Thursday, January 14, 2010

Springfield's Technical High School

In 1905, the population of Springfield was 73,484, an increase of well over 10,000 souls from the 62,059 recorded just five years before. As the city grew, the demand for classroom space grew as well. Between 1888 and 1904, citizens invested over one million dollars in educational infrastructure; Forest Park, Chestnut and Williams Street Schools included in these expenditures. Central (Classical) High School on State Street opened in 1898, expanding from smaller quarters; and in 1905, the Technical High School moved from rented space in the Springfield Industrial Institute at Winchester Park into a state-of-the-art campus on Elliot Street, captured in the following images.

Technical High School as drawn by the building architects, local father and son team, Eugene and George Gardner, prior to its construction. The Gardners were also involved in the design of the city's Myrtle and Washington Street Schools, the state sanatorium at Westfield (now Western Mass. Hospital) and the Wilkinson & Wright Blocks on the corner of Main and Worthington Streets in Springfield. This image is scanned from the book, Springfield Present & Prospective, published in 1905 by Pond & Campbell Co.

This grainy photograph, circa 1900-1910, is from the Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection at the Library of Congress. Affectionately known as "Tech," or "Tech High" to alumni, the school closed in 1986, combining with the also-shuttered Classical High School to form the 'new' Central High School, located on Roosevelt Avenue.

City schools were held in high-esteem and well-promoted by local citizens, including citizen businesses such as the Third National Bank, which included this image of Technical High School in its book Views and Facts of Springfield, Mass., The Magnet City, published in conjunction with George S. Graves in 1910. City industry and commerce depended on a well-equipped and competent class of independent thinkers to support its steady technological and financial progress at the turn of the 20th century. An outstanding public school system provided an able workforce whose exacting standards and strong work-ethic resulted in advancements and achievements that resonate throughout the world to this day.

Another image of Technical High School, circa 1910, this one captured from the View Book of Springfield, Mass., published in that year by the well-known and sorely-missed Johnson's Bookstore. Today, the building to the right in the photograph is gone and a parking lot has replaced the snow-spotted lawn in the foreground.

Found in the Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection at the Library of Congress, this image was snapped between 1905 and 1915. At 238 feet long by 214 feet wide, and with a capacity of 900 students, the Technical High School was the largest devoted to the industrial arts in New England at the time of its dedication in 1905.

An early 1900s postcard of Technical High School. No stranger to educational experiments - indeed, laying claim to the distinction of being the first city in the state to appoint a superintendent of schools (in 1865, after a failed attempt in 1840) - Springfield initially began offering technical training to its grammar school students in 1886. Ten years later, in 1896, manual training for city students was reorganized into a four-year course offered at Central (Classical) High School. The success of the city's efforts in the dissemination of practical knowledge blossomed into the Mechanic Arts High School, spun-off as a separate entity of Central in 1898, using rented space for teaching facilities. Mechanic Arts was renamed Technical High School in May, 1904, not long before moving into its new home on Elliot Street.

This linen postcard printed between 1930-1945 features the Spring Street side of Technical High School. Although this rear section of the building was razed some time ago, Governor Deval Patrick's announcement in early 2009 of the decision to build a second state data center at the location and the planned Spring, 2010, groundbreaking for the $110 million facility - which will fuse the Elliot Street facade with a high-tech, modern annex - promises new life for the 2+ acre lot and continues the onward progression of the improvement of Springfield's State Street corridor championed by Congressman Richard E. Neal, himself a 1967 graduate of Technical High School.

Springfield Technical High School, Elliot Street, January 9, 2010. Waiting to rise from a long sleep, the exterior of the nearly 80,000 square-foot building appears structurally sound to the casual observer.

"Drawing Room, Technical High School, Springfield, Mass."

This and the following six images were culled from the book, Art Education in the Public Schools of the United States, A Symposium Prepared Under the Auspices of the American Committee of the Third International Congress for the Development of Drawing and Art Teaching; London, August, 1908; edited by James Parton Haney and published by American Art Annual in New York. Original captions from the book are in quotes.

"Architectural Drawing, Fourth Year, Technical High School, Springfield, Mass."

It's not surprising that Technical High School students' work would be featured prominently in a discourse on how to instruct in the arts properly. Springfield's school system was admired by educators far and wide and had gained a well-deserved international reputation for high achievement around the turn of the 20th century. This excerpt, authored by William Orr from the 1905 book, Springfield Present and Prospective, illustrates that point:

"Tribute to the excellence of Springfield's school system is given in the attention her schools have received from students of education. In 1902, commissioners from New South Wales, officially delegated by their government to examine the school systems of the world, spent two days in Springfield, and in their report gave high praise to what they saw in this city. Many foreign delegates to the educational congress at St. Louis in 1904 made it a point of inspecting the schools of Springfield on their way home. Most significant was the visit of Dr. Paul Albrecht, minister of public instruction for Alsace-Lorraine, who made a special study of methods of teaching ancient and modern languages, a field in which Germans are supposed to be masters.

These visits were due in part to the impression made by the exhibition of the Springfield school as the exposition at Chicago in 1893, Buffalo in 1900, and finally at St. Louis in 1904. At the St. Louis fair three gold medals were awarded, one for elementary education in arithmetic, one for evening trades classes, and one for secondary education."

"Japanese Screens, High School, Springfield, Mass."

"Stencil Work, First Year (Girls), Technical High School, Springfield, Mass."

Females attended Technical High School, a new development in a system that previously denied them an education in the industrial arts. In another passage from Springfield Present and Prospective, William Orr, author of the book's second chapter, Educational Institutions, makes the case for co-ed "practical training" upon the inauguration of the new school:

"The new building will furnish facilities not only for more effective training along lines which are followed at present, but it will afford an opportunity for the development of many other lines of technical training which are much to be desired. On general principles there is no reason why the advantages of a technical high school should be offered exclusively to boys, as has hitherto been the practice in Springfield. The general policy of the school is to connect the education of youth during the high-school period with the practical life of the times, without sacrificing a strong academic course in all the essentials. Girls need this practical training during the secondary school period as well as boys. In view of the direct influence upon the home life, the teaching of home economics and domestic arts to girls in a practical way is of the greatest importance. Many of the industrial arts also offer to young women greater opportunities every year. In several cities where schools of this type have been carried on, girls were admitted from the first. In this respect Springfield is behind other cities; but with the opening of the new building for the Technical high school it need not long remain in that position."

"Raffia Baskets, First Year (Girls), Technical High School, Springfield, Mass."

"Pottery, High School, Springfield, Mass."

"Pierced Leather and Metal, High School, Springfield, Mass."

When it was built in 1905, Technical High School boasted its own forge shop and foundry along with rooms of machine shops and woodworking tools, such as joiners and wood-lathes. Mechanical drawing, electrical and plumbing trades were also represented in the well-rounded curriculum and campus facilities. The top floor of the main building consisted mostly of classrooms for physics and chemistry. Large windows provided light and ventilation and a 125 hp DC generator served as power plant for the school's electricity needs.

Edges crisp and clean against a blue January sky, Springfield's Technical High School patiently awaits the return to public service. The 115,000 square foot data center slated to be built on the site will be operational in May, 2012, if all goes as planned.

Four words etched in Indiana limestone welcomed and said farewell to thousands of Springfield students over the years. Through these portals passed poets and priests, artists and engineers, sisters, brothers, fathers and mothers...a legion educated to create a world improved. 'Tis fortunate the memory in stone is saved.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

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