Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Maynard Schools History

Calvin Coolidge School was built as one story building
in 1906, second story and peaked roof added in 1910.  

Surprisingly, the two oldest school buildings – predating the creation of Maynard – are still with us. In the spelling of the era, the goals were to "teach children to rede and wright and cast accounts". Sudbury appears to have voted in 1779 to build a one-room schoolhouse for the northwest district, in 1871 moving that building farther north to what is now the intersection of Routes 27 and 117, where it served as Maynard’s “Turnpike School” until 1881. No longer a school, moved again in 1884 to corner of Concord and Acton streets – a distance of one mile – where it abides as a private home. On the Stow side of the Assabet River, District No. 5 had a school constructed in 1766: the “Brick School.” This was on Summer Street, hence became a Maynard school in 1871. It was closed the following year, auctioned for a sale price of $105, remained in place as part of the home at 101 Summer Street. Two other schools also pre-dated Maynard. One two-room building at the site of present-day Town Hall served until the town decided to replace it with its first multi-room brick school at the same site. The other, the first school on Nason Street, was lower grades, then first high school, then lower grades again.

At the time of the incorporation of Maynard in 1871, the new town was served by ten teachers working in four small school buildings. Salaries were in the range of $9-15/week. The high school was a two-room wooden building on Nason Street. Enrollment was 35 students. Six years later the high school classes relocated to a new two-room school on Acton Street, across from the east end of Main Street, leaving the Nason building to revert to elementary school.

Coolidge School when it was one-story Bancroft School
The year 1892 saw a consolidation of Main, Nason, Acton and Sudbury schools into a two-story, twelve-room, wooden building at the Nason Street site, on the same stone foundation that is now the first floor of the Maynard Public Library. For a time, this was Maynard’s only school building, serving all grades. The high school graduating class of 1892 chose orange and black as the school colors. Mr. E. Elmer Galger, principal and acting superintendent, was paid a salary of $1061.40 per year. At that time, state law required that a child shall go to school twenty weeks in each year until 14 years old (changed to 16 years old in 1913). Not until 1898 did state law prohibit children under 14 year of age doing factory work.

Big changes to Maynard impacted the school system. The mill went bankrupt in 1898, then purchased and reopened in 1899 by the American Woolen Company. Expansion added the very large Building No. 5 on the south side of the millpond in 1902. The workforce grew, as did the town’s population: from 3,142 in 1900 to 6,390 in 1910. The population explosion of school-age children, especially in the Presidential Village housing development of 1901-03, led to the construction of new, brick-constructed schools at the Main Street site (1903) and on Bancroft Street (1906). The first was renamed Woodrow Wilson School in 1932. The second had a second floor of four more classrooms added in 1910 and was renamed Calvin Coolidge School in 1932.        

Nason Street School after the 1916 fire. Stone arch at bottom
is now the entrance to Maynard Public Library.
September 20, 1916, a nighttime fire brought an end to the Nason Street School. This was attributed to arson, as there had been a less damaging fire at the school just a week earlier. All that was left standing were the two brick chimneys. For a disaster, the timing was good. Three years earlier the town had voted to build a new high school, the site later chosen on Summer Street. The two-story brick building – currently the east wing of ArtSpace, was built at a cost of $61,500 and occupied October 2, 1916. This was the high school through 1964. A new, brick, elementary school was constructed at Nason Street, atop the foundation of the fire site. It opened fall of 1918, named Roosevelt School 1919. It served as a school through 1988, stood empty almost 20 years, resurrected as the Maynard Public Library, July 2006.

Meanwhile, back on Summer Street, the Town of Maynard, in its wisdom, decide to redirect a stream that flowed next to the high school into an underground storm sewer and build a junior high school, auditorium and gymnasium atop it (probably contributes to why ArtSpace is flood prone). The junior high opened January 1926, named Emerson Junior High School in 1932.  After the high school moved to its new south-side campus in 1964, half the building became Fowler Elementary School and the whole complex became known as Emerson-Fowler School. In time, the junior high school took over the entire building as Fowler Middle School, remaining as such until the end of 2000.

Wilson School, Main Street, Maynard. Click to enlarge.
Courtesy Maynard Historical Society
Meanwhile, back on Main Street, Wilson School was closed in 1942 because the school population had decreased dramatically, reopened in 1948 when the post-war baby boom started to arrive, and then was destroyed when a pre-dawn fire on December 17, 1952 left only the scorched brick exterior standing. This left Coolidge and Roosevelt as elementary schools.
The next phase for the Maynard school system was to create three schools adjacent to each other, on the south side of Route 117, each to have adequate parking and adjacent fields for physical education classes. Green Meadow School was first. Land was taken from Crowe Park. The school opened for the 1956-57 school year. Coolidge was kept on until 1981. A major addition to Green Meadow was approved in 1986, completed for the beginning of the 1988-89 year, which led to the closing of Roosevelt in 1988. “Maynard High School” was completed in 1964 at a cost of $1,700,000. Fowler Middle School (leave the old building, keep the name) opened in 2000. And then, in 2013, the fifth Maynard High School was replaced by the sixth Maynard High School, at a cost of $42,500,000. Note that over the years, two schools were completely destroyed by fire (Nason 1916, Wilson 1952) and three were significantly damaged (Nason 1879, high school 1992, Emerson-Fowler 1978).       
Sign at the 1964-2013 high school.
Photo taken just before demolished.

Entering its 150th year, Maynard has two public schools under 25 years old and part of one (Green Meadow) approaching 75 years. The student population, which had peaked in the “baby-boom” years at 2,106 students in 1971, long-since declined back to the mid-teens. WAVM (FM 91.7) had its first broadcast on April 22, 1974. Near 50 years later, about 100 students from MHS and Fowler are active at WAVM and its cable TV and YouTube channels.

In 1965, Saint Bridget’s Parish had opened Saint Bridget’s Parochial School in a brick building on Percival Street, in a filled-in section of the mill pond. The school was staffed by Sisters of Notre Dame, who had a modest convent near-by. The building is now home to The Imago School, a private school offering a Christian faith-based education for grades prekindergarten through eighth grade.


SCHOOL                                YEARS                                   FATE
Brick School (Stow)               1766-1872                               Exists
Turnpike School (Sudbury)    1800-1881                               Exists
Main St.                                  1857-1892; 1894-1902           Moved
Nason St. (HS#1)                    1864-1891 (HS 1871-1877)    Fire/Moved
Acton St. (HS#2)                    1877-1892                               Moved
Sudbury St. (Garfield)            1881-1892                               Condos
Nason St. (HS#3)                    1892-1916                               Fire (total loss)
Main St. (Wilson)                    1903-1942; 1948-1952           Fire (total loss)
Bancroft (Coolidge)                1906-1981                               Empty
Summer St. (HS#4)                1916-1964                               ArtSpace
Nason St. (Roosevelt)             1918-1988                               Library
Summer St. (JHS#1)               1926-2000                               ArtSpace
MHS (HS#5)                           1964-2013                               Fire/Demolished
Summer St. (Fowler)              1965-2000                               Fire/ArtSpace
MHS (HS#6)                           2013-present                           Current
Green Meadow                       1956 & 1988-present               Current
Fowler (JHS#2)                      2000-present                            Current

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Depression Era Programs: Maynard, MA

During the depths of the multi-year Great Depression the federal government’s role in America grew more than in any era before. About thirty-two new government agencies were created. While many of the agencies formed have been abolished or replaced by another, some agencies still stand today. "The six years from 1933 through 1938 marked a greater upheaval in American institutions than in any similar period in our history."

Maynard was lucky in that neither of the local banks – Assabet Institution for Savings and Maynard Trust Company – failed. The town’s annual reports provide a description of how the worsening depression overwhelmed local efforts, and then how federal programs provided support. From the 1931 Report of the Public Welfare Board: “Nineteen Hundred Thirty-One has been a sad year for most of the people of Maynard…We sincerely hope the worst has passed and that we will never see as poor a year again.” [Ha.] Town programs included Mothers Aid Cases, Old Age Assistance and Temporary Aid. More of the same the next year, with able-bodied men on aid doing street and sidewalk work. The wool and gunpowder mills loaned land to be used for municipal gardens, providing both fresh vegetables, potatoes and beans. A canning operation was started.

Group of women on the steps of Coolidge School, WPA program, 1935.
Sadly, no mention of who is in the photo. From Maynard Historical Society.
The federal agencies most active in Maynard were the Emergency Relief Administration (ERA, 1932), which became the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA, 1993), to be replaced by the Works Progress Administration (WPA, 1935). Also active locally was the Civil Works Administration (CWA 1933). The CWA put able-bodied men and women on payroll. The ERA paid one-third costs of people on local welfare, also providing free food, coal and firewood for people in need. 

By 1934 some 100-175 residents of Maynard were on ERA or CWA payrolls. Labor went to sidewalks, storm drains and improvements at Crowe Park. The municipal gardens program continued. This was also the year that the woolen mill, operating at only 20% capacity, auctioned off 236 pieces of property – mostly single-family homes, but also business buildings and rooming houses. The average for single family homes was under $1,000. All properties were sold. Terms were 10 percent at bid, 15 percent at closing, buyers offered three-year mortgages on the remaining amount at 6 percent interest. The following year’s support continued to include Federal Surplus food and clothing. The Works Progress Administration implemented a Sewing Project that employed 30 women. The gardens canning project put up 30,000 cans of vegetables, helping support Maynard and neighboring towns.

1936 saw the start-up of the Social Security Act, which helped provide for the elderly. The Sewing Project, operating out of Roosevelt School, made dresses, shirts, pajamas, bedsheets, etc. More of the same for 1937, but toward the end of 1938 there began a trend of people finding private employment. WPA hires diminished by half. Some of the work in this and following years was first clearing and then planting hundreds of trees to replace all the damage wrought by the 1938 hurricane. The town’s annual report for 1941 mentioned that the woolen mill was operating at full capacity, filling military orders for blankets and wool cloth for coats. The Sewing Project was ended. The number of general relief cases was the lowest it had been since 1929.

Depression era Field House at Alumni Park, Maynard, MA. Building
still exists. Courtesy of Maynard Historical Society. Click to enlarge.
A website called “The Living New Deal” lists Depression-era projects by town. Many of there were routine construction or maintenance, but a few were interesting additions to Maynard’s ambiance (sadly, so many now lost). Under routine; painting, windows repair, etc. at schools, the poor farm and fire house, also streets, sidewalks, water mains and storm sewers. Under additions: The Mill Street bridge was rebuilt in 1937. Glenwood Cemetery gained an iron fence and the new section was created, and the northeast corner of Routes 27 and 117 was converted from a swamp to an ice-skating pond with an island in the middle and a pond in the middle of the island. (This since reverted to swamp/bog.) Crowe Park was upgraded in 1935. A fieldstone bandstand was constructed in Crowe Park in 1939, in disrepair and torn down in the 1990s. Fieldstone construction also graced the gates and fieldhouse at Alumni Field (still standing) and a ‘comfort station’ (public rest room) behind Memorial Park, removed to create a parking lot.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Woolen Mill: Booms and Busts

Factory towns go through boom and bust cycles. Maynard was no exception. The woolen mill operations that dominated the town for over 100 years began in 1846 under Amory Maynard and William Knight, in a single wooden building, 100x50 feet, producing wool yarn and carpet in 1847, incorporated as “Assabet Manufacturing Co.” in 1849. The simple [read: oft-repeated] story is that the mill failed in 1857, a consequence of the Panic of 1857, restarted in 1862. The truth appears more complex. Shortly after incorporation, Knight sold his mill and water rights interests to Maynard, the majority of the sale price of $50,000 as a mortgage. Knight – who had never relocated from Framingham to Assabet Village, and later in life resided at Beacon Hill, Boston – continued to own significant other land and buildings. Mill operations did stop in 1857, but Amory retained full ownership.   

Lorenzo Maynard was different
in appearance from his father and
brother, in that he was bald. He
had five children, but no living
In 1861 the mill failed. The judge of the probate court directed the assignees to sell Mr. Maynard's mill estate, in conjunction with William H. Knight the mortgagee. On October 14, the property was sold to George H. Preston for $71,000. The deed was signed October 26, 1861. T. Quincy Browne, one of the assignees of the Maynard estate, purchased on November 30, 1861, Mr. Knight's other land, buildings, etc., in Stow, Sudbury and Marlboro for $75,000.

On September 10, 1862, the Assabet Manufacturing Co was re-incorporated with a capital of $200,000 for the purpose of manufacturing cotton, wool, flax and silk in the towns of Stow and Sudbury. The officers of the corporation were Thomas A. Goddard, President, T. Quincy Browne, Treasurer, and Amory Maynard, Agent. September 30, 1862, T. Quincy Browne sold the property he purchased from William H. Knight to the Assabet Manufacturing Co. for $100,000 (a 33% profit). The net effect here was that William Knight was completely bought out and the business reincorporated a year later with Amory Maynard as a minority owner. The manufacture of French flannels and dress goods was substituted for carpets. Amory owned 20% of the shares. “Agent” was akin to what we now think of as Chief Operating Officer. Lorenzo Maynard, Amory’s son, was second in command as Superintendent. Separate from the mill, Amory owned extensive property in Assabet Village. A&L Maynard (a company named after Amory and Lorenzo) was created as a land-holding and construction company, building commercial buildings, boarding houses and homes.

Aerial view drawing dated 1922. The three largest buildings
were added by the American Woolen Company. Click on
images to enlarge. Courtesy of Maynard Historical Society.
The impetus for starting up again in 1862 was in part to meet Union Army demands for blankets and other woolen goods [some histories say cloth for uniforms] for the Civil War. The first brick building was erected about 1862. This was a structure 170x50 feet, six stories high, constructed over the original wooden building so that manufacturing continued uninterrupted. In 1866 a building 124x70 feet, four stories high, was erected, and in 1868 another 157x50 feet, four stories high.

In 1898 the mill complex, still operating under the name Assabet Manufacturing Company, Amory’s son Lorenza as Agent, failed again. Not entirely Lorenzo’s fault. In 1894 the federal government has ended protective tariffs on wool cloth entering the country as part of the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act. Dozens of U.S. wool mills went under. The Dingley Act of 1897 restored the protective tariff – too late for Maynard.  In 1899 the American Woolen Company, a huge multi-state operation, bought the mill on the cheap. Over time AWC added the three large buildings facing the mill pond. The last required the pond be drained from 1916-18.

The partially drained mill pond in winter, with people walking on the ice. The
steeple of St. Bridget's Catholic Church is to the far right. Left side shows a
flume (large pipe) that brought water to the mill for wool processing. The
supporting trestle was left in place when the pond was refilled. 
Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, labor unrest periodically closed the mill for short periods of time. In 1903 it was for a raise from $10.44 per week ($5/hour in 2020 inflation-adjusted dollars). In 1914, workers went on strike for a shortening of the 54-hour work week.

The Great Depression put everyone on short work weeks, then closed the mill entirely in 1931. Production slowly recovered during the latter half of the 1930s, then for World War II was operating around-the-clock, seven days a week, on military contracts for blankets and cloth for winter coats. After the war it limped on until 1950. The American Woolen Company did have government supply contracts for the Korean War, but it assigned those to other factories. After the final closing of the woolen mill, Maynard was quiet to the point that kids could play hopscotch on Main Street.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

WWII Land Seizure

This is about WWII land seizure in Maynard, MA. This site on federal eminent domain mentions 20 million acres seized nationwide during WWII:

A bit more than one-fifth of Maynard was seized by the Federal Government via eminent domain in the spring of 1942. Residents were given as little as ten days to vacate their houses and farms. The land – 3,100 acres in Maynard, Sudbury, Hudson and Stow (800 in Maynard) – was taken to create a munitions storage and transfer site. Years after the war, the land was turned over to the “Natick Army Labs” for product field testing, then to the Army’s Fort Devens for training exercises. All this became an Environmental Protection Agency “Superfund” cleanup site before its transformation into a national wildlife refuge.

Children at a scrap metal pile, part of the WWII effort in
Maynard, MA. Site is currently AVIS rent-a-car.
Working backwards in time, the visitor center at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge opened October 2010, which was five years after the 2,230-acre Refuge was opened to the public. There was a five-year preparation period before that, starting when the site was turned over to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 2000. The refuge's specific objectives include the conservation and management of migratory bird species; the restoration of wetland, grassland and forest habitats; and natural resource related education. Public use of the refuge includes wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, hunting, and fishing.

Prior to the release of land from military control it was most recently the Fort Devens-Sudbury Training Annex (1982-2000), before that the United States Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (1958-82), and before that, first the Maynard Ordnance Supply Depot and then the Maynard Ordnance Test Station (1942-58). Fort Devens was involved in 1990 when this was categorized as a “Superfund” cleanup site because of contamination with volatile organic compounds, arsenic, pesticides and other chemicals. Arsenic compounds had been used as herbicides to keep the railroad tracks clear of weeds during the time of munitions storage. Extensive EPA-supervised Army clean-up efforts included removing over 15,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil, removing hundreds of buried 55-gallon metal containers filled with chemical waste, covering a two-acre landfill with a water impermeable cap, and monitoring ground water. Afterwards, as the land and waterways were still too contaminated to allow residential or commercial development, a decision was made to create a wildlife refuge.

Natick Army Labs contributed to the contamination problem during its tenure. Its function is the research and development of food, clothing (including flame-retardant clothing tests), shelters, airdrop systems, and other servicemember support items for the U.S. military. Laboratory waste was buried in a landfill pit.

The initial taking of land in 1942 had been for the creation of a munitions transfer site. Railroad tracks were created from the west, leading to the doors of 50 widely spaced bunkers. Each of the bunkers, officially referred to as “igloos,” has inside dimensions of 81x26x12 feet. Sides and roofs were mounded with dirt for extra protection and disguise. Convoys of trucks would convey munitions to the harbor for ships heading to Europe. Today, from all but the door end, these bunkers resemble small hills, complete with a forest of trees growing on top. After the war, transfer activity stopped, but the Army chose to use the site for munitions testing rather than return land to former owners as had been verbally promised.

Click on images to enlarge
As to those owners, it was March 1942 when surveyors showed up and started the process of expropriating land held by more than 100 land owners, mostly farmland, some of the homesteads dating back to the early 1700s. A Boston Globe newspaper reporter came out and interviewed several of the families. Quotes such as “It’s the least we can do.” and “It’s a small part to play in helping to win the war.” were attributed to displaced homeowners. The reality, gleaned from post-war interviews with some of the same families, was that they were in shock, told they had to get off their land without even knowing how much they might get paid. Their abandoned houses and barns were not used, either immediately demolished or left to decay, torn down later.

When our government takes land through eminent domain, “…it has a constitutional responsibility to justly compensate the property owner for the fair market value of the property.” There were claims that the evicted peoples received ten cents on the dollar for property value. There is no documentation for this. True that people were forced to hurriedly sell or auction furniture, farm equipment and farm animals, much at below true worth, but payments for land may have been closer to market value. One example cited as documenting the unfairness was the Suikko family being paid $5,700 for the 46-acre farm that had purchased 23 years earlier for $6,500. However, this time interval was one of deflation rather than inflation, so the land may have truly been valued at less than when it had been purchased. Payment, even if fair or close to fair, did not mitigate the pain of being forced off one’s land on short notice and without recourse, nor any subsequent opportunity to return after the war.