HISTORY OF ALMA COLLEGE

1877 Alma chartered as private girls' school.
1881 School opens under principal Benjamin Fish Austin
1886 School filled to capacity, prompting construction of new wing.
1918 -1953 Principal Perry Dobson and his wife Harriet nurture the school from near collapse to international stature. New athletic facilities, a chapel and an amphitheatre constructed.
1973 Officials from the debt-ridden college ask city and county council for financial help.
1988 Alma College secondary school closes after bitter teachers' strike. Primary grade and music school continue.
1993 Board of directors announces the high school to reopen in September 1994.
1994 Low registration scuttles reopening. College is shut down and receiver appointed.
1995 The Alma College International Alumnae Association announces plans to buy and reopen the school as well as a retirement home, performing arts center and train depot.
1996 A long, legally tangled bidding war for the property breaks out between the alumnae association and Royal Cambridge, a Toronto development company headed by William Fong.
Dec. 1996 Royal Cambridge wins the legal battle to buy the property for $1.5 million. Fong plans to open a co-ed school and restore the buildings.
Nov. 1997 Alma College is used as a set for Mr. Headmistress, an ABC made-for-TV movie.
Dec. 1997 Royal Cambridge defaults on mortgage payments and school is for sale again.
May 1998 A judicial sale of the building is aborted when all bids fall short of the reserve bid.
Aug. 1998 Alma College is sold to a London development company led by Brian Squires who plans to build a retirement community on the site. He spends several years preparing the site and arranging financing.
Dec. 2002 St. Thomas council selects Burwell Road as preferred site for new Valleyview seniors' home, rejecting Squires' bid to build it on the Alma site.
Jan. 2003 Squires applies for a demolition permit for Alma College.
Mar. 2003 Based on an engineering firm's report which deems the building structurally sound, and on the Municipal Heritage committee's recommendation, St. Thomas council denies the demolition permit.
Apr. 2003 Squires offers to sever a portion of the land in return for a tax receipt and a commitment from council to build the Valleyview home there. Council declines.
Oct. 2004 Squires holds an open house on the grounds, and announces revived plans for a retirement community on the site.
Mar. 2005 Squires had tried to get the retirement community plan going, but did not succeed. In March 2005 he quits the project, and Jill Zubick takes over. Alma College is put up for sale again.
2005 The gutted interior of Alma College is used as a set for the movie Silent Hill.
Jan. 2006 Unable to sell the college, the Zubicks again apply for a demolition permit.
Feb. 2006 The Municipal Heritage Committee recommends that the demolition permit be denied, that city council prescribe minimum standards for maintenance of the building under section 35.3 of the Ontario Heritage Act, and that the city seek further financial assistance from the provincial Ministry of Heritage.
Feb. 2006 The Heritage Canada foundation names Alma College on its top 10 "endangered" list.
July 2006 A group of local people hear a proposal to build a small liberal arts college on the Alma site.
Aug. 2006 City council denies the demolition permit. The Zubicks apply for a hearing before the Ontario Municipal Board.
Aug. 2006 The local group, consisting of community leaders, university academics, and Alma College alumnae, forms the Alma College Foundation, with the intent of restoring the site into a liberal arts college. The group makes an offer to the Zubicks to buy the property, conditional on a satisfactory engineer's report of the main building. The Zubicks report that they also have an offer from another group.
Dec. 2006 The Alma College Foundation increase their offer to $750,000. The Zubicks reject the offer.
Feb. 2007 Although city council had created a bylaw setting minimum property standards for heritage properties, the Zubicks successfully challenge the bylaw in court. The bylaw is overturned for being too specific in its wording.
Sep. 2007 With the building falling further into disrepair, and demolition likely, the Alma College Foundation asks the Zubicks for permission to salvage artifacts of architectural and historical significance. Permission is not granted.
Oct. 2007 Faced with a costly and protracted Ontario Municipal Board hearing, St. Thomas city council agrees to allow the Zubicks to demolish the building on two main conditions: that the main entranceway be preserved, and that the front facade be replicated in any new building. This agreement is presented to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Jan. 2008 The Ontario Municipal Board approves the demolition of Alma College.
May 2008 Local residents petition the provincial government to step in and prevent the demolition.
May 28, 2008 Two teenage boys enter Alma College around noon and set it on fire. The iconic tower and entire upper floor burn away. Only the brick shell of the lower two floors remains standing, to be taken down by bulldozers the next day. It is a sad end to a grand building that brought much character and life to St. Thomas. But in some ways, Alma went out on her own terms -- in a blaze of glory, not waiting for the wrecker's ball.
   

The above table compiled by London Free Press reporter Hank Daniszewski through Jan 2003.