In the one-room living space, sunshine streams through the windows, giving the house plants a cheery glow.

A fire crackles in the wood stove next to the chaise lounge.

On nearby tables, books and collectibles are ready to be explored.

“I'm totally loving the schoolhouse and cannot wait for warmer weather to see what's happening outside,” said Coffin, sitting in his favourite chair, next to the stove, clearly in his happy place.

His next project? A loft on the second floor that he plans to turn into another bedroom.

But, at the moment, access to the room is only by ladder. Coffin hopes to remedy the situation with a circular staircase and a newel post in the future.

For now, a sleigh bed occupies the second-floor space, and he can already envision what it could look like.

“I got the bed in…I am moving ahead with the loft renovation and then inside gets totally freshened up with paint.”

The winners are

  • More than 20 individuals and groups received P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation Heritage Awards in Charlottetown last month.
  • The ceremony took place at Beaconsfield Carriage House.
  • For a list of winners and photographs, click here.

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