The Freetown Village School was originally built in 1794 as a lawyer’s office. At that time, it was half as wide as its current configuration. Around 1800, the office became a private academy for children of sea captains and ship-builders in Assonet. In 1858, the Town of Freetown purchased the building and turned it into a public school. By 1906, the school was enlarged and given the Colonial Revival detailing we see today. Like many smaller schools in New England, this school building was outgrown after WWII, and converted to other uses for the town, with uses from committee meeting space to storage. The schoolhouse was finally abandoned at the end of the 20th century, and stood empty. The roof developed leaks and water infiltration became a serious problem. In 2011, the Town approached the Massachusetts Historical Commission for an Emergency Grant, and was granted $30,000 for the preservation and restoration of the decaying building. The roof has been replaced and structurally repaired, but more work is to be done. I can’t wait to come back and check up on this beauty.
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Women’s Service Club of Boston // c.1860
This historic rowhouse in the South End of Boston was home to the Women’s Service Club, a social and volunteer organization made up of Black women to uplift Black Bostonians of varied backgrounds, including soldiers, students, migrants and mothers. “464,” as some locals admiringly called it, was formed in the early 20th century as Boston. The city, once known as “Freedom’s Birthplace” and the “Athens of America” as a hub of abolitionist activity leading up to the Civil War, saw extreme segregation in housing and education for its Black residents by the early 20th century. From this, local activist Mary Evans Wilson organized a knitting group in 1917 to support soldiers of color fighting in World War I. An estimated 350 women joined the group, donating their talents to produce scarves and gloves for servicemen. Humanitarianism guided the activity of the Women’s Service Club’s over the next half century. This building was purchased in 1919 and operated as part-meeting space and part-settlement house. “A Home Away from Home,” as some described it, the building offered affordable shelter to female workers, migrants, and college students barred from on-campus housing due to racist policies. One of the club’s most prominent members was Melnea Cass (1896–1978), who served as its President for more than fifteen years. Cass initiated the Homemakers Training Program which certified domestic workers so they would be assured a liveable minimum wage, social security and other benefits. The club continues to do great work, but could use funding to restore the landmark building!