Gloucester Public Schools then and now #GloucesterMA

Explore a selection of Gloucester school house properties built circa 1800s-1920s. There is a greater quantity of structures still standing than not.

Note: Pinch and zoom and/or click to enlarge photographs, depending upon your device. There are three galleries of images (side by side comparisons; all vintage; and all contemporary), a self-guided map for a driving tour, excerpts from James Pringle 1892 Gloucester history, and newspaper coverage of then “new” schools. Don’t miss the Boston Globe feature about the Eastern Avenue school published in 1905. There’s another wonderful piece about a very special elementary school class –which enrolled more girls than boys–offered at Sawyer school on Friend Street.

Student enrollment in 1892 was 4196

Side by side then vs. now views:

School name, year built, 2021 status

Bold indicates extant structure; italicized indicates structure no longer there; GLO = MACRIS id state’s archives- “The Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS) allows you to search the Massachusetts Historical Commission database.”

  • Leonard 1834 (GLO.701), reverted to city in 1953, now Annisquam Exchange (since 1955)
  • Forbes 1844 (GLO.390), (Old Town Hall), now Lester S. Wass American Legion Post 3
  • Forbes Extension, 1851 (GLO. 417, architect Gridley JF Bryant also co-architect for City Hall 1869), leased to Gloucester G.A.R. Hall 1897; now Action, Inc 47 Washington St.
  • Forbes Extension, (GLO.414) , now Forbes apartments 37 Washington St (restored 1996)
  • Bradstreet and annex in Bayview 1850, back to city in 1956, demolished, now private home, (some old stone, grounds)
  • Parsons on Western Ave. 1850, now Girl Scouts (gsema) since 1957
  • Rogers on Elm St. 1850 (GLO.416), now private home
  • Riggs Wash. at Reynard, 1850, sold at auction in 1894
  • Bray 1852 (GLO.1068), discontinued 1949, now BSA Troop 60
  • Point Grammar Plum Street 1852, reverted to city 1955
  • Lane 1860, abandoned and turned back to city in 1966, now Rebecca’s Playground
  • Mt. Vernon 1860, reverted to city in 1958, now church real estate
  • Haskell 1862, discontinued 1949
  • Collins 1864, turned back to city 1941, McPherson Park apts.
  • Point Primary on Chapel 1867, discontinued 1946, now private home
  • Wheeler School at Stanwood 1867, now cape ann amateur radio communication center (CAARA) purchased from City in 2013
  • Wonson School on Rocky Neck 1867, Wonson School Cartesian Society in 1925, now private home(s)
  • Sawyer 1869, turned back to city 1941, now no structure, a section dedicated as playground: Edward “Gint” Middleton Playground, 1974
  • Babson 1880 Pleasant St (at time “park street”), now John W. Sheedy apts.
  • Stone Court 1882, discontinued 1946, now Stone Court apts.
  • Hildreth 1884, reverted to city in 1958, now Masonic Lodge
  • High School 1888 (GLO.317) (Principal Albert Bacheler), now Central Grammar apts.
  • Maplewood 1889, now Maplewood apts.
  • Blynman 1895 (GLO.112) new Blynman replaced old one; reverted to city in 1956; community center 1956-64, now Magnolia Historical Society purchased from city $1000 in 2013
  • Hovey 1896, now apts.
  • Eastern Avenue 1907, now commercial real estate

Then

Now

1892 School notes from Pringle

“The High school-house on Dale Avenue was erected in 1888 and ’89, the total cost, including land, being $100,000. This building, one of the most imposing and commodious of its kind in New England, is built of brick with granite trimmings.” and “The first High school-house was erected in 1851 on the southwestern corner of the present lot at a cost of $3,100 including the land. It was enlarged in 1870 and 1878, and was destroyed by fire May 11, 1887.”

“The Hildreth school-house on Eastern Avenue was erected in 1884, at an outlay of $18,000 for building and furnishing and $4,000 additional for grading.”

“Lord Bros, were awarded the contract to build the Babson school-house on Park Street for $17,498. This edifice was erected on site of an old burial ground.” and “The first brick structure, the Babson school house, was built in 1881, the entire expenditure including heating, etc., being $25,944.”

Pringle excerpts, History of the Town and City of Gloucester, Cape Ann Mass. By James Pringle, 1892 (at time city’s 250th anniversary)

Washington St. at “the crotch of ye old highway”- Townhall | Forbes School | Legion

 The frame was purchased from Rockport. The citizens of that town intended to build a town house before Gloucester, but decided to abandon the idea on economic grounds. It was occupied March 17, 1845. Previous to this, town meetings had been held in the First Parish Meeting House, Union Hall, the old Collins’ school-house and other places and at Sandy Bay before it was set off. Its cost was $4200. At a town meeting held in February, 1866, it was voted by a large majority to erect a new town house. 

According to Pringle the frame of school then 1844 Town Hall / School House / now Legion was purchased from Rockport

Collins School

The Universalist edifice, as it stands now, the old First Parish church, with its pagoda like steeple, and the old Collins school house, standing on the site now occupied by the building of the same name, and the pride of the town, Tappan’s Hotel, were among the more noticeable features. Its name, like its predecessor, was derived from Madame Collins, who in the early part of the century gave the land upon which the building stands.

Pringle, 1892

1896 Sawyer School

Grammar Pupils Taught How to Box Compass

If one were to look for a school for skippers he would naturally turn to Gloucester, but he would hardly expect to find the rudiments of the fishermen’s art taught in the public schools. But such is the fact. This “skippers’ class” has been for some years part of the regular course of the Sawyer grammar school, the progressive principal of which is N.D. Tingley…The skippers recite in one of the halls of the school, in the center of which is drawn a large compass encircled by an iron railing. This compass is some four feet in diameter, and all the points are given by their abbreviations in the same manner as on the regular mariner’s compass. In addition to the pole, as given by the needle, the true north is also indicated by a black line, the variation of the needle in Gloucester being quite marked, some 13.5 degrees…The class numbered a dozen, three quarters of whom were girls from 7 to 12. But before they had finished their lessons they demonstrated that they could give their brothers “points” in every sense concerning the boxing of the compass. Possibly Principal Tingley was giving a class of new women instruction in the art of navigation, for one of the first new women of recent times is a pilot on the Mississippi, and perhaps one may officiate in a like capacity aboard of a cape Ann fishing steamer… What is one point west of south? Five pointes east of north? Six points west of south, etc…After the skippers have become proficient and have been graduated they pass the “board.” The board in this case is Mr. Tingley, and he issues to the proficient graduate this certificate, which is highly prized by the holders, as it is printed on cardboard in gilt letters as follows:

Sawyers School Skipper’s Certificate–The Bearer, John Smith, having successfully boxed the compass and answered the required practical questions upon the same is herby awarded this Certificate of honor.–Gloucester, Mass., 1996.”

Boston Globe, 1896

1905 Eastern Avenue School

“Proposed New Grammar School in Ward 2, Gloucester

After much discussion the school committee and the public property committee have selected plans for the proposed schoolhouse in ward 2. The lot where the school is to be built is especially adapted for the purpose. It is on Eastern avenue nearly opposite Day’s pond, and commands a magnificent view in all directions, including an outlook of Little Good harbor beach and Bass rocks, which, from the contour of the lands, can never be shut out by building operations. The building will be 60 x 125. it will contain two main floors and a roof section, the latter being designed for a gymnasium or large hall should such be needed. In the basement will be the usual heating apparatus, the janitor’s room and separate playrooms, with accessories for boys and girls. On the two main stories there are eight rooms…On the second floor, besides the four main rooms, there is a library and teachers’ room…The exterior will be of the colonial style, the material being red brick, with stone trimmings. The estimated cost above ground clear of the furnishings is $31,000. It is intended to have the building ready for occupancy sometime next year. Taking the cost of furnishings and everything it is estimated that the entire cost will approximate 45,000.”

Boston Globe 1905

1920 46% of Fathers of Public School Children are Foreign-Born

Gloucester history 1920 may just be as much if not more current than 2021

Furthermore, whereas formerly the majority of the people in Gloucester were native born, now 46.6 percent of the fathers of public school children are foreign-born: 19 nationalities are represented. They include the following countries, Canada, Denmark, England, Italy, Ireland, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Holland, Newfoundland, Norway, Nova Scotia, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Sweden. The largest number are from Portugal, Italy, Finland, England.

From the standpoint of the school, this means that the educational problem is far more difficult than formerly. It means that the school must now not only teach the three R’s, but to use a much over-worked term, it must really be the “melting pot” of all these diverse elements. It must be a social agency in the community where all elements may meet on a common footing. It must be a school where the children may have the opportunity to develop the particular gifts, which all these different nationalities bring to America, rather than a dye vat where all these different vivid colors from all over the world are dyed into one monotone.

In other words, although Gloucester is a small town of only a few thousand inhabitants, yet from an educational standpoint it is faced with the same problems which confront school systems in the average city…”

1922 January

Regarding the high school on Dale and Forbes School Branches (multi building complex)

High School I claim for my administration a savings of $250,000 on the high school alone, and when completed we will have a high school building second to none in Eastern Massachusetts and at a cost of less than half what other cities are paying. And right here I wish to publicly commend and thank the teachers and scholars of our high school for the splendid spirit of co-operation and patience they are exhibiting in cheerfully walking back and forth through mud and rain. The school displaying such fine spirit deserves a good building, and I shall never forget their good and fine cooperation. Money cannot pay Mr. Ringer for his fine leadership in this school under very trying conditions, but now I wish he would confine his activities to the position he was hired for.

I think our school troubles are soon to be relieved. Mr. Fellows, our new superintendent, will, I hope, prove a second Putney. I hope to see our small neighborhood schools again running as under Mr. Putney. I believe, and I have letters from educators that agree with me, that a small school with two or three grades offers equal advantages to small children as single grade schools, as the lower grade pupils are all the time learning something from the higher grade recitations. With the completion of the Washington Street primary school, both the high and primary situation will be relieved, and those garages on the town landing will be taking out of our schools forever. And now with that building on the lot standing the city $5,000 (the cost of moving), does anyone think it should have been given away? For that is all the building stand the city—the cost of moving—for a foundation would have to have been built anyway.

Mayor Percy Wheeler Inaugural Address (2nd term)

RESULTS WEEK 3 #Gloucester Ma FIRSTS| try Mr. Goulart’s local history hunt Throwback Thursday

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Gloucester, Mass.- Great teacher at Gloucester High School, Shaun Goulart, creates a local history scavenger hunt trivia game for his 9th grade students that takes place weekly for 6 weeks. We’re taking the challenge one week after the students. Good luck!

ANSWERS TO SHAUN GOULART’S LOCAL HISTORY TRIVIA WEEK THREE

How did you do? Week three was all about some famous Gloucester FIRSTS and there were many locations.   Stop here if you prefer to go back to see Week 3 questions only.

1)The location of Gloucester’s first “Four Year High School” 

Principal Albert Bacheler CENTRAL GRAMMAR

Central Grammar first four year high school Principal Albert Bacheler_20180505_photo copyright © catherine ryan.jpg

2)The location of Gloucester’s first Brick Building?

PURITAN HOUSE built in 1810 by Col. James Tappan* is a historic house at 3 Washington Street and 2 Main Street. Also known as: Tappan’s Hotel, Gloucester Hotel (“Tappan’s Folly”), Atlantic House, Mason House, Community House, Capt Bills (1960s-70s), Puritan House & Pub (1977), Blackburn Tavern (1978-00s) *Tappan was taught by Daniel Webster

Excerpt from prior GMG post (read it here) about scenic tours by bike 1885: “And now let’s take our wheel for a short run along our harbor road to East Gloucester, and note the many points of interest on the way. The start is made at the Gloucester Hotel–the headquarters of all visiting wheelmen in the city–at the corner of Main and Washington streets; from thence the journey takes us over the rather uneven surface of Main street, going directly toward the east. In a few minutes we pass the Post Office on the left, and soon leave the noisy business portion of the street behind us, then, e’re we are aware of it, we reach and quickly climb the slight eminence known as Union Hill…” This brick building at Main and Washington now features Tonno Restaurant. Notice the chimneys and same stairs as when it was the Gloucester Hotel. The Blackburn Tavern sign was just marketing; this building has no connection. Blackburn’s Tavern is now Halibut Point restaurant at the other end of Main Street.

 

3)The first schoolmaster and town clerk’s house. (private property do not trespass)

RIGG’S HOUSE” 27 Vine Street (Annisquam) Thomas Riggs House purchased in 1661

oldest house on Cape Ann, Gloucester, MA

Oldest House on Cape Ann.jpg

Fredrik D. Bodin.jpg

 

4)A list of the first recorded Gloucester fishermen lost at sea. (Hint: 1716)

Look under the year on cenotaph surrounding Man At Wheel

annual fishermans memorial service_Mayor Romeo Theken_20160827_fisherman at wheel cenotaph gloucester© catherine ryan.jpg
Mayor Romeo Theken, annual Fisherman’s Memorial Service, 2016

5)The location of the first carillon built in America.

Our Lady of Good Voyage – read more http://gloucester.harborwalk.org/story-posts/sp-20/

Subshop with a view- through Destinos window

view from destinos subss 2017

6)The location of Gloucester’s oldest surviving burial ground for the First Parish.

1644! – 103 Centennial Drive – top of Centennial Drive near the train bridge

 

7)The location of Gloucester’s first town hall.

Continue reading “RESULTS WEEK 3 #Gloucester Ma FIRSTS| try Mr. Goulart’s local history hunt Throwback Thursday”

Proposed building plans Sawyer Free Library, City Hall…Whoa! In the news plus the 1973 appeal led by Joseph Garland, universal access, and archives

“No finer place for sure, downtown.”

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“Fate of historic buildings uncertain” Gloucester Daily Times, Ray Lamont, Jan 3 2017

Seeing double? Yes, you’re supposed to. The Sawyer Free Library addition was designed to mirror Cape Ann Museum as a balanced and nuanced architectural symmetry in deference to City Hall, and catalyst for a graceful center.

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Cape Ann Museum, December 2017

Sawyer Free Library has announced a public meeting January 11th for discussions of a new building. (See the flyer at the end of this post.)

City Hall may have some upcoming construction on the Dale Avenue side as well.

Both projects are largely in the name of accessibility of a physical nature. Can they be cost effective, worthy of our history and culture, protect our significant buildings, and address current and future needs? The following are some of the issues, local coverage, links to resources, and archival material for your interest.

HANDICAP PARKING SPACES BY CITY HALL- Do we have enough?

Although there are several new handicap parking spaces along Dale Avenue by City Hall, carving out the landscape on the left for more spots is in the cards because of grant money. Why? Several people told me that Dale Avenue parking spaces are hazardous for anyone exiting on the street. Although I do not want to minimize any pressing needs, I still ask, “Really?” Have we become so car dependent we would rather a thoroughfare here than the elegant streetscape we have (once a tree lined walk from the train station.) I was also told that it will increase visitation counts. It is an unfair advantage that historic sites with access to more funding (Monticello, Smithsonian, Colonial Williamsburg, and more) are better equipped to face these seemingly no-win situations. But there are creative retrofitting options for Gloucester, too.  Universal design is about balance, not chasing funding sources at the expense of preservation and beauty, nor backwards planning.

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Dale Avenue c.1910

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City Hall, December 2017

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The site of possible razing and paving

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NEW LIBRARY 2016. And 1973.

Before the current 2015-16 library outreach, the library hosted extensive visioning sessions throughout 2013. I went to a couple, and I was invited to take part in a focus group (on schools and the library.)  A completely new library and jettisoning of the historic Saunders library building was not an expressed community value. What were some common discussion points? A strategy for digitization of historic archives and newspapers, more staff, more hours of operation (Sundays), better bathrooms, parking issues, air conditioning, electrical work, maintenance, security, maximizing technology/ content access with schools, ditto Cape Ann TV, and attendance (see this great video from Lisa Smith by kids for kids ) were some goals that were mentioned.

So it was a surprise to see the unveiling of new architectural renderings that did not showcase the Saunders house. It’s like the White House not featuring the White House. I think the Saunders house should be key and central to any building overhaul, not tossed aside. Providing universal access should preserve the intended awe factors if there are any, FOR EVERYBODY–such as the architectural details, proportion, welcoming entrance and unique heritage of a historic building. In this proposal, with Saunders severed there is zero physical access to the main event. What a missed opportunity. And for a library. What do you think?

Today’s paper mentioned that the Saunders house could be used for other purposes instead of the library. Why can’t that be the case and the library maintain its #1 asset? The downtown cultural district (which is not going forward in the same capacity) and other organizations could use the library meeting spaces. Do we really need to conjure up another stand alone endeavor?

Back in 1973, the Trustees of the Library began a fund drive for the new library addition; the city of Gloucester paid 2/3. As the Library’s General Chairman, Joe Garland led that campaign. Not surprising, the text of the brochure is a good read! The architect was Donald F. Monnell. (In 1971 Monnell was quoted in the papers speaking about the attributes of Central Grammar.  One likes him more and more.) The population served was 27,000–nearly what it is today.

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Awesome design  on this 1973 brochure for the fundraising campaign for the Sawyer Free library– led by the Joe Garland (cover). See photos of complete pamphlet

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See “Preserving our Civic Center,” great letter to the editor by Prudence Fish, Gloucester Daily Times, December 23, 2016

Working together

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2016 Planning term and movement- “Scaling Up”

A quip about the concept of Scaling UP that I remember from a conference this past September at Peabody Essex Museum and hosted by Essex National Heritage was to “think about the farm not just a barn”; in this case a downtown, or an entire city and region. I like thinking this way in general–architecture and planning, art, and schools. But this conference pushed me to add overlays beyond my areas of expertise or focus like wildlife and waterways. Gloucester, Cape Ann, Massachusetts–there’s so much! Mayor Romeo Theken is committed to working together and feels that planning is important and broad. One example, see Gloucester Daily Times Dec 19, 2016 Officials: City to Prioritize Its (competing) Needs 

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City Looks to Prioritize its Needs, Gloucester Daily Times, Ray Lamont, Dec. 19, 2016

There are several looming questions, evaluations, and decisions.

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Every era has choices. The prior library expansion plans began well before 1972. Possibilities swirled as they do now. (Back then, Central Grammar was also in the news, may or may not have been razed, and possible uses favored senior housing, commercial development, an annex to City Hall, and a courthouse police station.) Today there are competing building needs and uses floated for properties as diverse as: the Cape Ann YMCA on Middle Street, the post office on Dale, the Gloucester Fire Department, police headquarters, St. Ann’s, and the elementary schools–and that’s just to name a few. Let’s celebrate enviable architectural strengths, and not fuss with buildings that should be venerated, unless it’s to help them be accessible and healthy. Let’s get the balance right.

HISTORY MAKING PLEA- Archives for all

The prohibitive costs of best practice historic preservation (ADA compliant, temperature and humidity controls, security, sustainability, in house scanning/OCR/audio transcription, etc) is impossible for all the worthy collections in town, and pits them as foes when vying for funds. Let’s flip that impediment on its head and make Gloucester a model for the state.  Its treasures would be available worldwide if they were truly accessible –digitized.Two words may help accomplish this goal and free up cash for individual operations: shared overhead. It’s one hope I continue to stress–the need to share necessary resources for a state-of-the-art research and warehouse repository. This universal hub should be large enough to encompass any holdings not on view. There could be a smaller downtown central site combined with a larger off site location, such as at Blackburn. The list of sharing institutions could include and is by no means exhaustive: our municipal archives that date back to 1642; Cape Ann Museum; Sawyer Free Library; North Shore Art Association; Beauport; Hammond Castle; the Legion; Amvets and other social clubs; Sargent House; several places of worship; Gloucester Daily Times; Annisquam historical building collections; Lanesville; Magnolia’s historic collections; artists/writers estates; Veterans office; our schools; Isabel Babson Memorial Library, and perhaps businesses such as Cape Pond Ice and Gortons. The library plans don’t appear to retrofit their site(s) for this goal.

If incentives and policy supported neighborhood character over less generic construction collages51

that would be wonderful.  It’s not just Gloucester.

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Continue reading “Proposed building plans Sawyer Free Library, City Hall…Whoa! In the news plus the 1973 appeal led by Joseph Garland, universal access, and archives”

Boston Globe on CPA funding across the state including Gloucester art, City Hall, Central Grammar, Cape Ann Museum. Brenda Buote splays the numbers and approaches.

Gloucester continues to be a positive example in today’s paper. Great article.

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Continue reading “Boston Globe on CPA funding across the state including Gloucester art, City Hall, Central Grammar, Cape Ann Museum. Brenda Buote splays the numbers and approaches.”