Before 770 Westminster Street

//Before 770 Westminster Street

A Brief History of Classical’s Buildings

Providence High School, 1843

Top right, Providence High School, 1843
Bottom right, Providence High School, 1878

Providence High School, 1878 Floor Plans

Providence High School, 1878 Floor Plans

Classical High School wasn’t always known as such and it wasn’t always on 770 Westminster St. It all started with Providence High School, the very first high school in the city, in 1843. The high school was built by William Tallman and James C. Bucklin on President Street. The total cost of construction was about $12,485 at the time, an equivalent of $403,887 in 2018 US dollars. There were ample discussions prior to 1843 regarding whether or not providing constituents with a high school education was warranted. Some people arguing against the high school cited it as being a tax burden on the city and felt that a high school education was “excessive.” (unconstitutional to tax property for educational purposes). 

However, a graduate of Brown University’s Class of 1812 and future professor at the school, Professor William Giles Goddard used his newspaper, the Rhode Island American, to advocate for a high school education as a solid foundation to anyone’s success, regardless of their future career paths (1). The City of Providence agreed with Goddard and Providence High School opened its doors on on March 20th, 1843.

By 1869, about 26 years after the school first opened, Providence High School was becoming overcrowded and the building was falling to disrepair. In 1873, Superintendent Reverend Daniel Leach addressed the Council and advocated for a newer, more spacious building. Leach testified: 

“The present building is not only too small, but it is ill adapted for a High School. The rooms are much too small. They are badly lighted and without efficient means of ventilation. These evils are so great that they ought not be endured.”

It wasn’t until 1877 that the School Committee secured land for the new school and hired H. G. Macomber and Samuel Porter to build it. The total cost of construction and purchasing of land was about $216,974 at the time, an equivalent of $4,961,753 in 2018 US dollars.  

In 1898, Providence High School on Summer St. became Providence Classical High School.

1969 Providence Classical High School

Westminster St.
1970 – today
See what Classical looks like today

One: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=moa&cc=moa&view=text&rgn=main&idno=ABJ2388.0001.001

Two: http://www.rihs.org/mssinv/Mss214sg4.htm

(photos of CHS: http://brutalism.online/brutalist-buildings/14-usa/263-classical-high-school-providence-rhode-island)

Providence High School (1843 – 1877) Fast Facts

  • Location: President St.
  • Time in existence: From 1843 – 1877 (35 years)
  • First four teachers: Henry Day, Albert Harkness, Esther J. Coburn, and Mary Williams 
  • Student body in 1843: 164 students total; 80 males, 84 females
    • Males & females had separate entrances
  • Subjects taught: arithmetic, algebra, Latin, English grammar, ancient history, medieval history, modern history, and bookkeeping
    • In 1855, the schools split male students into two courses of study: the Classical course and the English and Scientific course 
      • The Classical course was 3 years long until 1874, when it became a 4 year course. The English and Scientific course went from 4 years to 3 years in length sometime in the late 1800s. Both courses are in existence today at Classical
    • In 1872, the first female joined her male peers in the Classical Department, marking the beginning of the co-education of the two sexes in the school’s history. Other female students joined in the following years   

Providence High School (1878 – 1897) Fast Facts

  • Location: Summer, Spring, and Pond Streets 
  • Time in existence: From 1878 – 1897 (19 years)
  • Student body in 1878: 528 students total; 221 males, 307 females  
    • Males enter from Spring St. 
    • Females enter from Summer St. 
    • Teachers enter from Pond St. 
  • Status of building: Demolished 

Providence High School (1897 – ) Fast Facts

  • Location: President St.
  • Time in existence: From 1843 – 1877 (35 years)
  • First four teachers: Henry Day, Albert Harkness, Esther J. Coburn, and Mary Williams 
  • Student body in 1843: 164 students total; 80 males, 84 females
    • Males & females had separate entrances
  • Subjects taught: arithmetic, algebra, Latin, English grammar, ancient history, medieval history, modern history, and bookkeeping
    • In 1855, the schools split male students into two courses of study: the Classical course and the English and Scientific course 
      • The Classical course was 3 years long until 1874, when it became a 4 year course. The English and Scientific course went from 4 years to 3 years in length sometime in the late 1800s. Both courses are in existence today at Classical
    • In 1872, the first female joined her male peers in the Classical Department, marking the beginning of the co-education of the two sexes in the school’s history. Other female students joined in the following years   

Providence High School (1878 – 1897) Fast Facts

  • Location: Summer, Spring, and Pond Streets 
  • Time in existence: From 1878 – 1897 (19 years)
  • Student body in 1878: 528 students total; 221 males, 307 females  
    • Males enter from Spring St. 
    • Females enter from Summer St. 
    • Teachers enter from Pond St.
  •  Student body in 1897: 1,417 students total; 507 males, 910 females 
  • Status of building: Demolished 

builders https://www.brown.edu/Departments/Joukowsky_Institute/about/rihalltransform/6996.html

http://www.rihs.org/assetts/files/publications/1998_May.pdf

By | 2018-06-14T19:29:35+00:00 June 8th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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Leila Chammas '06

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