Huntington Avenue the Fenway, Boston
The First and Only Building Built for GLS
The outcry for a new building reached a fever pitch and the school committee decided it was time to act. On November 11, 1902, the Committee on High Schools ordered that the Board of Commissioners, “purchase a site and erect a building for Girls’ Latin, at the earliest possible date.” This order was expanded to include within the same complex the Normal School and a new grammar school.
Finally, John Tetlow and the alumnae of the school persevered in getting the school committee to appropriate the funds to build a new home for the school. The new building for Girls’ Latin School was ready for the beginning of the 1907 school year. The Girls’ Latin and Normal School group was completed at a cost of $978,181.The two acre plus lot (113,181 square feet) fronted on Evans Way and Huntington Avenue, was bounded by Tetlow Street on the north (named in honor of its head master), Longwood Avenue on the south and Worthington on the west (later this was renamed Palace Road).
Three architectural firms had collaborated on the design of the building; Peabody & Stearns, Coolidge, Carlson and Maginnis and Walsh & Sullivan. The general contractor was George. A. Fuller Company; selected by lowest bid. A significant portion of the site was gravel filled land of six to fourteen feet and required a reinforced concrete pad on piles. The testing of the concrete became a construction issue, but was satisfactorily resolved. The costs overruns for the project were a result primarily of changing the “Model” school building from a grammar school to a high school during construction.
The buildings were red brick with terra cotta and limestone trim and included all the latest advances in electricity and heating. Although the electric light bulb had been invented in 1879, new completely electric buildings were still somewhat of a novelty. For the first time, the school had working telephones with service provided by New England Telephone and Telegraph Company and other new “telephonic services” including switchboard, desk telephones, clocks and bells.
Four buildings framed an inner courtyard. Girls’ Latin’s north side building could accommodate up to 600 students, Normal School on the south 350 pupils. The High School of Commerce occupied the “Collins Building” on the west in October of 1907 and had seventeen classrooms. A common building on the east held the gymnasium, lunchroom and lockers. Girls’ Latin had 22 classrooms, one assembly hall, principal and teachers’ offices, library, and two physics and botany laboratories. Mr. Tetlow had also instructed that over the main entrance, in a rectangle of terra cotta guarded by a strong eagle, be inscribed the words, “Let Thy Life Be Sincere”. Translated to Latin, “Vita Sincera Sit” it became the school motto.
Over the door leading to the courtyard were inscribed the words in Latin, “Here is an open field for talent; appreciative recognition is assured to the deserving; diligent application is honored with due rewards.”
School started on September 11, 1907 although construction continued with final finishes and general cleaning. Books, blackboards and desks were in place, but not enough chairs were ordered, and some girls were forced to carry their chairs from class room to class room.
The average classroom was much smaller, and held approximately 56 desks. New features had been introduced like “battery blackboards” that provided more than one surface of natural slate and slid up and down like windows; wall maps and wall charts. The new chemistry and botany labs also had soapstone sinks and hoods to remove odors.
In 1922, Boston Latin School relocated from Warren Avenue to a new Boston Latin School on Avenue Louis Pasteur. Constructed at a cost of $950,000, the building was dedicated on May 18, 1923. The rear yards of Boston Latin and Girls’ Latin were separated only by a street named Palace Road. The school grounds were visible to each other from the upper floors of each building.
Girls’ Latin School expanded from approximately 421 students in 1907 to over 1,200 students in 1955within the Huntington Avenue building.
In 1924, The Normal School became The Teachers College of the City of Boston. The Massachusetts Board of Education took over the responsibility of operating this teacher’s college to provide financial relief to the City of Boston. In return, the City of Boston agreed to deed the entire Huntington Avenue Building including the Girls’ Latin School buildings and the park area in front to the State.
On August 12, 1952, Girls’ Latin School’s building was transferred to the state for $1.00; approved by the Mayor John B. Hynes and 4/5ths of school committee. Teachers College of the City of Boston became the State Teachers College at Boston. The State Board of Education entered into a “Use Permit” with the City of Boston so that GLS could rent the property for classes until June 30, 1953 with the understanding that by 1955, “that some provision would be made for the housing of the school in other school property in the City of Boston”. In January of 1955, the School Committee asked the State to extend the “Use Permit” but they refused despite the protests of prominent citizens and vigorous efforts by the alumnae.
On Friday June 24, 1955 the final day of classes was held at the building.
In 1983, The Massachusetts College of Art took over the Girls’ Latin School and Normal School buildings and began a program of renovation and new construction. The original entrance to Girls’ Latin was altered to allow the construction of a new thirteen story Tower Building; however, Girls’ Latin School Building remains intact behind the Tower. The assembly hall was recently renamed The Pozen Center.