Pittsfield High School History
 Last edited
Sunday, September 10, 2023


List of graduates from 1870 thru 1906 - here




Pittsfield High School

First, here is a brief summary from the PHS Students' Guide, printed in 1926. This from Raymond Boos's copy I recently acquired:

"History of P.H.S

Pittsfield High School was first opened in November 1850, in a little wooden building on School Street in the rear of the First Baptist Church, with an enrollment of sixty-six pupils and a faculty of two teachers. In 1867 this building was rebuilt with two stories. It is still standing (1926) and is now known as the Municipal Building on Dunham Street. Three years later the town bought the old Medical College on South Street and remodeled it for use as the High School. In 1876 this building was ruined by fire, but a brick school building - the first in Pittsfield - was erected on the site of the old building the following year at a cost of $16,000. In 1894 the enrollment of the school did not exceed two hundred pupils and the faculty consisted of seven teachers, among them Mr. W.D. Goodwin, vice principal at the present time (1926). In 1895 the high school building was again destroyed by fire, immediately work was begun on a new one and within two years the present central building was opened at a cost of $25,000. During the two years that the new high school was being built sessions were held in the West Block on West Street.

The enrollment of the school in 1914 exceeded the capacity of the high school building so in the same year the Commercial Department was transferred to the Franklin F. Read School on Fenn Street which had been erected in 1884.

Pittsfield High School has had fourteen principals since it was organized. The present principal, Mr. Roy M. Strout, was engaged as Headmaster in 1921. P.H.S. in its seventy-sixth year, has an enrollment of eight-hundred-eighty-six pupils and a faculty of forty teachers."  I will scan this booklet at a later date. It is fascinating!


Anecdotal Chronology

1792: Latin Grammar School founded. In 1635 the Massachusetts Bay Colony mandated that a Latin Grammar School must be established in every town whose population had reached 100 or more families. By at least 1781 Pittsfield had reached that number. The town did not comply with that law until 1792 when it established a public Latin Grammar School on the first floor of the newly constructed town house, the community’s first town hall. Town meetings were held on the second floor. The two-story structure was located between the present St. Stephen’s Church (circa 1889) and what is now called The Old Town Hall (circa 1832), upon what is now Allen Street between Park Place and School Street.

1824: Latin Grammar School dissolved. In this year the town voted that funds should be appropriated in the several school districts for public grammar schools there, instead of continuing support for the public Latin Grammar School. More rigorous than the curriculum of the district grammar schools, the curriculum of the Latin Grammar School was sufficient preparation for a higher education. It was customary at this time to pay back to parents the taxes paid by them for schooling, to be expended at their discretion for tuition in the school of their choice. With the Pittsfield Latin Grammar School dissolved, the private Pittsfield Academy took over the schoolroom on the first floor of the first town hall. The Pittsfield Academy was dissolved in 1832 when the first town hall was moved to make room for the first St. Stephen’s Church. Remodeled, the first town hall became a residence on the east corner of Bartlett and East Streets.

1844: Town meeting votes to establish its first high school in compliance with 1827 state mandate.

May 9, 1849: Site purchased for first Pittsfield High School for $459. Located in the northeast corner of the old burial ground, which at that time included part of the Common, the high school site was that which is presently occupied by City Hall (the “old” post office, circa 1911). Later, access roads would be opened from the site to North and East Streets, the former to be called School Street. The latter is presumed to be what is now Wendell Avenue Extension.

November 1850: Pittsfield High School opens in a new, three-room wood building. The enrollment was 66 pupils and two teachers. An 1861 school report stated that “all the school houses in the town, 20 in number, including the high school, have been built by the town within the past 12 years at an expense of a little short of $30,000.” In the designation of the time, which meant that two or more Howard brothers were attending the high school at the same time, Pittsfield High School student “Howard 2nd” described the first PHS as follows: “It is nearly surrounded with churches of almost every denomination. It faces the west and is painted white. It has two entries, one for the girls and one for the boys. The boys’ is in front of the schoolhouse, and the girls’ at the back part. Besides these there are three more rooms, viz., two recitation rooms and one large room where all the scholars that are not reciting are assembled. The large room is Gothic shaped overhead. The benches are made of cherry, and there is not a nail used in putting them together and are supported by cast iron frames. To sit in are chairs fastened onto iron stools that are screwed in the floor.”

1867: School Street PHS reconstructed to a height of two stories.

1870: Medical College building on South Street becomes second home to Pittsfield High School. In debt and with declining enrollment, the Medical College was dissolved in 1870 and sold to the town for $8,500. The structure was remodeled at an expense of $7,500 for use as a high and grammar school. The Medical College was situated on what is now Veterans’ Memorial Park, on South Street, where the war monument now stands.

April 1876: South Street PHS destroyed by fire.

1876: New high school of brick constructed on South Street site. The school was rebuilt at a cost of $16,000. The enrollment was 65 pupils and three teachers. The average daily attendance first reached 100 in 1844, and 200 in 1894. At one time, while the South Street PHS was being enlarged, the school met for a few months in an old theater connected with the old Burbank Hotel, located near Union Station (now demolished, it stood until a few years ago off New West Street). Historians recount that the need for a high school was the subject of serious debate, and that the small graduating classes of 1875 and 1878 being comprised entirely of girls did not aid the cause of the high school.

March 6, 1895: PHS building on South Street completely destroyed by fire of undetermined cause. All that was salvaged was a piano, a chair and a teacher's desk.

1895: PHS quartered on upper floors of new West Block on west corner of Clapp Avenue and West Street.

June 1895: Site purchased for proposed new high school. Located between the Common and Second Street, it was purchased for $9,500.

1895: Appropriation made by city council for new high school on the Common.

Fall 1897: PHS returned temporarily to its first home on School Street. In the interim, this facility had served as home to the Center Grammar School. At a later date to make way for a post office, the building would be moved to Dunham Street to serve as a municipal building, there even later to be demolished to make way for the present police station.

1898: PHS moves into new building on the Common, constructed at a cost of $170,000. At first able to accommodate schools of lower grades as well as the high school, the high school enrollment rose so rapidly that it soon monopolized and overflowed its quarters. Even though enrollment was only 247 in 1899, by the fall of 1911 the high school population was 705. The Commercial Department was transferred to the former Read School (now Mt. Carmel) in 1912, only temporarily relieving the high school, whose enrollment passed 900 in 1914.

1913: Comprehensive high school proposed by school authorities.

1921: Mayor forms committee to study high school overcrowding after more than 10 years of this problem. In its 1922 report the committee recommended that a new school should be constructed on a different site.

1925: High school building commission appointed. This commission, three successive high school principals and the school committee made clear the need for a new high school rather than additions to the existing high school. Yet the controversy and indecision dragged on.

1928: School committee votes to inaugurate double sessions at PHS and Read Annex.

August 1928: Board of aldermen votes to take by eminent domain the Plunkett-Hull-Kellogg property on the west corner of East Street and Appleton Avenue for site of new PHS. Although the Registry of Deeds (Book 439, Pages 137,8) records the purchase price as $128,000, several later Eagle reports state that $196,000 was eventually paid for the three lots. Prior to this date every available site in the heart of the city was considered.

March 28, 1930: Cornerstone of East Street Pittsfield High School laid. (See excerpt from the Eagle article below)
        Link to the full Berkshire Eagle coverage - here

September 9, 1931: East Street PHS opens to 1,450 students. Appropriation: $1.29 million. (see Eagle articles at the end of this page)

1941: Garage on East Street (former Berkshire Buick) converted to vocational shop annex.

1944: School system report calls attention to high birth rates of 1942 and 1943. From 1931 to 1940 the number of births per year had been less than 840. In 1941 the number was 905, and in 1942 and 1943 it was 1,031 and 1,042.

1945: Committee on high school gymnasium appointed by mayor. Soon after the initial occupancy, the facilities for physical education, both inside and outside, were recognized as inadequate. The gymnasium committee investigated a number of proposals. Baffled by the complicated roof structure of the gymnasium and confused by the proliferation of proposals for enlargement, efforts to solve the school’s lack of adequate physical education facilities lapsed into inactivity by the end of 1946.

1947: Two Quonset huts installed at rear of east wing to provide additional shop space.

1948: Bruhn property abutting south property line of high school acquired by city. The late Donald B. Miller, then publisher of the Eagle, purchased the property from Mrs. E. C. Bruhn in late 1947 for $37,000. Two months later he sold it to the city for the same price. The city rented the apartments in the Bruhn house until 1953 when it and an abandoned carriage house were razed to provide PHS with more outside physical education space. The Bruhn house would be the fourth demolition of old homes for the PHS site. Removed earlier from the site were the Dr. Brace W. Paddock House (circa 1820) and Thomas F. Plunkett House (circa 1790) on East Street, and the James W. Hull House on Appleton Avenue. It was the Plunkett House which had been called the “Longfellow House.” It was there the poet wrote the poem “The Old Clock on the Stairs” which immortalized the house’s stairway. At that time, 1845, he was a guest of his wife’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Appleton of Boston, who were visiting Mrs. Appleton’s parents here for the summer.

1948: School system analysis impending overcrowding alerts community to growing school building problems and leads to Engelhardt survey. The number of births in 1947 was 1,341. It would remain close to this until 1964.

January 12, 1949: Engelhardt report issued—declares PHS incapable of meeting future demands and cautions against adding to PHS. Recommends new comprehensive high school on new site, built in two stages, with total capacity of 2,000 scheduled for completion in 1958 at which time PHS would be converted to a junior high and administrative offices.

May 23, 1949: Capital Outlay Committee rejects proposal for new high school and recommends expenditure of $750,000 for addition to PHS to accommodate enrollment of approximately 2,000.

1950: PHS vocational shops relieved by transfer of General Vocational Department.

August 1954: School system report issued reviewing extensive needs of PHS; invites community study of four proposals:

  1. Extend east and west wings of PHS.
  2. Extend east and west wings and erect nearby vocational shop building.
  3. Build second comprehensive high school of 1,300 capacity on new site, estimated cost $3 million, resulting in two comprehensive high schools.
  4. Build new comprehensive high school of capacity 2,500 on new site.

Report concluded that proposal (3) was “educationally advantageous” because of the inadequate PHS site or exceptionally large capacity associated with the other three proposals.

February 2, 1955: Berkshire Eagle editorial urges rehabilitation of old PHS (on Common) as a “classical” high school.

October 8, 1955: Capital Outlay Committee recommends rehabilitation of old PHS as annex to East Street PHS; defers decision on new vocational facilities and expansion of PHS gym and cafeteria.

November 21, 1957: Capital Outlay Com­mittee reviews PHS problems; suggests four more proposals.

September 1960: The Committee on High School Building Needs of the Pittsfield Citizens Council for Public Schools issues report—recommends that new building of 900 capacity be erected on existing site, connected by corridors to PHS. Also recommended are expansion of existing gym and cafeteria, and acquisition of adjacent land. Projected cost: $2.8 million. Two members of the committee issue minority report recommending construction of 900-capacity vocational school on new site.

January 15, 1962: Pittsfield Vocational Advisory Committee votes to support enlarged PHS with new adjacent vocational building.

March 16, 1962: School Space Needs Committee of Pittsfield School Committee issues report considering three options—vigorously defends one of those: new comprehensive high school of 1,300 capacity on new site including entire vocational high school. Projected cost: $3.6 million.

August 1962: Consultants Candeub, Fleissaig and Associates, in planning memorandum, recommend new high school of 1,300 capacity on new site. In September of 1962 they estimate cost of such a facility to be $3 million.

September 1962: All grade 10 commercial and general students (265) transferred to newly opened Crosby Junior High. Remaining 1,918 students quartered at PHS. (Capacity at that time given as 1,600. Four months later, state and school officials determine that 1,300 is a more realistic figure.) Exploration begun for plans to house an additional 260 students expected in September 1963.

December 1962: Capital Outlay Committee recommends new technical-vocational high school of 1,000 capacity on new site. Estimated cost: $2.5 million.

January 9, 1963: Berkshire Eagle editorial urges consideration of new non-comprehensive school on new site, and converting of PHS to college preparatory high school.

February 13, 1963: School Department issues a report treating alternatives in depth—endorses 1,300-capacity comprehensive high school on new site.

March 19, 1963: School Committee endorses new 1,400-capacity comprehensive high school.

December 12, 1963: School Committee votes “to reconsider its vote of last spring and go on record as favoring the construction of a new vocational and technical high school for Pittsfield.”

February 25, 1964: School Committee reverses itself again. In a 52-word motion, word for word identical to the one of March 19, 1963, School Committee endorses construction of new 1,400-capacity comprehensive high school, by a vote of 5 to 3.

March 27, 1964: Capital Outlay Committee recommends new comprehensive high school of 1,000 capacity; projected cost: $2 million.

April 14, 1964: On recommendation of mayor, city council establishes High School Commission to make comprehensive study of the problem.

July 9, 1964: High School Commission issues report calling for new comprehensive high school, capacity 1,250 on new site; projected cost: $3.25 million. Commission recommends building it on 36 acres in Springside Park, a location later ruled out because of opposition from the protectors of parkland.

December 14, 1965: City Council, after prodding from mayor to make a decision, votes 9-2 to build the new high school on 50 acres on the south-east corner of Valentine Road and Lakeway Drive, after more than a year of contemplation and controversy regarding proposed sites throughout the entire city. Property cost: $98,500.

July 19, 1966: Council unanimously approves mayor’s request for a $6,455,000 high school bond issue.

September 7, 1966: An overcrowded Pittsfield High goes on double sessions.

October 4, 1967: Some 70 people attend groundbreaking ceremonies for the new school. Target date for completion is the fall of 1968.

July 10, 1968: Opening date of the new school is pushed back to February 3, 1969.

September 3, 1969: Taconic High School opens its doors to students for the first time. Total building appropriation: $6,788,500. In addition to the appropriations, the succeeding school department budgets would contain funds to provide equipment and furnishings which the High School Commission could not with its funding. While the Taconic High construction was proceeding, no plans were developed or considered to bring the obsolescent East Street PHS up to contemporary educational and utilitarian standards.

August 1970: School Building Needs Commission (SBNC) established. Commission spends first two months visiting city’s 25 schools as initial step in assessment of their educational and utilitarian merit.

December 1971: SBNC requests $75,000 for plans, schematics and cost analysis of various uses of five secondary schools.

July 1972: PHS’s three giant coal-fired boilers converted to oil-fired.

December 1972: SBNC issues 800-page report “A Study in Contrasts,” a research, reference and recommendations document outlining a 20-year plan to eliminate obsolescence, overcrowding and other problems preventing the attainment of equal educational opportunity for all city children. The report details the PHS obsolescence, disrepair, overcrowding, and lack of adequate ancillary facilities, and reaffirms need for $75,000 to hire trained professionals to analyze the needs and best use of the city’s five public secondary schools.

January 23, 1973: City Council approves expenditure of $75,000 for secondary school study.

May 9, 1973: After interviewing 26 applicant architectural firms, Earl R. Flansburgh and Associates, Cambridge, Massachusetts, is selected for approximately $70,000 to perform the schematic design work on the modernization of the secondary schools. A tight time schedule is anticipated because there have been rumbles from Boston that the city’s current entitlement of 65% reimbursement for any forthcoming school projects could be reduced to 40% by January 1974. The School Building Assistance Bureau has warned that no reimbursement of any amount will be available for PHS renovated as a senior high school because of a severely limited site.

October 1973: SBNC recommends a new PHS on a new site with East Street PHS converted to a middle school.

April 1974: With no explanation, School Building Assistance Bureau reverses its previous stand on reimbursement for PHS. It now states that it will support a PHS senior high renovation with modest landtaking. Flansburgh must redo all cost analyses. After much bartering, the School Building Assistance Bureau will later require only the taking of the gas station at the corner of East and Appleton. After Flansburgh’s new cost analysis, SBNC continues to favor new high school on new site. Lacking enough support on School Committee and City Council, where a 2/3 majority is needed, the Commission will later petition mayor and City Council for renovation funds for PHS.

December 23, 1974: SBNC requests $9.6 million to modernize PHS. Needing eight votes, the request fails by one vote. Councilmen voting in minority ask for arbitrary 10% cut. Architects and Commission review initial proposal.

January 14, 1975: SBNC and architect appear before City Council to state that they believe it possible to modernize PHS for $8.6 million. During the re-evaluation period the architects discovered that the auditorium had been constructed larger than shown on blueprints. This allowed the elimination of a new music wing, and its relocation to existing building. The remainder of the 10% reduction was found in a paper cut of the contingency fund. City Council approved $8,629,000 on this date.

January 1975: Board of Education places moratorium on reimbursements for new school projects. It later approves the PHS project, one of the last to be funded at 65%.

Summer 1975: Working against a time schedule that will allow the successful contractor to break ground at summer’s end, the architect produces working drawings in an unprecedented seven weeks.

September 1975: Groundbreaking by general contractor, David J. Tierney, Jr., Inc. PHS has been emptied during summer. PHS students spend 1975-76 academic year in seven downtown buildings—old Second Street PHS, Jewish Community Center, Pittsfield Girls’ Club, top floor of Plunkett Elementary School, Madonna Hall, Pittsfield Boys’ Club, and the PHS Annex on Appleton Avenue.

September 1976: With the existing building completely renovated, PHS students return to East Street PHS. The additions will be finished and occupied by early 1977.

April 24, 1977: Dedication of modernized PHS facility. Although not quite complete, the project is about six months ahead of schedule.

June 17, 1979: The Pittsfield High School Student Council president convinces the school committee to allow the PHS graduation ceremony to be held at Tanglewood. More than 3,600 relatives and friends attend the program and start a new tradition.

September 9, 1981: Proposition 2 1/2 takes its toll as five schools close; the teaching staff is reduced by 160 and, in consolidation, Pittsfield High and Taconic welcome their first ninth grade classes.

February 1983: As the final phase of Proposition 2 1/2 takes effect and enrollment declines, the schools face 60 more layoffs.

April 4, 1986: Pittsfield High students stage a walkout over disciplinary matters relating to public displays of affection (PDAs). Calmer times soon prevail.

February 1995: A large oil spill in a rear courtyard forces the closing of PHS for several days during the clean up.

September 1995: The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) gives PHS high marks in its decennial evaluation.

September 2005: The NEASC evaluation is again very positive, but notes the deteriorating physical facilities of the PHS campus.

December 2005: A mercury spill in the science area causes Pittsfield High to close again for several days, forcing double sessions at Taconic High School.

May 2008: Consultants hired by the city recommend three options to the High School Visioning Study Group. The group opts for a “two high schools on one campus” proposal. The new schools would be located at the present location of Taconic High School.


1.     Smith, J. E. A., History of Pittsfield, Mass., from 1734 to 1800, 1868.

2.     Smith, J. E. A., History of Pittsfield, Mass., from 1800 to 1876, 1876.

3.     Boltwood, Edward, History of Pittsfield, Mass., from 1876 to 1916, 1916.

4.     Willison, George F., History of Pittsfield, Mass., from 1916 to 1955, 1957.

5.     Herberg, Theodore, History of the Public Schools of Pittsfield, Mass., 1916 to 1954, 1955.

6.     School Buildings Needs Commission, A Study in Contrasts, Pittsfield, Mass., 1972.

7.     The Berkshire Eagle, Numerous articles throughout the years.

8.     The Berkshire Athenaeum, Local History Department.

9.     Registry of Deeds.



Pittsfield High School Alma Mater


almaGuardian elm trees cast their shadows
O’er thy ivied walls;
Sons and daughters ever loyal
Throng thy honored halls.
Pittsfield High School, Pittsfield High School,
Alma mater dear,
Help us to preserve thy honor
Through each coming year.
Great has been thy former record
Greater it will be,
As the future generations
Sing their praise to thee.
Proud are we who through thy portals
Into life do pass:
Help us ever to be worthy,
Each and every class.

The Pittsfield High School Alma Mater was written during 1938 by siblings Esther Kierstead and her brother Friend H. Kierstead, Jr., both of the Spring Class of 1939. Their song was selected in a contest held that year with over 2,000 other songs submitted by students of Pittsfield High School. The alma mater, first sung at the Winter Commencement of 1938, was chosen by a seven-person committee chaired by Ms. Madeline E. Pfeiffer, chairwoman of the English Department at that time. Six out of seven committee members were either students or alumni who had come back to serve as teachers or administrators at the high school. The alma mater was written to the tune of “Ar Hyd y Nos,” or “All Through the Night,” an ancient Welsh folk song of which the origin is unknown.

—researched by Mathew Gigliotti, ’02





Pittsfield High School Principals


Jonathan Tenney


A. B. Whipple


S. J. Sawyer


W. H. Swift


J. E. Bradley


Albert Tolman


E. G. Baldwin


E. G. Rice


J. B. Welch


C. A. Byram


W. D. Goodwin


Harry E. Pratt


Lorne B. Hulsman

Roy Strout

Lawrence Murphy

Norman Najimy

Dr. Steven G. O’Brien

Harold Hennessey

William Coan

Mark Matthews

Howard Jacob Eberwein III


Pittsfield High School Administrative Personnel 1950-2008*

1950-1955 Roy M. Strout
1955-1967 Harold Hennessey
1967-1974 Lawrence J. Murphy
1974-1989 William P. Coan
1989-1992 Norman Najimy
1992-1999 Mark Matthews
1999-2003 Steven G. O’Brien
2003-2007 Howard Jacob Eberwein III
2007-2008 Anne Beauregard, Interim Principal

Vice Principals
1950-1955 Harold Hennessey
1955-1957 Dr. Carmen Massimiano
1956-1962 John Moran, Vice Principal, Vocational Education
1956-1968 Frank Coughlin, Vice Principal, Technical Education
1957-1972 Edward J. McKenna
1972-1974 William P. Coan
1974-2001 George Wilson
1980-2001 Mary Jennings
2001-2006 JoAnne Soules
2006-2008 Frank Cote

1950-1958 Nellie Parker, Dean of Girls
1958-1966 Rosemary Cummings, Dean of Girls
1966-1969 Rosemary Cummings, Dean of Girls, Grades 11 & 12
1966-1969 Jane Heaphy, Dean of Girls, Grade 10
1971-1972 William P. Coan
1972-1973 John C. Davis, Assistant to the Principal
1973-1979 Charles Katsounakis 1974-1977 Assistant to the Principal
1979-1980 Frank Blowe
2000-2001 JoAnne Soules
2001-2002 Joseph Benjamin
2002-2004 John Bianchi
2004-2006 Frank Cote
2006-2008 Joseph Benjamin

1950-1956 John Moran, Vocational Director
1950-1956 Dr. Edward B. Van Dusen, Director, Technical Education
1955-1962 William Dehey, Assistant Vocational Director
1962-1969 William Dehey, Director, Vocational School
1962-1969 Daniel Donaghue, Assistant Vocational Director

Class Advisors

1950 James M. Conroy
1951 Margaret Kaliher
1952 Helene Millet
1953 Helene Millet
1954 Margaret Kaliher
1955 Milon J. Herrick
1956 Margaret Kaliher
1957 Jane Heaphy
1958 Milon J. Herrick
1959 Margaret Kaliher
1960 Jane Heaphy
1961 Milon J. Herrick
1962 Jane Heaphy
1963 Milon J. Herrick
1964 Jane Heaphy
1965 Milon J. Herrick
1966 Jane Heaphy
1967 Milon J. Herrick
1968 Gilbert K. French
1969 Robert Sage
1970 William P. Coan
1971 Glenn Lizotte
1972 Francis Fazio
1973 William Frazier
1974 Thomas Dillon
1975 John Reagan
1976 Thomas Stanley

1977 Arthur Biggs
1978 John Bianchi
1979 F. Leigh Boice
1980 Christopher Jacoby
1981 William Ryan
1982 Patrick Markham
1983 James Andersen
1984 William Ryan
1985 F. Leigh Boice
1986 James Andersen
1987 Mary Maston
1988 Peter Utrera
1989 Robyn Bates
          Peter Utrera
1990 Linda Curley
          Linda Ruberto
1991 Susan Murray
1992 James Andersen
1993 Katherine Byrne
          Thomas Dillon
1994 John Arasimowicz
          Richard Backer
1995 Thomas Dillon
1996 John Arasimowicz
          John Flynn
          Lisa Hoag
          Joshua Weeks

1997 James Andersen
1998 Katherine Byrne
          Thomas Dillon
1999 John Arasimowicz
          Anne McAteer
2000 John Arasimowicz
          Lisa Hoag
          Joshua Weeks
2001 Ann Mutz
          Sally Shepard
2002 Patricia Douillet
          Kathleen Latham
2003 Janice Barry
          Douglas Dakin
2004 Patricia Curry
          Anne McAteer
2005 Ann Mutz
          Sally Shepard
2006 Douglas Dakin
          Brandon Sturma
2007 Christa Levesque
          Brenda Wilbur
2008 Kathleen Dolan
          Marie Richardson

*Information from PHS Yearbooks

From Municipal Reports:

1896 report

No photo description available. No photo description available.

Pittsfield High School (this is the brick structure, built after the previous wooden structure burned in 1876), located where the war memorial is on South Street at Colt Road. Used until it burned down around 1895 and the "new" Pittsfield High School on Second Street came on line 1898. My Grandmother is Pittsfield High School class 1901. Her father and his siblings likely attended the wooden and this school building.

1870: Medical College building on South Street becomes second home to Pittsfield High School. In debt and with declining enrollment, the Medical College was dissolved in 1870 and sold to the town for $8,500. The structure was remodeled at an expense of $7,500 for use as a high and grammar school. The Medical College was situated on what is now Veterans’ Memorial Park, on South Street, where the war monument now stands.


Burning of the High School Building (South Street)

The High School Building (on South Street) was destroyed by fire March 6, 1895.  Temporary Quarters were found for the school after long and diligent search, in the unfinished upper story of the new West Block on West Street. The space was partitioned off, the rooms lathed and plastered, and as soon as possible the heating and plumbing were done, and about the first of April the school resumed its sessions.

The rooms were secured for one year, with the privilege of continuing the lease till July 1, 1896, if desired. The state of the work on the new building, east of the Common, hardly warrants the hope that the building will be ready for occupation at the beginning of the next fall term.

Of course the location and erection of a new building for the High School were at once forced upon the attention of the city government, and served to complicate the school building problem materially. The High School question seemed to overshadow matters which concerned the schools of lower grade. Time wore rapidly on, and the first week in May saw no single thing determined. Fearing that no relief was to be afforded to the overcrowded schools, this committee voted to ask the Mayor and city council to give them a hearing. This request was granted, and a hearing was had at the council chamber May 8th, the Mayor presiding. The committee stated the facts plainly, showing the crowded condition of the schools and the absolute need for immediate relief, giving the numbers in actual attendance at Russell's, Orchard Street, Linden Street and Elizabeth Street. Exclusive attention was given to matters of current interest; there were no excursions into the domain of ancient history, though in the minds of the speakers much relating to the matter in hand belonged to that department. The conditions described existed then, had existed long, and were likely to continue indefinitely, with steadily increasing aggravations. They must be remedied. The need was absolute. Some things must be had whatever the cost; an ample water supply, an effective system of sewage, for instance; and sufficient school room for all the children of the city belonged to the same category. The council listened patiently to all the committee had to say and adjourned. “Why didn't you tell us these things before?” a prominent member of the city government is said to have asked. Had he taken the trouble to read any recent report of the school committee he would have found the story, the last report published differing from those preceding it only in the size of the numbers which expressed the situation. The school reports doubtless lack flavor and raciness, but solid facts, like those with which all our recent reports have abounded, ought to be known and heeded by men whose duty it is to study the city's needs and provide for them. This question of the city official was a revelation. The facts so familiar to this committee, which they had never concealed, but had taken great pains to spread before the people, had failed to come to the knowledge of those who most needed to know them, and who alone had the power to act. Not to official indifference, but to official ignorance of the real situation must be attributed the failure to act. The leaven had begun to work.


Link to 1898 report


THE NEW HIGH SCHOOL (Second Street).

The new High School is a beautiful and commodious structure, situated between the Common and Second Street, planned for the accommodation of six hundred pupils but capable of receiving a larger number if necessary. There are five entrances, two from Second Street, one from the Common upon which the building fronts, one on the north, and one on the south. A main hall connects the north and south entrances, and from this extend halls to the Second Street entrances and to the rooms west of the main hall toward the Common. The same arrangement of halls is followed on the second and third floors, and with some modifications in the basement. The building is thus in a sense divided into east and west sections. East of the main halls and occupying the middle of the building is the auditorium reaching from the first floor to the roof, having a small stage on the end toward the main hall, and a gallery at the east. This room is lighted from the east and by a sky-light. It U seated with opera chairs of excellent design from the factories of Northville, Mich., and seats 702. Its artificial light is from the sides. The room is almost perfect in its acoustic properties, and is admirable in many ways. North and south of the auditorium, on the first and second floors are class rooms, accommodating 48 pupils each, with closets for books and materials. On the third floor the space south of the auditorium is occupied by the physical and chemical laboratories, and a dark room connecting with the chemical laboratory. On the north is the drawing room, provided with cases for materials, a set of sliding blackboards, and with adjustable drawing tables from the Washburn Shops at Worcester. The northeast room is reserved for future needs. The basement has a room for gymnastics or manual training under the auditorium, bicycle rooms on the southeast and northeast, and connecting rooms on the sides.

The northwest and southwest corner rooms on all floors are class rooms or suitable for that use. West of the north and south entrances on the first and second floors are toilet rooms for the pupils, and over them on the third floor are teachers' rooms. Opening from the halls running west from the main hall are recitation rooms on the first and second floors, and on the third floor above them apparatus rooms connecting with the lecture room between them. Opening from the western or main entrance, are the Principal's office on one side and the reception room on the other. Above the entrance hall and these rooms is a large library and above that the lecture room. The cloak rooms adjoin the class rooms.

The auditorium, the library, and the halls are finished in oak, and the class rooms and laboratories in southern pine. The walls are tinted in pleasing colors. The pupils' desks are of cherry, partly the Chandler Adjustable, and partly the Orion, The teachers' desks are of oak. The tables are of oak and furnished by the Derby Desk Co. The recitation rooms are to be seated with opera chairs like those in the auditorium, with the addition of folding writing tablets. The electric light fixtures are simple in style and are designed to be as unobtrusive as is compatible with satisfactory service. The cases, laboratory tables, and in general all the workmanship, fixtures, and furnishings are intended to be the most perfect and suitable that were obtainable.

The building is heated by steam, indirect in most of the important rooms but supplemented by direct radiation. The two boilers are placed under the front entrance, the air being tempered on its first admission to the flues and carried to the several rooms by fans in the basement and in the attic. The temperature for the individual rooms is regulated by supplementary coils connecting with thermostats according to the Johnson temperature regulating system. All the rooms are well lighted, the laboratories and the drawing room on the third floor having sky light wholly or in part.

The building is 135 by 137 feet in size, of stately and graceful architectural appearance. The material is light brick trimmed with marble and terra cotta. The general effect is singularly harmonious and suggestive of artistic ideals.


1899 report


The High school entered its new building at the beginning of 1898 with high hopes, but is not yet able to work under normal conditions. There were serious delays in completing the lab oratories, which for several months left the opportunities for science work about as hopeless as they had been on West street. Grading and other uncompleted work surrounded and invaded the building during much of the year. The agitation respecting the ceilings, the rude scaffoldings erected for protection to the pupils, and the work on the new ceilings have continued the disquietude, depression, and publicity under which the pupils have been required to pursue their studies. Nevertheless the school work has gone on steadily and hopefully, and much has been accomplished. By the appointment of Miss May E. Kellogg the teaching force has been so increased as to meet the needs of the school. While our High school course of study has not been regarded as entirely satisfactory and had not been printed since 1892, we had felt that the interruptions and modifications necessary on : account of inadequate facilities made it best to defer any general revision until the school was housed in its new building. The matter has, however, been kept in mind, and has received special consideration during the past year.

The conclusions reached by the Principal and Superintendent were embodied in the following courses, which were authorized by the school committee October 26, 1898.

In accordance with a vote of the School Committee a lunch counter has been provided for the benefit of the High School pupils under the direction of Mr. W. K. Rice. The room was fitted up at an expense of about $200. This expense included a partition with glass sash, a suitable counter, hot water boilers, urns for heating beverages, gas stoves, mugs, tumblers, plates, spoons, etc., needful in preparing the lunch.

The preparation of the lunch has been under the charge of Mrs. Stephen Minor, and there is daily provided meat sandwiches at 2 cents each, chocolate at 2 cents a cup, beef bouillon at 2 cents per cup, milk at 1 cent per glass, oranges, bananas, and apples. The patronage thus far has proved the popularity of the plan with the children, more than 200 being served each day, and at the prices, which have been intended to be cost prices, no balance has accrued, and no indebtedness been assumed thus far.

Link to 1901 report

1901 Municipal Report


On the 6th of March, 1895, the High School building (on South Street) was again destroyed by fire. This event precipitated upon the city the immediate settlement of a question that had for a long time been under consideration. The desirability of a location for the High School that would better accommodate the great majority of those who desired to attend was evident. It seemed to many that it would be well (this was before the fire) to move the High School to a point nearer the center of population, and devote the building to be vacated by the High School to meeting the need of larger and better accommodations for the pupils of the lower grades in that part of the city. The fire ended this discussion.

Diligent search was at once made for suitable quarters for the High School. The new West Block on the corner of West Street and Clapp Avenue was decided upon. The entire upper story was secured, and between March 6 and April 1 partitions were set, the plastering done, steam pipes and the necessary plumbing put in, so that at the latter date the school was duly installed in its new home. It remained there until the end of June 1897, a period of two years and three months. The lease expiring at that time was not renewed because of the unwillingness of the proprietors to renew it for a less period than one year.

For the fall term of 1897 the school was quartered in the Center School building, the ninth grade pupils with Miss Patten, their teacher, going to the Redfield School, the eighth grade to the Briggs School, the seventh to Merrill's Block, and the fifth and sixth grades to the upper story of the Fenn Street School. Miss Patten was stricken with illness at the Redfield building, and carried to her home where she died January 18, 1898. The High School first occupied the new building at the beginning of the year 1898.

Simultaneously with the search for a temporary home for the High School, began the search for a site for a permanent one. One site regarded with much favor was the Oman place on North Street opposite to Maplewood, but the pronounced opposition of the owner of that resort led to its speedy abandonment. The lot on First Street east of St. Joseph's Church, and the comer of Fenn and First Streets south of the Lutheran Church, were among the sites considered, but opinion finally settled on the site cast of the Common. The advantage of abutting on the Common had great weight, and while for the present there are manifest inconveniences, it will, not unlikely come more and more to be felt that all things considered the best available site was selected. It is no part of this history to detail the discussions and plans, and the slow progress of the work. Two years and ten months after the fire, the school entered its new house, at the beginning of 1898.

While the High School building was going up, other schoolhouses were built as follows: The Solomon L. Russell building of eight rooms costing $33,960.61 was first occupied at the beginning of the fall term, 1896. The Redfield building with eight rooms, costing $41,917.27 was also first occupied at the same time. The Briggs building, so named in honor of the late Gov. George N. Briggs, was much delayed by bad workmanship. The walls, after being well advanced were condemned as insecure, taken down and rebuilt, the structure being finally completed at a cost of $30,660.08. It contained six schoolrooms and was first occupied at the opening of the fall term 1897.

In 1899 a schoolroom, which had remained unfinished, was prepared for occupation at the Onota Street building at the cost of $1000. During the summer of 1900 an addition has been made to the Peck's School of one room costing about $1,400.


Image may contain: outdoor  No photo description available. Dylan Longfont drone
Pittsfield High School on East Street (open in the Fall of 1931)
From the Berkshire Eagle article (link) of the
Laying of the Corner Stone at the new PHS on East Street.

Historical Sketch
(March 28, 1930 by W. D. Goodwin at the laying of the corner stone of Pittsfield High School on East St)

The Pittsfield high school had its beginning eighty years ago. It then had 66 pupils and two teachers. Thirty-eight years later, when I became connected with the school, the attendance had about doubled, and the teaching force had increased to five. Now, with our enrolment of 1150 and our faculty of 49, we have a school ten times as large as when I first knew it.

The school at first was housed in a small wooden building on the site of the present post-office. That building, afterwards rebuilt and enlarged, was occupied for many years by the Center grammar school, and was finally removed to Dunham street, where it still stands as the municipal building.

The high school moved from this building to the old Medical College building on South street, where now stands the memorial monument. When that building was burned in 1876, a new brick school house was erected on the same site, and was occupied by the high school until 1895, when that also was destroyed by fire.

The school continued its sessions, however, with but slight interruption, on the upper floor of a business block on West street. The time lost because of the fire was made up by keeping school on Saturdays the rest of the term.

At one time, while the South street building was being enlarged, the school met for a few months in an old theatre connected with the Burbank hotel, located near the present railroad station.

In January 1898, thirty-two years ago, we moved into the present building, then new, and described in the Pittsfield Sun as "strictly up-to-date in architecture and fittings." It was also much larger than we needed. The whole school, numbering then about 200, was seated in five rooms on the second floor. The first floor was occupied by a grammar school, and the third was used only for classes and drawing.

Five years passed before we needed even one room on the first floor. Then the growth of the school became more rapid, and by 1912 the building was filled to its capacity. Soon it became necessary to have an afternoon session for part of the freshman class, and to transfer the commercial pupils to the Read building on Fenn street.

The establishment of the junior high school afforded a temporary relief to the ever growing enrollment, since it left only three classes instead of four for the senior school. But now, as you all know, the numbers have again increased to such a point that even with our double session the crowded condition is worse than ever.

Thus through many vicissitudes the school has progressed from its humble beginnings of eighty years ago.

And now, as we look upon this expansive foundation and this rising frame, we find ourselves near to the realization of our fondest hopes.

We are here to lay the corner stone of a wonderful new home for our beloved school. That corner stone and the solid masonry surrounding it, are emblematic of the meaning of all education. For education, in its truest sense, is a foundation for the superstructure that life will build.

The spacious halls that are presently to rise upon these concrete walls will typify the untainted opportunity offered by a generous city to all its boys and girls.

The beautiful tower, pointing to sky, will fittingly symbolize the high ideals of manhood and womanhood for which the school has stood in the past, and for which, we hope, it will forever stand.

The high school commission has worked long and faithfully in selecting this marvelous site, and in securing the plans for an ideal school building. The city government has sanctioned the choice, and provided the means for erecting the structure. It remains for us, the pupils and teachers of the school, with the cooperation of the superintendent and school committee, to pledge ourselves by all our powers of heart and hand and brain to make the school worthy of its new home.

The building holds out to our school a promise of better things than have ever before been possible. It is for us and those who shall come after us to bring that promise to fruition believing with Browning "the best is yet to be."


In the March 28, 2020 Berkshire Eagle:
This Story in History is selected from the archives by Jeannie Maschino, The Berkshire Eagle.

THE MARCH 28, 1930, EAGLE (link to that full article, with photographs - link)

Cornerstone laid at new high school building

(PHS on East Street opened for students in the Fall term of 1931)

Under grim, raw March skies, the cornerstone of Pittsfield high school was laid this morning at 10 o’clock.

To the students had been committed by Judge Charles L. Hibbard and his associates on the commission the welcome task. It was an hour of dedication and of consecration. Whatever chill there may have been in the air found no echoing response in the hearts of the pupils. Distinctly it was their day.

Jonathan S. England, president of the student council, was chairman. The school sang, “America, the Beautiful,” with orchestral accompaniment.

“O beautiful for patriot dream, That sees beyond the years — Thine alabaster cities gleam, Undimmed by human tears — America, America, God shed his grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood, From sea to shining sea.”

“Our New Building” was the theme of Thomas M. Joyce’s address — an address in which there were both pride and purpose. Happiness shed its radiance over the scene.

Miss Betty Browne, a member of the junior B class, was the author of the commemorative poem, a beautiful expression of the hour’s spirit.

William D. Goodwin, for 42 years a member of the faculty, specializing in the languages, had a paper of exquisite charm. The laying of the cornerstone marked the high level of the day’s achievements.

All joined in singing “America,” the students sang their class song and the occasion was brought to an end. Roy M. Strout, principal of the high school, was general director of the program. Miss Madeline E. Pfeiffer was chairman, representing the faculty.

Vice-principals of the high school are William D. Goodwin, who, at one time, in years gone by, was acting principal, and John A. Ford, principal of Commercial.

Miss Anna F. Bennett, likewise a teacher, wrote of a famous education meeting many years ago. Among those who attended were Horace Mann, educator extraordinary, and George Nixon Briggs on whose memorial tablet in this city is recorded the fact that he was a friend of the common schools. This paper originally was published in The Eagle. Its value merited for it reposition in the copper box placed in the cornerstone which is at the northwest corner of the three-foot projection just at the main entrance.


Special section of the Berkshire Evening Eagle, Friday June 5, 1931,
previewing the new Pittsfield High School on East Street.

You can right-click on each page and view it on your computer, enlarging it so that you can hopefully read the articles.
Another option is to enlarge this webpage with your browser.



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Website courtesy of Clark W. Nicholls, PHS 1968 CWNicholls@aol.com




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