Old Jamaica Plain High School // 1898

The history of the Old Jamaica Plain High School (originally West Roxbury High School) goes back to the year 1842, when the Town of Roxbury (which at the time, included Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, and West Roxbury) established “Eliot High School,”. The school was named after Reverend John Eliot of Roxbury, who in 1689, gave 75 acres of land to the town for the maintenance, support, and encouragement of a school and school master at Jamaica or Pond Plain “in order to prevent the inconveniences of ignorance.” In 1855, the newly independent Town of West Roxbury took control of the high school until the town was annexed to Boston in 1873. During this time, the school became known as “West Roxbury High,” a name that appeared on this building, constructed in 1898. In July of 1923, the school’s name was changed to Jamaica Plain High School, to reflect its neighborhood. The building was designed by the firm Andrews, Jacques & Rantoul and is an exemplary example of the Tudor style in an academic building. The school department sold the building in the 1980s and built a larger, modern school in the area. This building was converted to apartments not long after, a use that remains to this day. Would you live in this old school building?

Newington Stone Schoolhouse // 1921

When the first floor of the Old Town Hall was deemed too cramped for the students of Newington, NH, to receive their education, the town worked out a solution, build a new school. Town revenue from timber-cutting in the Town Forest (the oldest Town Forest in the United States) helped finance construction of the school. Additionally, many landowners and farmers were asked to gather and donate stones on their properties and in stone walls for the material of the new building, which many contributed. The school closed in 1959, not long after the Pease Air Force Base was expanded and destroyed much of the southern edge of town. The U.S. Government acquired many parcels of land in Newington and Portsmouth and redeveloped the site over time in the mid 20th century. In Newington, the government leveled 26 local homesteads an action that left a deep scar on the town’s collective memory. The town has used the building for years, but only recently acquired the property from the Federal Government when they de-accessioned some of their properties here. Hopefully this building will be restored and serve as an educational tool for the town’s later generations.

Boxborough District Schoolhouse #2 // 1857

Before most small New England towns had single school buildings for elementary, middle and high school, small one-room schoolhouses like this dotted the landscape, especially in rural towns. Having smaller schools spread out allowed for a greater number of students to attend school without traveling by horseback long distances, and more local school buildings was a great solution. This c.1857 school building was in use until 1949, and it didn’t even have heat, running water, or electricity until the 1930s, making smart design a necessity to get the most out of the building. Large windows would provide natural light to flood the classroom and the steep gable roof would ensure snow to slide off the roof. Sadly, many towns have lost these buildings, but some have been restored or even repurposed as homes!

Tewksbury Center School // 1934-2021

Built in 1934 as the fourth high school for the town of Tewksbury, this Neo-Classical school building has seen better days. The Center School was designed by Miller and Beal architects of Portland, Maine, and likely funded with assistance of New Deal program funding during the Great Depression. The next year, Tewksbury Stadium was dedicated in 1938, which was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. The Tewksbury Center School retains many of the details that characterize its Neo-Classical Style including: the front gable entry portico supported by two-story Corinthian columns and pilasters, the wide frieze band with the band of dentil molding, the decoratively clad end bays framed by Corinthian pilasters, the broken pediment of the door surround, and keystones in the brick lintels. The town needed to expand at the end of the 20th century, and hired Architectural Resources Cambridge to design the John F. Ryan Elementary School, located behind this building. The Ryan Elemetary School is a pleasing design which is Post-Modern in style. The Center School has been used as offices for the School Department and was recently proposed to be demolished for surface parking, and a new school constructed elsewhere on the site. This seems very wasteful, and epitomizes the lack of regard for environmental or historical conservation in many cities and towns.

Oak Hill Middle School // 1936

In the 1930s, America was in the throes of the Great Depression, and towns and cities struggled to provide services for the ever-growing populations, all the while suffering from lower tax revenues. The New Deal was enacted as a result, which provided a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt between 1933 and 1939. One of these programs was the Public Works Administration (PWA), which funded and built large-scale public works projects such as dams, bridges, hospitals, and schools, to provide jobs and bolster local economies. In Newton, the developing Oak Hill Village required a new public school, and the town received funding for the Oak Hill Middle School in 1935. Architects Densmore, LeClear, and Robbins were hired to provide designs for a new school, and builders completed the building the next year. The Georgian Revival building is constructed with red brick with cast stone trim. The 16-over-16 windows and cupola also work to showcase the beauty of the design.

Do you know of any PWA projects near you?

Colt Memorial School // 1906

Similar to Burnside Memorial Hall nearby, this school building in Bristol was also constructed as a memorial, in the form of an architectural statement-piece. The school building was gifted to the town of Bristol by Samuel P. Colt, who resided in a mansion nearby, Linden Place, and also owned a massive country estate in town, where his prized cows were cultivated. The school building was funded as a gift in memory of his mother Theodora DeWolf Colt and showcases his everlasting love for her. Designed by Cooper & Bailey of Boston, this monumental, 2-story, hip-roof Renaissance Revival structure was built of white marble with 2-story, cast-bronze window bays. The symmetrical facade has a central Corinthian portico with fluted columns and a pediment containing cherubs around the Colt family crest. The school was used as the town high school until the 1960s when it was outgrown, the building has since been used as an elementary school, the nicest one I have ever seen!

Washington Center Schoolhouse // 1883

Adjacent to the Washington Meeting House, the Washington Center Schoolhouse perfectly compliments the Georgian building, despite being constructed 100 years later. Constructed in 1883, this building served as the principal school house in Washington, and was known as the Center School. There had been an earlier school house near this site, a small brick structure, but by the 1880s it was both worn out and too small and replaced. Eventually, it was decided to build a new school in the general style of the other town buildings, and place its facade flush with the Church (next post). The building now appears to be home to the town’s police department.

Putterham School // 1768

Colonial-era one-room schoolhouses once dominated the landscape of New England, providing a learning space for young children. The number of these structures have plummeted due to changing development patterns and limited funding to preserve or adaptively reuse such buildings. In the town of Brookline, this c.1768 schoolhouse has been altered frequently, showing various styles and techniques in construction used during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. The original one-room school house was enlarged in 1840 by an addition to the rear to fit additional pupils. In 1847 a shed was built for storing coal or wood and providing an entry vestibule. According to town records, in 1855 the ceiling in the schoolroom was raised, the windows enlarged, and the desks and chairs repaired. The double privy was built around 1898, probably replacing an earlier single privy. There is some evidence that in 1938 the school was used temporarily as a Catholic church and at some time following World War II as a synagogue. In 1966, the school was moved from its original site on Grove Street to its present location at Larz Anderson Park for the future preservation of the building by the town and local historical society. The schoolhouse is normally open for tours at various points during the year or by appointment.

Oliver Ames High School // 1896

I’m starting to see a trend in Easton, almost everything is named after the Ames Family! In 1893, Oliver Ames (1831-1895), a grandson of shovel company founder Oliver Ames and son of Oakes Ames, offered to fund the construction of a new high school building if the town would pay the cost of building its foundation and grading the site. While governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1887-90), Ames had hired Boston architect Carl Fehmer as consulting architect to the State for the extension to the Massachusetts State House, and it was Fehmer who secured the design contract for the new school in Easton. The refined Colonial Revival school building features a central pavilion with an entrance set within an ornate stone architrave with a Classical entablature with central pediment. The school was outgrown in 1957 and became the town’s middle school, outgrown again in the 1990s. The town sold the school to a developer with preservation restrictions and it is now used as apartments!

Agawam High School // 1921

This stunning High School building in Agawam was built in 1921 as the town’s first high school. William Pynchon purchased land on both sides of the Connecticut River from the local Pocomtuc Indians known as Agawam, which included present-day Springfield, Chicopee, Longmeadow, and West Springfield, Massachusetts. The purchase price for the Agawam portion was 10 coats, 10 hoes, 10 hatchets, 10 knives, and 10 fathoms of wampum. Agawam and West Springfield split in 1800, with Agawam incorporating as a town on in 1855. The town stayed fairly rural until the 20th century with the proliferation of the personal automobile and suburbanization from the industrial and urban center of Springfield. This increase required a new, modern high school to be constructed in town. The building was converted to a middle school in 1972.