by Polina Potochevska on June 2, 2016
When people come to Pittsfield or drive through its streets, the golden-capped top of the PHS dome can be seen shining above the treetops. Since Pittsfield High School was opened in 1931, the dome has been a symbol of the school that is well-loved and protected by the community. I decided to do a bit of digging to discover more about the dome’s history and its significance.
When the high school was first opened, the dome was to be used as an “observation tower,” as described in History of the Public Schools of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, a handbook written by Theodore Herberg that I discovered in our archives with the help of librarian Mrs. Archey. Currently, the dome houses large air ducts and a few storage shelves, but students are not allowed to visit the dome without supervision and explicit permission, due to the instability of the flooring in various areas and the lack of lighting.
The dome rises 130 feet off of the ground, and cost $20,000 to build in 1931 as compared to the $380,000 it cost to renovate the dome in the summer of 2011, according to a documentary film made by PHS students in 2012 to celebrate the revival of the structure. The dome was renovated in several ways, including a new layer of paint on the golden top of the dome, and the fixing of the wood framing and spindles.
In addition to the physical splendor of the dome, it has symbolic significance as well. For example, in previous years the PHS yearbooks were titled “The Dome” as a representation of the dome symbolizing the school as a whole. The dome is something that PHS students were, and still are, proud of. Pittsfield High students frequently chant at pep rallies and other events that PHS is “our home beneath the dome,” and for good reason! The dome is a symbol of school spirit (Go Generals!) and pride for our school.
Last Friday (May 27, 2016), the Generally Speaking team took a trip up to the dome, led by Vice Principal Mr. Duval and Ms. Esko. To get up to the dome, you first need to pass the caged wall on the top of the stairs, which looks more daunting than it really is. The first impression of the inside of the dome is not so spectacular- there are lots of cobwebs and a fine layer of dust. However, the spirit of the dome is palpable, as almost every inch of the walls is covered with signatures of students from past years, in everything from pencil, to marker, to spray paint!
After walking up steep stairs and avoiding the creaky floorboards with light flooding from underneath, students went outside to see Pittsfield from the first level of the dome. The outside structure is much safer, and everyone was awed by the view. The senior editors went further up stairs only comparable to the steepness of a lighthouse to the second level of the dome, where we were squished between columns to fit! The view is certainly worth the slightly precarious journey. All were thrilled to be able to write their names on the walls and leave a permanent mark on the school, as the dome has left its mark on the school and the city.
Photo Credit: Polina Potochevska