Old School

18Nov10

Franklin School - Wakefield, MAThe town is preparing to accept bids from developers that will determine the future of the Franklin School, and if things go as expected, another of a generation of nine schools that the town built around the turn of the 20th century will enter a new phase in its long existence.

Little Red Schoolhouse

Prior to 1880, most children in Wakefield, Massachusetts were educated in one-room schoolhouses. There was one in each geographical “ward” of the town. Only one of these schools built in the 1840s remains – the West Ward School on Prospect Street, which was recently reborn as the Wakefield History Museum. At one time, there was also such a schoolhouse on Franklin Street. Town reports of the time refer to it as the “Franklin Street School.” The red brick Franklin School on Nahant Street was built after this little school on Franklin Street could no longer accommodate the growing school population on the East Side.

The Franklin School is a member of an elite class of nine red brick school buildings that the town built over a period of 40 years, from 1883 to 1923. Nine new schools in 40 years is a construction rate that modern school committees can only dream of. And to think it was all done without a Prop. 2½ override!
Lincoln School building
But built they were, starting with the Hamilton School (1883), followed nine years later by the Lincoln School (1892). In 1897, the town entered a five-year period during which four new grammar schools were built: the Warren and the Greenwood (1897); the Hurd School (1899); and the Franklin in 1902. A much younger sibling in this generation of red brick elementary schools, the Montrose School, came along 16 years later in 1918, followed in 1920 by the Woodville School. Two years after that, in 1922, the town built a new High School on Main Street, on the present site of the parking lot between the Galvin School and the Americal Civic Center.
Hurd School - Wakefield, MA
The first of this generation of red brick schools was the Hamilton. Located at the corner of Albion and Lake streets, it was torn down in the 1950s to provide parking for the employees of the Transitron semiconductor firm.

The 1923 High School on Main Street (also known as the Atwell Building) was destroyed by fire in 1971.
Woodville School
The 1920 Woodville School was torn down and replaced by the new Woodville School, built in 2002 and opened in 2003.

The Montrose School property on Lowell Street was sold to Symes Development, LLC in 2007. The school building was razed and an 11-home subdivision now sits on the site.
Montrose School - Wakefield, MA
Five of those nine red brick school buildings survive in some form today: the Lincoln, the Warren, the Greenwood, the Hurd and the Franklin.

In 2009, the town leased the Hurd School building on Cordis St. to a group that formed in the wake of the closing of Our Lady of Nazareth Academy on Winship Drive. The group has continued to operate the school as a private Catholic secondary school for girls, albeit under a slightly different name – Nazareth Academy.

Warren SchoolThe Warren School is now the John J. McCarthy Senior Center and the Lincoln School building serves as senior housing.

Only one – my alma mater, the Greenwood School – still serves as a public educational institution. We all remember the names of our grammar school teachers, and I can still recite the names of my first six teachers at the Greenwood School: Miss Remick, Miss Strout, Miss Hayden, Mrs. Brown, Miss Brawley and Miss Moody.
Greenwood School - Wakefield, Massachusetts
And I well remember spending recess with Jimmy Bolton and the late Tommy Allard, reciting lines from the Three Stooges. The playground behind the Greenwood School was also the site of my greatest athletic triumph. In the 6th grade, I astounded classmates and roving elementary Phys. Ed. Teacher Bob Reen with my standing broad jump of 6 feet – a Wakefield grammar school record.

Unfortunately, my record was short lived. When Mr. Reen returned to the Greenwood School the following week, he informed me that some kid at the Woodville School had jumped 6 feet 1 inch. I have always suspected that the lunch milk at the Woodville was laced with performance enhancing drugs.
Greenwood School
Surviving Franklin School alumni certainly have similar fond memories of their own school. There’s something to be said for preserving the brick and mortar too. Let’s hope that whatever its future role, the Franklin School building continues to stand at the corner of Nahant and Traverse streets for many years to come.

[This column originally appeared in the November 18, 2010 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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