Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Mystery of the Blueprints

...or how there was more than one Classical High.

Earlier this week, I was in the Facilities office, where they keep the blueprints of all of our schools, and I was asked if I could help clear up a mystery. In the file for the Durkin Administration Building, there were pages and pages of blueprints, and it was clear on going through them that they were of at least two different buildings. What was the story?

I pulled the following together from the research I did last year for the Exam/IB Committee report introduction; the introduction does a Worcester Public School history in a few pages (if you didn't read it, it's online here). All of this information is pulled together from several days of research in the library of the Worcester Historical Museum, which is a marvelous place. Any errors--and I'd be interested if you find any!--are of course mine.

By 1871, the coeducational* Worcester Classical and English High on Walnut Street was running out of space. A new building, designed by H.R. Richardson and built by Norcross Brothers, with a portico and a central clock tower, was built on the property at Walnut Street, Maple Terrace, and Maple Street. Known either by its full name or simply as Worcester High School, this was the public secondary school for Worcester for two decades.
By 1892, due to the growth of secondary ed and new ideas about education, the district decided to split the Classical and English programs into separate schools. A new building, English High School, was built on Irving Street of Greenfield brick with brownstone trim; it cost $100,000 to build and had a 35 foot tall flagpole on the roof of the tower.
The property on Walnut Street thus became know simply as Classical High School.
In 1911, North and South High schools opened at their original locations. As they were running the same program as Classical, there were not as many students enrolled in that program.
So, in 1914, due to changes in enrollment, Classical High moved to Irving Street, where it would stay until it closed in 1966.The English program somewhat merged and evolved; it was a new High School of Commerce that opened in the Walnut Street building, and it would be known as Commerce until it closed in the mid-1960’s, as well.
During the course of the early 1900’s, additions were put onto both buildings. The Walnut Street building had at least two additions: one small wing, and the entire building that still stands on Walnut Street (and says “COMMERCE”) today. The Irving Street building had north and south wings that came down in the 1938 hurricane.
The Walnut Street building--Commerce--was sold to Paul Revere Life Insurance in 1966 and the original building was torn down for their new office building.
The 1892 building on Irving Street today is the Durkin Administration Building. 
*Secondary education went co-ed in Worcester in 1847 and was highly controversial. Fodder for another post!

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