Pictou Academy


Pictou Academy was legislated as a school on March 25, 1816. The first wooden frame structure was built in Middle River and rafted to Pictou. It was built on the corner lot at the western end of Church Street, where the Pictou Fire Hall now stands. It was a two storey wooden structure with a small tower on its roof. The school had a laboratory and classroom on the bottom floor and a museum and library on the second floor.

The school cost approximately 1500 Pounds to build and a student paid about 3 Pounds a year to attend.

It was officially opened in November of 1816 by Dr. Thomas McCulloch. He provided a lecture about the "Nature and Uses of Liberal Education" during its opening ceremony.


By 1880, Pictou Academy was filled to capacity and a new school had to be built.

On May 24, 1880, construction started on the Academy on Patterson Street. This site became to be known as "Up on the Hill" and has remained the site of the school ever since.

The second Pictou Academy was beautiful three-story, brick and stone building. It has a mansard roof and a bell tower over the front entrance. Students could look out the dormer windows at the township. Pictou Academy became known as having the best scientific and classroom equipment in the province at that time. It had hot water heating, electric bell and lighting. Students were ensured direct acceptance from the Academy into any University in Canada without having to attend a private or preparatory school after graduation.

On October 26, 1895, lightning struck the bell tower of the school and the building burned. Some items were able to be rescued from the library, museum and science lab but most of the building was destroyed except for a portion of the bottom floor and the brick walls.

**There is no photograph of the Second Pictou Academy. If any photo exists, please share with us at pcghs@novascotia.ca


A three-storey building with a pitched roof and central tower had nearly twice the space as the previous school. The community helped raise the funds for the reconstruction of the school, along with a small insurance pay out of $12,000.

This new school housed a chemistry lab, four large classrooms, lecture rooms, an observatory, a library, a museum. Teachers and the principal had their own staff space, students had cloakrooms and segregated washrooms, entries and play areas. It also had a music room, a space for art, a workshop and cloakrooms - plus Convocation Hall, that could hold 350. It had a new ventilation and heating system, as well as Pictou's first telephone and rare plant specimens.

During the middle of  both exam day and picture day in 1938, the school caught on fire.


The official opening of the 4th Pictou Academy took place on January 17, 1940. The new school housed a two-storey tall auditorium, well equipped labs, library, new audio-visual equipment, shower rooms and offices. 

The yearbook of 1939 cites " Pictou Academy students and friends look forward to a new era of progress, a new record of accomplishments."

The fourth Pictou Academy structure is a striking contrast to the towering height of the former building. The new school is in the shape of a "T", the main entrance being in the centre of the cross, which contained the classrooms. The stem of the "T" is the auditorium. Overhanging the main entrance, is an extension supported by gleaming white pillars.

Underneath the auditorium, the basement contains a spacious shooting gallery for the cadet corps. The auditorium itself, was used as an assembly room with a projection room above it will be used to show motion pictures.

2017 - Current

The Chignecto Central Regional School Board voted to move the students from the 1940's structure into the neighbouring Dr. Thomas McCulloch Junior High School, located at 200 Louise Street - directly behind the former Pictou Academy. Junior high students were relocated into the Pictou Elementary School on Wellington Street.

The most recent Pictou Academy building was built in 1970 as a two-storey structure of 27,624 square feet. This school albeit smaller than its previous structure, housed classrooms, a smaller library, a science lab and a separately housed gymnasium. To allow for the increase in student population and the much needed classroom space, the school board eliminated the family studies program as well as technical education for the students after its first year.

Dr. Thomas McCulloch Junior High was officially changed to Pictou Academy in 2017 when the high school students took over the adjacent building. The name change ensured that the Province is in compliance with legislation from 1816 that states there must be a non-sectarian Pictou Academy in the Town of Pictou.

In 2019, the Junior High students at the Elementary school returned to the 1970s structure due to overcrowding. Pictou Academy now holds students from Grades 6 to 12 in the Town of Pictou on Louise Street, but still "Up on the Hill".

2020 is the year to be remembered due to Covid-19 and the Provincial State of Emergency. All school events were cancelled from March break until September, including class trips, and even the traditional break-up celebration.  A Community led graduation ceremony was hosted by McCulloch House Museum & Genealogy Centre for the 2020 Graduation Class at the Highland Drive-In on June 22, 2020 for its 204th anniversary year.