3326 Washington Street, Jamaica Plain
This article is adapted from written materials provided to the Boston Landmarks Commission in February 2019 to support a demolition delay filed for 3326 Washington Street.
Based on preliminary research, there is strong evidence that the current building at 3326 Washington Street was built around 1851, and was the original primary schoolhouse for the Washington Street/Green Street neighborhood of Jamaica Plain in the new town of West Roxbury.
On August 21, 1849, Reuben A. Lamb sold to the City of Roxbury 12,303 square feet of land located at the Dedham Turnpike and Woodside Avenue (Book 189/Page 37). The measurements of the lot described in the deed approximate the current lot for 3326 Washington Street. It is not clear why the City of Roxbury purchased the land. But we do know that the land only remained in Roxbury’s possession until 1851, the year that West Roxbury seceded from Roxbury. At that time, any land that was owned by Roxbury became West Roxbury town property.
The No. 3 Turnpike Primary School
In 1852, the year after West Roxbury (and by extension, Jamaica Plain) seceded from Roxbury, the Town of West Roxbury published its first Annual Report of the School Committee of the Town of West Roxbury. The Annual Report provides us with a description of the primary school at 3326 Washington Street. The school was known that year as “No. 3, on the Turnpike.”
“No 3., on the Turnpike, nearly opposite Green Street, kept by Miss Jordan, has 41 pupils, viz: 20 girls and 21 boys. This house is new, and answers the object for which it was designed. It has two stories, one only of which is occupied, leaving a vacant room, which will, however, soon be wanted for the fast growing population in its vicinity.”
The statement that “this house is new” suggests that the school was built around 1851. This description also remarkably provides us with a location of the building, establishes that it was co-ed institution, and explains why a school with only one teacher was built as a two-story structure. The school had one teacher during the 1851-1852 school year, Sarah J. Jordan, and would continue to operate with one teacher through at least 1872.
The 1852 Annual Report explained that West Roxbury had two grammar schools and seven primary schools, as well as one high school. The other primary schools in West Roxbury were similarly identified by their location:
No. 1, at Village Hall, in Jamaica Plain (on Thomas Street);
No. 2, at Village Hall (on Thomas Street);
No. 4, at Nute’s Corner, opposite the Toll Gate, Railroad Station (at Forest Hills);
No. 5, in lower Canterbury, corner of Bourne Street (near Forest Hills Cemetery);
No. 6, in Upper Canterbury, near Taft’s Tavern (in Roslindale Village); and
No. 7, in Spring Street, near the upper Meeting House (near Dedham).
As explained in the 1860 Annual Report, “The schoolhouses are located with reference to the convenience of the various subdivisions of the town, for Primary School purposes.” Based on the locations of the other schools, it is clear that the No. 3, Turnpike school was the only primary school that served the Washington Street/Green Street area of West Roxbury after the town’s secession from Roxbury.
Maps and atlases show that a school did exist at that site during the 19th century, and remained a public school after West Roxbury was annexed to Boston. Maps of the area from 1858, 1874, and 1884 show a building at the current site of 3326 Washington Street. In 1858, the building is labeled as “School;” in 1874, “Public School;” and in 1884, “School Ho.” Further, an 1861 Norfolk County deed between Bates and Scott, conveying land next to the eventual site of 3326 Washington Street, mentions that the land being sold abuts the “School lot.”
A bird’s eye view map from 1891 shows a detailed drawing of the building that is currently at that site, but does not indicate the use of the building. However, we do know that the building continued to be used as a school until 1892 based on annual City of Boston school reports available at the City Archives.
The building’s architectural style is Italianate, which is one indication that it was built in the mid-19th century. A photo taken in 1985, archived on the website Digital Commonwealth, illustrates what the building looked like prior to the installation of its current vinyl siding. This is possibly how it appeared when the building functioned as a school and later as a dwelling.
A Boston Landmarks Commission survey from the 1980’s provided a description of the architecture of the building. The survey indicated that the framed building was a “rectangular plan Italianate school house, constructed of wood, rises 2-stories to gable with bracketed return eaves and lunette attic window. 2-bay main facade…exhibits two narrow entrance and 2-story octagonal bay. Three windows appear on side wall, contain 6/6 wood sash” and that the “structure is significant as a rare example of a mid 19th century Boston-area primary school…apparently this unpretentious building represents a standard West Roxbury school house type.” The survey went on to explain that the school was presumably constructed for the children of Stony Brook Valley workers – workers employed in places such as tanneries, carriage factories, breweries, and dye houses.
Currently, on the rear side of the building, where vinyl siding has fallen off, a significant portion of the clapboard siding is exposed, as is a part of the eave. This raises the strong possibility that more original architectural details still exist, hidden just behind the modern siding.
West Roxbury Schools
In the 19th century, West Roxbury public schools were divided into grammar and primary schools and were governed by the Town Committee. A high school was also located into the neighborhood – the Eliot School - however, a Board of Trustees oversaw its management, and a dedicated fund provided financing for the institution.
All West Roxbury schools were was co-ed, except for two grammar schools - the Central Grammar School and the Village Hall Grammar School. The student to teacher ratio for primary schools averaged more than 40:1.
Students attended primary school between the ages of 5 and 8, grammar school until the age of 13, and high school until the age of 16. That said, some students would remain in primary school after becoming qualified for grammar school if the school happened to be closer to their home or the child was especially attached to their teacher.
The Turnpike School: 1851-1892
The Turnpike School operated for 41 years, between 1851 and 1892. The name that the school was referred to throughout the decades would change depending on the number of primary schools in town and the evolving name of the road that ran past its front door: No. 3 Turnpike; No. 2 Turnpike; No. 2 Shawmut Avenue; No. 3 Shawmut Avenue; Washington Street School; and Washington Street School, Near Green Street.
Many of the Annual Reports provided commentary on the quality of the Turnpike school and its teachers and pupils:
“This school has been kept by the same teacher, during the entire year; whole number attending thirty-eight; average number twenty-two. Miss Jordan is patient and laborious in the discharge of her duties, and anxious to elevate her school to a high standard; there are some defects here which attention on her part, aided by the councils of judicious friends, can soon rectify. The school has not increased in numbers during the year, and there has been much irregularity in attendance; we trust that this last evil, which has a tendency to lower the standard of the school and over which a teacher has but little control, will be looked after, and amended by the parents, and that they will assist this young teacher by all suitable means.”
“The present number of pupils belonging, is thirty-eight. Average attendance, twenty-nine; there being nine absentees on an average daily. From rather a low standard, this School has been elevated during the year, to a very high degree of excellence. The discipline is good, the recitations spirited, and the scholars are deeply interested in their duties. This is one of our best Primary Schools.”
“The whole numbers of pupils belonging to this School is forty-four. The average attendance has been forty-two. This is a good School. The attendance is regular, and the children are interested and orderly. On the day of examination, the School-room was exceedingly cold, and the children were uncomfortable and shivering. Yet they recited with a degree of promptness and accuracy, not to have been expected under the circumstances.”
“The general appearance of this School is remarkably attractive, and the mutual relation between pupils and teacher pleasant. The lessons are well recited, and a general interest in the performance of their various duties is manifested by the children.”
“The Turnpike School, in order and general appearance, is not equal to some others, nevertheless it gives general satisfaction. The pupils are mostly very intelligent and ready to learn. The higher classes read understandably, and all the recitations, though sometimes a little slow, are good. The government is mild, and the scholars are evidently happy.”
The Official Report of the Town of West Roxbury, For the Year 1865-1866 indicated that the school was located on 12,303 square feet of land; approximately the same sized lot of the land on which the building sits today.
That year’s Report also highlighted Miss Jordan, who had recently resigned: “Primary No. 2, was under the charge of Miss Sarah J. Jordan a period of fourteen years, until her resignation last spring.” This statement implies that the schoolhouse had been in existence since at least 1851.
The 1866 report goes into detail about the overcrowding issues of schools in West Roxbury. The author attributed this to the early age at which children were admitted into school by statute. An abundance of very young students resulted in teachers spending time tending to the physical needs of the “infant element which ought to be under maternal care,” which, in turn, led to a lower quality of education. For this reason, thirty of the youngest students from primary schools No. 2 and 10 (No. 10 being located on Shawmut Avenue, Near Dedham) were moved to a new Sub-Primary school, No. 13, located in a “portion of the upper part of the Engine House in Shawmut Avenue.” The report noted that this move resulted in an improvement in quality to both schools No. 2 and 10.
In 1867-1868, the school was identified as “No. 3 – Shawmut Avenue.” The teacher that year was Miss E. Augusta Randall, who earned a salary of $450. Ms. Randall would remain a teacher at the school until its closing in 1892.
The Official Reports for these years compliment Ms. Randall’s work:
“Miss E. Augusta Randall, continues in charge of No. 3, working faithfully, and keeping the division on the whole up to a better point of discipline than hitherto characterized it. This room numbers 36,” and that she “seems to have the good will and affection of her pupils, “many of whom need to be trained to greater mental activity.”’
The Official Report in 1871 again highlighted an overcrowding issue at the school.
“Within the past two years, there has been a large growth in that neighborhood, and Primaries Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4 cannot accommodate all the pupils now in those districts. Nos. 3 and 4 are especially crowded, while Nos. 1 and 2 have as many as ought to be there.”
The Manual of the Public Schools of the City of Boston – 1875 was the first school report published after the annexing of West Roxbury to Boston. It indicated that the school was located in the “8th Division” in the “Hillside School District.” The school was identified as the “Washington street” school. It was one of two Primary Schools in the district, along with the “Green street” school. By that year, the school had two teachers- Ms. Randall and Jennie E. Eaton. Each taught a different class, Ms. Randall Class III, and Ms. Eaton, Class IV. Classes I and II were taught at the Green Street primary school.
1876 and 1877
In 1876, all levels of primary school classes were being taught at the Washington Street school – Classes I, II, III, IV, V, and VI. These classes were also taught at the nearby Green Street School. Ms. Randall and Eaton remained the teachers at Washington Street.
In 1880, the school remained in the 8th Division and was referred to as “Washington-Street School, Near Green Street.” Ms. Randall and Ms. Ida H. Adams were the teachers that year. In 1891, Mary A. Riordan instructed with Ms. Randall, and was replaced by Ms. Ellen E. Foster in 1892.
The Manual of the Public Schools of the City of Boston, 1893 was the first city Manual to not list the Washington Street school. As explained below, the school closed the previous year. It is possible that its closure was due to the opening of the Margaret Fuller School nearby on Glen Road.
School becomes a dwelling
On October 28, 1892, the City of Boston sold 3326 Washington Street to Patrick Meehan for $8,200 (Book 2092/Page 9). The deed was signed by Nathan Matthews Jr., Mayor of Boston, on behalf of the City of Boston. This is presumably the year the building began to be used as a dwelling, which would have had one or two rental units.
City of Boston building permits indicate that 3326 Washington Street was used for residential purposes after it ceased to function as a school. A 1924 building permit, filed by the Meehan Estate, indicates that the building was being used a “dwelling.” The Meehan estate sold the property in 1937 to Helena Flanagan. After its sale, it continued to be used as a dwelling. A 1948 building permit, filed by Flanagan, indicates that “2 families” were occupying the building. And a 1953 building permit, filed by Ms. Flanagan states, “This has been a 2-family over 50-years,” implying that the building had a different use in the 19th century.
One clue to the age of the building can be found in a letter from the Boston Building Commissioner to the Chief Inspector of the Construction Division I on November 3, 1953. This letter states, “A petition to the Rent Control Board states that the subject premises is used for 2-family dwelling. This statement is not substantiated by our records.” As explained by Boston Inspectional Services, the city does not have original building permits on file for structures that were constructed in Jamaica Plain prior to 1875 – or prior to West Roxbury’s annexation to Boston. Without an original building permit on file, the city does not have record of the original legal occupancy of a building. Because the City of Boston does not have an original building permit for 3326 Washington Street, or record of its legal occupancy prior to 1953, the building was likely built before 1875. This means that the City of Boston continued to use the same schoolhouse after annexation. It also means that Patrick Meehan used the original schoolhouse as a dwelling rather than tearing down the schoolhouse and building a new structure.
Margaret Fuller School
The timing of the sale of 3326 Washington Street to Patrick Meehan in 1892, and the closing of the schoolhouse, appears to be related to the opening of the Margaret Fuller School. The Margaret Fuller School was built between 1891 and 1892. In April of 1892, the school opened at 25 Glen Road, very close to the site of 3326 Washington Street. A new and larger primary school for the neighborhood would have been necessary at the time since Jamaica Plain’s population increased tenfold between 1850 and 1900. It is interesting to note that once the Washington Street school closed, the two teachers from that school, E. Augusta Randall and Ellen E. Foster, began working as teachers at the Margaret Fuller School.
Dwelling becomes a commercial building
In 1958, the use of the building changed from a two-family dwelling to a glass service business. In 1959, a 1-car repair shop garage was erected next to the building. And in 1973, a 1-story addition was added to the existing building as an enclosed loading platform and storage of glass. Today, the building continues to be used as a commercial glass business, operated by JP Auto Glass. A chiropractic office is also located in the building.
The above details are a preliminary review of the historical records on 3326 Washington Street. The existing structure has historical significance, as it appears to be the original primary schoolhouse for the Washington Street/Green Street area of Jamaica Plain, after secession from Roxbury. Further research could uncover whether it is the only remaining primary schoolhouse that was in operation at that time. Time would also allow for research into the history of the teachers and students that worked at and attended the school.
Annual Reports of the School Committee of the Town of West Roxbury
Boston Inspectional Services
Boston Landmarks Commission Survey
Manuals of the Public Schools of the City of Boston
Norfolk County Registry of Deeds
Suffolk County Registry of Deeds
Prepared by Jenny Nathans, February 2019 (additions in March 2019)