Thursday, March 21, 2013

Southwick on Worcester Classical and English High School

...when Worcester took the revolutionary step of making high school co-ed:
The Latin Grammar School, where John Adams once taught, had always been exclusively for boys. Worcester girls who aspired to higher education were given special classes in the Centre District School near Lincoln Square, and that school has sometimes been noted as the first public high school for girls in Massachusetts. There were also a number of private female seminaries available in the area, such as the well-known Mulberry Grove Boarding School in Leicester, run by sisters Eliza and Sarah Earle. Eli Thayer’s Oread Institute for female higher education opened later on Castle Street. But coeducation at the high school level was a novel idea in 1844, and the debate apparently became animated at times. 
Mr. Southwick goes on to cite the influence of Dr. Woodward, who more or less settled the issue by letting it be known he was in favor. Before he did, however, one of the "town fathers" (in a story I found in the Worcester Historical Museum files; not, alas, online!) said that he doubted the gentling influence of girls on the boys: when he had last passed the girls' school, he had been pelted by students with snowballs!
The second building for Worcester High School, built, as Mr. Southwick relates, on Walnut Street after the old building was outgrown, was a Victorian masterpiece. Designed by H.H. Richardson, and built by the Norcross Brothers, it had a central clock tower and was a city landmark until, after years of poor funding for maintenance, it was knocked down in 1966 for the building of then Paul Revere Insurance Company's new building. Of it, the New England Home Journal of 1883 said:
It stands as the stimulus of many hundreds of our youth in all the lower schools...

That's Worcester Classical and English High School (eventually Commerce) on the left and English High School (eventually Classical; now the Durkin Administration Building) on the right.

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