Last edited Saturday, December 03, 2011
1844: Town meeting votes to establish its first high school in compliance with 1827 state mandate.
April 1876: South Street PHS destroyed by fire.
1876: New high school of brick constructed
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
1895: Appropriation made by city council for new high school on the Common.
Fall 1897: PHS returned temporarily to its first
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
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
1941: Garage on
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
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
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
February 1983: As the final phase of Proposition 2 1/2 takes effect and enrollment declines, the schools face 60 more layoffs.
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
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
1. Smith, J. E. A., History of
2. Smith, J. E. A., History of
3. Boltwood, Edward, History of
4. Willison, George F., History of
5. Herberg, Theodore, History of the Public Schools of
6. School Buildings Needs Commission, A Study in
9. Registry of Deeds.
Guardian elm trees cast their shadows
—researched by Mathew Gigliotti, ’02
1950 James M. Conroy
1977 Arthur Biggs
1997 James Andersen
*Information from PHS Yearbooks
On the 6th of March, 1895, the High School building 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 (! 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 1S97, 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.
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