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Pittsfield Schools - 1900

My ancestors first came to Pittsfield in ~1848 and that has lead to much “research” into their lives and has revealed many interesting facts about Pittsfield’s past.

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1908 post card “Pittsfield in the near Future
Pittsfield High School Class Reunion
Pittsfield Massachusetts High School Class Reunion
PHS Class Reunion
Pittsfield MA Massachusetts

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Pittsfield Schools 1900

Pittsfield Schools in 1901 here as part of the Municipal Register of the City of Pittsfield, 1901

CONTAINING

City Officers and Committees, Mayor's Address,
Reports of Officers and Committees, and the
Receipts and Expenditures for the Fiscal
Year Ending January 5th, 1901

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Of the schoolhouses authorized in 1895, the Solomon L. Russell School was built on Peck's Road, the Charles B. Redfield School on Elizabeth Street, and the George N. Briggs School at the corner of West and John Streets. The Russell School and the Redfield School were opened in the fall of 1896. The Briggs School, owing to vexatious delay in construction, was not ready until a year later.

 

In 1905, a spacious and handsome new building, to be known as the William M. Mercer School, was dedicated at the corner of First and Orchard Streets. In 1908, the Henry L. Dawes School on Elm Street was opened; and the William R. Plunkett School in 1909 was built at the corner of First and Fenn Streets, of which the cost was $80,000. In 1910 the William Nugent School was opened at the Junction, having erected to replace there the schoolhouse destroyed my fire in April 1909. On Onota Street, the William Francis Bartlett School was ready for occupancy in 1912. The Crane School in 1913 was opened at Morningside, on Dartmouth Street; and the Pomeroy School, on West Housatonic Street, was completed in 1915.

 

The Winter Street building, erected in 1890, was by the school committee in 1899 officially named the William B. Rice School; in 1907 the name of the Joseph Tucker School was given to the schoolhouse on Linden Street, of which the capacity has been greatly increased since its construction in 1889; and also in 1907 the building which had been erected in 1885 at Fenn and Second Streets received the title of the Franklin F. Read School.

 

(The History of Pittsfield Massachusetts, 1876-1916 by Edward Boltwood)

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In 1916, the twenty-fifth anniversary of its incorporation as a city, Pittsfield had about 5,400 children attending its twenty-one elementary schools. Eight of the school buildings had been constructed since 1900 - Bartlett (1910), Crane (1913), Dawes (1907, enlarged 1914), Mercer (1904), Nugent (1910), Plunkett (1909), Pomeroy (1914), and Rice (1890, 1907).  These new and larger buildings provided almost two thirds - 104 out of 166 - of the classrooms in the elementary schools.

(The History of Pittsfield Massachusetts, 1916-1955)

 

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A Review of the Pittsfield Public School System.

BY WILLIAM E. RICE

 

In the school report of 1879-1880, a historical sketch of the Pittsfield public schools from the beginning to that date may be found, written by the late J. E. A. Smith. The present is an appropriate time to bring before the people a brief review of the changes that have taken place and the progress that has been made since 1880.

 

On the School Committee are two persons, who were members of the Board at that time, Dr. W. M. Mercer and W. B. Rice. Of the teachers then in the service of the city only nine remain, — Misses Abby J. Barnes, Jennie A. Bull, A. P. Edwards, E. K. Manning, Margaret A. Reilly, Clara E. Rogers, S. J. Smith, S. E. Stevens, and Agnes M. Reid.

 

Most of the schoolhouses built by the town, in accordance with the vote passed in 1849, were still in use in 1880, and most of them are still so used. They were all made after one plan, differing only in size. They remain at Coltsville, Tracy, Sikes (not now occupied), Holmes, Morewood, Barkerville, and North Woods. The West Part and Peck's buildings were substantially of the same plan. At Pontoosuc and Stearnsville were buildings of the same pattern, and as the number of pupils created a demand for more room, it was provided by converting the woodhouse in the rear of the main building in each case into a schoolroom, and when more room was needed, it was secured by moving back the little building and inserting floor, sides, and roof between it and the main building. By this means room was secured and that was all. This false economy ruled long, too long. The School Committee regularly, at each annual meeting urged upon the town the necessity for more and better accommodations for the school children, but in spite of all their efforts they were invariably worsted in town meeting by some one's moving that the matter should be indefinitely postponed, and postponed it was uniformly.

 

The Orchard Street Training School building was first occupied in 1880. For a long time the great number of children in that quarter had greatly overtaxed the capacity of available school room. This building afforded four additional schoolrooms all upon the ground floor, the Committee having charge of construction deeming it not advisable to erect a building of two stories. The reasons which governed them, whether good or bad, were disregarded in the changes made in the building in 1895, when four additional rooms were provided by raising the roof and adding a second story.

 

The cost of the original building and lot in l880 was $8,073.87, the cost of the building in 1895 was $9,118.60, making the total cost of the building as it now stands, $17,792.47. Other important changes have been made in heating and ventilating apparatus since the original building was constructed.

 

The brick schoolhouse at Pontoosuc was erected in 1884. It provided four rooms in place of one fairly good one judged by the old ideas and standards, and one that was hardly good enough for a wood shed—a very bad schoolroom certainly. One of these new rooms was not needed for school purposes for a while, but the entire building has been so used for the last ten years. A building of wood at an estimated cost of six thousand dollars was at first contemplated, but before the building was begun the town wisely reconsidered its action, decided to build of brick and added four thousand dollars to the appropriation. The cost was $10,199.12. The steam apparatus formerly at the abandoned Russell school building was removed to the Pontoosuc building.

 

The pressure of school population in the vicinity of Silver Lake now became so great that the erection of an additional school building in that neighborhood could no longer be deferred. Accordingly a lot was purchased at the corner of Fenn and Second Streets and a schoolhouse with eight rooms was erected in 1885. It was built by the Munyan Bros, at a cost for lot and building of $42,994.85. It was intended and expected that this building would enable the school authorities to abandon the old Silver Lake schoolhouse, but the number of scholars made it necessary to make use of this building to a greater or less extent for a number of years. The Fenn Street building has been fully occupied since its completion, being at times greatly over crowded. Many of the children attending there come from long distances to the south and southeast, and to those conversant with the situation, another schoolhouse located on the east side of the Housatonic, appears to be the demand of the immediate future.

 

About 1885, or a little later, the Boston and Albany Railroad Co., for convenience and to secure more ample facilities for the handling of its freight business, involving much switching for the rearrangement of ears, removed the greater part of its business from the center of the town to the junction of the Boston & Albany and the Pittsfield & North Adams railroad. The expected removal of many of the employees to that point indicated the need of more school room there. The building there would accommodate some 15 or 20 pupils. A lot was secured a little north of the old site, which abutted on the railroad and the highway at the northeast corner of the bridge. In 1888 a brick schoolhouse of two rooms was built at the cost of $3,422.41.

 

The next important school building was erected in 1889 at the corner of Linden Street and Robbins Avenue, and cost $43,102.04. The growth of the town in that quarter rapidly outstripped all the calculations of the school authorities, and the scanty school accommodations were over crowded. The rooms available were in the Union Street building and the large one on Francis Avenue, both still standing and bearing witness to the notion which governed in Pittsfield not so very long ago as to what constituted proper accommodations for school children. The Union Street building having been placed over a bog, the cellar in wet seasons was liable to be flooded with water and several times was so flooded. The Francis Avenue building had done duty at an earlier day at the center of the village, standing about where the fountain east of the Brown block now is. It was considered a stroke of economy to move at great expense the heavy old building to the spot where it now stands. It was intended for a good building. It was substantially built, but it never was a good school building. The best part of the room in both stories was devoted to entrances, which were spacious, and the schoolrooms were in the center, poorly lighted, with no ventilation, and other appointments to correspond. This Francis Avenue schoolhouse was occupied by the High School after the destruction of the High School building in March, 1876, while the new building was in process of erection.

 

The Linden Street building contained at first thirteen regular schoolrooms, and two recitation rooms, to which two regular schoolrooms were afterwards added, in the third story or attic. It will accommodate 600 pupils, and at one time had a membership of nearly 750. Thru some fault in plan of construction the walls of this building have settled unevenly and the condition of the roof has caused much trouble. Provision should have been made also for admitting more light to the halls.

 

The next building made necessary by the growth of the town was the school at Morningside, which in 1899 was called the William B. Rice School. It was built in 1890 at a cost of $24,031.55, and was thought at the time of its construction to be ample provision for the next twenty or twenty-five years. The second ward, in which it is located, was in 1890 the smallest ward in the city, but the rapid growth of the city in that direction, and especially the location there of the Stanley Electric Works would seem to indicate that in the near future more school room will be needed.

 

In 1892, on account of the unsatisfactory condition of the schoolhouse at Stearnsville, and the need of providing for a considerable number of advanced pupils living inconveniently remote from the center grammar schools, it was determined to erect a new and better building on the old site. This was done at a cost of about $9,500. It contains four regular schoolrooms, and a recitation room has recently been provided at small cost.

 

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 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 l897 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.

 

The following table shows at a glance the additions made to the school property of Pittsfield since 1880, and the cost:

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Great improvement has been made in sanitary conditions. This is due partly to a better understanding of what good sanitary conditions are, and partly to the means at command to secure them. Twenty years ago these conditions were in many cases very hard, but they might easily have been better. Now, they are in many instances hardly subject to adverse criticism. Public education along this line has marked a decided advance, and its benefits have not been confined to our school buildings.

 

The valuation of Pittsfield's school property in 1885, as made by the town's assessors, was $180,000. As made by the city's assessors in 1900, it was $521,850. The valuation of 1885 included furniture, that for 1900 does not.

 

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Pittsfield High School 1898-1931

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Franklin F. Read School

 

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Linden Street School became Tucker School in 1907

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Do you think this is the same building?

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Neither do I.

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Photographs:

Pittsfield Schools

Berkshires Historical Photos

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

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History of  Pittsfield High School buildings will be added.

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