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
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
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…”
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)