Boston Preservationists Fight to Save Century-Old Building

Tearing down an old school building to make room for a new one stirs controversy.

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A century-old Boston school building is the subject of major debate in the city’s Roxbury neighborhood. The building, which most recently housed Dearborn Middle School, is scheduled for demolition to make way for Boston’s first new school in over a decade. But neighborhood residents and historical preservationists are fighting to save the original structure, which first opened in the 1913-14 school year as the High School of Practical Arts for Girls.

Carleton Jones, of Boston Public Schools, told WBUR that the original plan was to renovate the school, but when inspections revealed that this was unfeasible, the next plan was to rebuild.

The Massachusetts Historical Committee is asking for further studies and alternative locations for the new school.

“That building is a stable part of this community for more than 100 years,” Barry Gaither, director and curator of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, told WBUR.

The building has housed four schools in its lifetime, one of which was Roxbury High. In 1974, South Boston High and Roxbury High were paired to be integrated through Boston’s infamous busing program. “These moments can’t be removed from memory. In a certain sense tearing them down is ripping them out of the story,” Gaither said. “They belong to a story from which we should be learning.”

“It’s always just been a focal point, where people want directions, you say, ‘you know the school,” everybody knows ‘the school,’” explains a teacher in this pro-preservation video, which urges supporters to email Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

WBUR has a timeline of the building’s history.

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Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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Tags: bostonpublic schoolshistoric preservation

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