New Stuff

A history of the first two Biddeford high schools (as reported in the Journal in 1887)

The first High School was located on the corner of Jefferson and Washington streets (built 1848-9).
The second high school is still in use on Alfred street as the Richard Martin Community Center (built 1887-8).
This article from October 1887 describing the first and second high schools in Biddeford is transcribed in full below.




A Description of the Proposed Building on Alfred Street Together with a Sketch of the Institution, Giving in Brief Its History Since Its Birth.

If time shall continue, and there are no visible indications at the present of a near curtailment, the youth of Biddeford whose eyes are fixed and minds bent upon such an education as the higher grade of the common schools give, will in all probability soon drink from the fountain of knowledge in a new high school building provided by the enterprise and liberality of the citizens and tax payers of school district No. 4.

The plans of the committee into whose hands the erection of the building has been placed point to the completion of the structure within a year from this time, or in time for its occupancy at the opening of the school year in 1888, and if nothing unforeseen occurs in the meantime, the Smith lot on Alfred street, so long vacant, will contain a house devoted to educational purposes that will be a positive addition to the architecture of the city, outshining anything now in existence and comparing most favorable with building of its kind in the state.

That the new high school building will be a decidedly handsome structure can readily be seen by an examination of the cut given in connection with this article, which faithfully reproduces the architectural beauties of the house. This building, which may be considered an absolute certainty, with the usual condition of time and providential blessings taken into account, is the result of years of effort on the part of the progressive element of the district and is secured after many contests and in obedience to the demands of necessity. that it will be appreciated, not only bu those who are to occupy it but by the citizens of the district at large, there can hardly be a doubt.
It is one of the peculiarities of a town of the size of Biddeford that new school buildings are to be had only after heated controversies and the waging of many a war of words, and this building is vouchsafed to us through exactly such trials. But it has been secured at last, for which all classes of citizens who have the welfare of the district and city at heart should be devoutly thankful.

As long ago as 1866 an attempt was made to induce school district No. 4 to build a new high school house, but those who made the attempt met with failure instead of success and instead of a new building, the old one was enlarged and repaired. One or two similar efforts were afterwards made and met with the same fate as the first.

The old building besides, was used only for the education of the residents of the district, and a pupil from outside who desired to avail himself of the advantages of the school, was obliged to come into district No 4 to live. That condition of things existed until 1873, when all of the districts in the city were taken into the privilege of the school, and today the doors of the high school are thrown open to every boy and girl living in Biddeford who is far enough advanced to pursue the prescribed course of studies.

It is the aim of the JOURNAL in publishing the appended article to give a brief historical sketch of the high school from its foundation, with such data and facts that may be of interest to its readers and the graduates of the school. Of course it would be impossible in the space the space that is allotted to give a complete and thorough history, or one that reflects the life of the school from its start, but this sketch is submitted with the knowledge that it is incomplete in detail and that there are thousands of facts that might be obtained through extended research and the consumption of much time that has not been available to the writer.

In the preparation of a historical sketch of the Biddeford high school, however brief and superficial it may be, one is confronted by many obstacles and encounters disappointments and perplexities that fail to show themselves upon the surface and such a one is entitled to consideration for all shortcomings that may appear in his work.

There are no records of the school prior to 1861 in existence, those that were made, if any were, having been lost years ago, so that a blank of upwards of ten years occurs and an important and what would form an interesting link in the chain is wanting. This break was the most annoying obstruction that the writer of this article met with and on its account the sketch, which at the outset was hoped would form a complete, although condensed history of the school from its foundation must of a necessity be disconnected and lacking in parts. Having no records of the school in its earlier days the writer was forced to seek the aid of the very few in town who attended the school in its infancy and while they cheerfully and willingly furnished what information they could call up after the lapse of time, they were forced to confess that their memories were defective with regard to the events and occurrences of those days, and thus another obstacle presented itself. However, a little was gathered here and a little there and from the whole considerable interesting matter was obtained, which, even if it is not positively new, will furnish entertainment for the readers of the JOURNAL, especially those who years ago, before their heads were touched with silver and care had furrowed their brows, climbed the rugged path in search of the fountain head of knowledge.

Among the records of school district No. 4 dated April 3rd, 1848, appears a petition made to Edmund Perkins, Horace Bacon and Otis Holmes as school agents of the district, and signed by Samuel W. Luques, G.W. Nichols, Geo. W. Warren and Ebenezer Wentworth, for a school meeting to be called to see if the district will build a school house on a lot of land in the center of the district and owned by the latter. The meeting was held April 12th, and the district voted to build, and in that year, 1848, the erection of the high school building was begun. The district held another meeting June 20, 1849, when it was voted to borrow $2,000 to complete the erection of the building, buy a bell, the one now in use. Samuel W Luques acted as moderator at both these meetings.

The school agents that held offices during the first year succeeding the completion of the high school building were Thos. Quimby, now deceased, Samuel Pilsbury and James Andrew, and a committee composed of Richard M. Chapman, Erastus Hayes and Thomas H. Cole, all of whom have since died, was in existence at that time to classify scholars and transfer them from school to school. That is the duty that now devolves upon the supervisor.

For several years only those living within the bounds of district No. 4 were entitled to the privileges of the high school, but in 1852 the district voted to allow one member of each family living in the other districts of the town to attend, and finally the doors were thrown wide open for any and all children in town competent to take up a high school course.

The Washington street building was completed and the high school opened June 4, 1849. The building then was somewhat smaller than now, being 45 by 60 feet, and cost, with the lot, about $7290. At that time it was one of very few brick building in the town, and was one of the finest structures, too. The brick-pile that the present generation looks upon with feelings approaching contempt, was considered by even the most fastidious of thirty-five years ago a model of architecture. In every line and corner some beauty was to be seen, and to it the finger of pride was pointed for the benefit of the stranger who chanced to visit the town.

For many years the school occupied but two rooms in addition to a cloak room, one of which was the principal’s room and the other his assistant’s. Finally, in 1868 an addition was built upon the south end, which has since been occupied by the two assistants. The furnishings of the rooms, so far as the seats were concerned, were better than in the majority of schools of that day, and the seats that were then in use now do service at the grammar school on Summer street.

The rooms were heated by big wood stoves, and many of those who are living, who attended the high school in its early career, will recall the chill that ran races up and down their backs upon the cold winter morning before the heat had made itself felt in all parts of the room, owing to the negligence of the boy whose duty it was to “tend” the fires. The boys in those days took turns at building the fires, and also assisted the girls in sweeping the rooms.

It was also the prescribed duty of the boys to ring the bell, and there are doubtless some who can recollect their first experience with the rope, how, being novices in the art of ringing, they were dragged from their feet by the fast receding rope and fell to the floor an instant afterward to examine with painful surprise their blistered hands. But the bell ringer then was an object of envy, and each boy took his turn with joyful alacrity.

When the high school building was completed there were comparatively few houses in the vicinity, and the land about was but little shore of a quagmire.

Washington street in certain seasons of the year was a bed of deep and soft clay and one of the lady pupils told the writer that she was accustomed to make a rather perilous journey along the fence tops in going to and from school to avoid losing her rubbers. These were the days when educations were got with many trials and even hardships.

The first principal of the school was William R. Vaill, whom the school agents secured in Massachusetts, and when he mounted his platform on the morning of June 4, 1848, he encountered the curious gaze of twenty-three pairs of eyes, if the history of York county can be relied upon, although one who was there is authority for the statement that there were between fifty and sixty pupils in attendance upon the opening day. Mr. Vaill, a little, peculiar man with shining black eyes, was not popular with his scholars and he was soon “Invited” to tender his resignation, which he did and Richard M. Chapman held sway until Nov 5, of that year, when Horace Piper, now of Washington, took the principalship and remained until Sept. 5, 1859. Mr. Piper was an excellent teacher, although as a disciplinarian he may have been open to criticism, and there are a great many living today who look back with pleasure upon the years they spent under his instruction.

Since Mr. Vaill’s time the school has had the following teachers: Horace Piper, Edward A. Rand, Chase P. Parsons, Frank A. Hill, Edward Parker Jr., Usher W. Cutts, Joseph W. Keene, Moses R. Chase, Anson L. Keyes, O.M. Lord, Wm. O. Fletcher, Samuel K. Hitchings, M.C. Smart, principals; Miss Nancy N. Shaw, Miss Maria C. gray, Miss C. Isabel Symonds, Miss Artemissa Morton, Miss Marilla J. Butler, Miss J.A. Thompson, Miss A.C. Waterman, Miss Mary E. Gordon, Loren F. Berry, Miss Annie E. Stearns, Miss Susan E. Porter, Miss S. Augusta Burbank, Miss Annie M. Davis, Miss Susan F. Deering, Miss Olive Moulton, Fred M. Fling, Harry H. Burnham, assistants.
For several years there was no such thing as a regular graduation exercise, but at the end of the school year the school agents went into the school, examined those who had completed the course and they were sent out into the world with not so much as a scrap of paper to signify that they had fought the good fight, as it were, and were fitted to grapple with the stern realities without the confines of the high school.

The writer of this article conversed with one gentleman who said he attended the school five successive years and was then dismissed by the agents, fitted for college, but unequipped with a “sheepskin.”

The first regular graduation occurred in 1852 and in the class that received diplomas there were but three, all of whom were girls and were Miss Elizabeth L. P. Adams, now Mrs. James G. Garland, of this city; Miss Amanda Littlefield, now Mrs. George H. Pillsbury, of Brooklyn, NY, and Miss Violetta Littlefield, sister of Gilman P. Littlefield, of this city, who died soon after graduating. The first named was the only one that pursued the classical course. the graduating exercises that year were held in Central hall, which occupied the site of the present City building and was burned, and in addition to the essays of the graduates the program embraced a dialogue written by Mrs. Garland.

The diplomas awarded in those days were rather curious looking affairs about a foot long and eight inches wide and read as follows
This certifies that — — has successfully completed the English Classical and the Classical course of study, pursued in Biddeford High School, and embracing the following branches, viz: English Grammar, Arithmetic, Bookkeeping, Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, Algebra, Geometry, Astronomy, Physiology, Botany, Surveying, Rhetoric, Universal History, Mental Philosophy, Moral Philosophy, Evidences of Christianity, the French, Latin and Greek Languages.
In witness whereof the Principal of the School and the School Committee have set their hands to this Diploma this twentieth day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand, eight hundred and fifty-two.
Frederick Robie.
John L. Sinclair. . . Horace Piper,
Luke Hill. . seal . Principal.
School Committee . .

The Frederick Robie whose name appears on the diploma as a member of the committee, is the Ex-Gov. Robie of the present , and he was at that time a practicing physician and apothecary in Biddeford. He was deeply interested in the schools and with R.M. Chapman and Thomas Quimby did much to make them successful. Mr. Chapman, by the way, was in reality the father of the high school.
In those days the schools of Biddeford were noted as being the most thorough to be found in this section of Maine, while the school houses in town were considered models of their kind, and that the above was so was due in great measure to the efforts of the gentlemen mentioned above and a few others.

By a comparison of the studies given in the diploma and what are now pursued in the school it will be seen that not so great a radical change has been made in the intervening years as one might suppose. Then as now a pupil was required to devote himself to his books in order to attain even the average, and diplomas were not won without much hard work and a considerable burning of the midnight oil.
In 1852, the year that the first graduation took place there were seventy pupils in the school, the following year ninety-three, 1855 there were in eighty-eight and in 1858 eighty-four. The whole number registered in 1879 was one hundred and thirteen, after which there was a considerable falling off for years.

Three years ago the names of eighty pupils were enrolled upon the books of the school. That was when Supervisor Gould assumed management, but there was a healthy increase the next year and the next and today there are about 150 pupils registered. This improvement cannot be reckoned in the light of chance but it is largely owing to the efficient and painstaking work of the supervisor. All told, the high school has graduated about twelve hundred and sixty pupils, many of whom have attained positions of eminence in one direction and another and today the school is represented in every section of this country, while most of its graduates are to be found temporarily residing abroad. As has already been stated there were but three who composed the first graduating class and up to 1861, when six graduated, thirty-three were given diplomas.

The following is as complete a list of the graduates as could be obtained owing to the fact that there are no existing records back of 1861.

Between 1848 and 1861 – Elizabeth L P Adams, Abby A Allen, Henrietta Berry, Ann Burnham, Frances Chapman, Alma Everett, Lucy E Gould, Adelaide Haseltine, Harriet Hill, Catherine Lanphar, Maria Lanphar, Abby Littlefield, Artemissa Morton, Maria Morton, Rosanna Roberts, Susan Odell, Lois Tuck, Caroline Tuck, Maria Gray, William Berry, Frank Hill, Edward N Packard, Wm Wirt Piper, Horace L Piper, Hannah Hanson, Elizabeth Hill, Henry Quinby, Charlotte Bedell, Adelaide Whittier, Lucius Clark, Dorcas Perkins, Violetta Littlefield, Amanda Littlefield, Olevia F Cowan.
1861 – Usher W Cutts, George M Harmon, Melvin J Hill, J Alvah Locke, George T Packard, Marcia Whittier.
1862 – Annie E Griffin, Clara A Partridge, R Augusta Hill, Ella T Smith, Abbie Odell, Clara A Goodwin, Hattie J Hill, Olive C Seavey.
1863 – Sarah D Hubbard, Lorana Hill, John B Edgerly, Rosa A Boyden, Fannie B Lombard.
1864 – Edward H Gove, Horace Hill, Mahal E Gould, Mary J Haines, Nellie M Haseltine, Annie G Littlefield, Mary Cora Osgood, John Berry, George E Hatch, Lizzie S Cowan, Mary E Hamlin, Wilbur G Andrews, Inez D Parker, Sophia Tarbox.
1865 – Margie S Brackett, Meda B Boothby, Lizza A Brackett, Angie S Wiggin, Charles W Hill, Grenville M Hanson, Mary E Demerrit, Callie T Pike, Louise W Johnston, Hampton E Hill, Horace Hill.
1866 – Fannie E priet, Hattie W Brackett, Annie L Smith, Julia H Gove, Lizzie N Jordan, Virgie A Waterhouse, Nellie J Moore.
1867 – Sarah A locke, Sophia L Jordan, Phebe E Gould, Abbie P Haines, Bert Hooper.
1868 – Ora Andrews, Ada E Brackett, Kate T Hooper, Lelia F Kendall, Sarah M Odell, Lucy M Tufts, Francis J Goodwin, Edwin F Small, Frances M Goodwin, Mary M Tarbox, Hattie Stacy.
1869 – Loren F berry, Clarence M Pierce, Joseph E Brooks, Radcliffe H Ford, Royal E Gould, Ella I Adams, Nellie L Edgcomb, Marry Ella Fogg, Esther E Hogan, Lucretia M Meeds, L Estelle Morris, Marcia A Shaw, Ansel L Jelleson, Lucius H Kendall, Lilla C Gould, Laura E Knight, Ella H Jordan.
1870 – James R Freeman, Ira S Locke, George L Mason, Fannie Fairfield, Clemmie M Kendrick, Luetta O Meeds, Arabella P Morris, Sarah P Tufts, Annie B Buker, Lilla J Deering, Francena C Dennett, Ella S Dudley, Hattie I Fogg, Mary Swain, Annie M Weymouth.
1871 – Roscoe G Blanchard, Collins G Burnham, Ellen Dresser, Mary F Gould, Annette Hill, Dora A Randall, Ella F Bickford, Carrie B Gilbert, Alice J Gove, Viotel Hodsdon, Nellei F Harmon, Georgiana Munroe.
1872 – Mary F Plummer, Fannie Cowan, Mary Boynton, Connie Littlefield, Luella Roberts, Eunice York, Hattie Lunt, Abbie Ricker, Carrie Sherman, Hannah Smith, Cora Smith, Ellen Goodwin, Laura Taylor, Ella Ayer, Vesta J W Berry.
1873 – John Cowan, Frank W Roberts, Fred McKenney, Hattie Tufts, Ida SMith, Ida Porter, Flora Page, Lillie Quimby, Eldena Elden, Elmer Pierce, Wilbur Locke, Ida Libby.
1874 – Emily Morris, Annie Randall, Ida Hanson, Eliza Gooch.
1875 – Oscar G McIntryre, Hattie Burbank, William S Thompson, Mary A Bradbury, Mary I Goodwin, Fannie M Hackett, Lizzie E Lord, Hattie E McKenney, Hattie B Tarbox, Lizzie Tarbox, Ida A Watson.
1876 – Charles S Dennett, Walter E Perkins, Belle Bickford, Carrie M Brackett, Emma J Davis, Ella Dawley, Lizzie Hill, Daniel J Jelleson, Mary McEachron, Nellie F Newcomb, Wilbru F Rumery, George O E Smith, Frank Verrill.
1877 – Herbert W Ayer, Alma Brawn, Fred Buker, Ada R Smith, Baron S Hobbs, Charles Walker, Frank L Watson.
1878 – Nara A Dolliff, Abbie H Fairfield, Laura E Foss, Mary B Freeman, Grace W Hill, Gertrude E Libby, Annie W Lord, Jennie Tibbetts, Willie Tibbetts, L Pitt Andres, Arthur E Morris, Daniel L Knowlton.
1879 – Alma E Davis, Alice Greenough, Carrie Pilsbury, Nellie Rumery, Ella Small, Maude Newcomb, Clara Smith, Hattie Staples, Cora Staples, Jos Tripp.
1880 – Walter W Carter, Cornelius Horrigan, Frederic Ricker, Olivia G Berry, H Isabelle Cushman, Hattie F Chick, Helen M Emerson, Mary H Hill, Emma Hatch, Minnie S Ingersoll, Mary E Kelley, Fannie F Lincoln, Cora E Morton, Carrie B McKenney, George Staple, Ida E Sutherland.
1881 – Edwin C Blackstone, Eben[?] Green, Edwin I Thompson, Bertha Littlefield, Lillia A Staples, Sally P Cole, Hattie W Tucker, Susie E Welch, Annie R Day, Mary E Banks, Emma Buker.
1882 – Harry H Burnham, Carles H McKenney, Frederic Mason, Hattie I Meeds, Bessie E Morris, Clara E Lunt, M Capitolla Lunt, Angie P Newcomb, Nellie G Chadwick, Minnie W Fairfield, Ida E Woodman, Sadie C Littlefield.
1883 – Annie B Chadbourne, Tavia Goddwin, Alice I Huff, Virginai B Hill, Sophie I Leavitt, Martha F Simpson.
1884 – Alice M Foss, Emma L Bragdon, Charles M Lunt, A Estelle Read, Ella B York, Elroy H Mitchell, A E Burnahm, Mattie J Lunt, Lizzie H Foss, Eddie Sullivan, Emma Pillsbury, Blance Newcomb, Susie F Bacon, Eugenie E Cook, Levi H Webber, Roselita M Staples, W H Bryant, Albion M Smith, George Emery, Harry F Milliken, Winnie E Squires, Ellen B Gordon.
1885 – Fannie E Holt, Maud C Buker, Linnie B Emery, Edgar E Small, Mary F Campbell, Genevieve Clark, Angie E Lord, Benj F Cleaves, Daniel Guiney, Lila J Mosher, Grace Deering, Annie F Morris, Emma Smith, Michael K Murnane, Ida F Newcomb, Ella F Moody, Betta L Foss, Mary E York, Leone Homes, Herbert A Tarr, Hattie E Warren, Luther W Day, Alice C Goodwin, Angie F Morton, Charles K Osgood, Ida F Carter, Ross M Donnell, Isabell H Sawyer.
1886 – Gilbert R Littlefield, Lizzie B Bonser, Luella E Foote, Minnie F Mason, Josephine W Fairfield, Frank F Banks, Minnie N Burns, Hattie L Foss, Walter I Watson, Margie P Helleson, Geo C Fogg, Lillian F Page, Angnes S Tarbox, S P McKenney Jr, Myra M Fairfield, Hattie Gooch, David W Monahon, Alice S Thompson, Adelbert B Shehan, Ralph W E Milliken, Eva P Waterhouse, Nellie F Snow, Rosie E Blood.
1887 – Sam T Emery, Mollie E Lewis, Lilite E York, Nellie M Smith, Samuel W Lunt, Jennie W Smith, Nellie M Hanscom, Grace Hill, Mary S Boston, John Kelley, Annie E Morrill, Nellie M Lord, Georgia I Sawyer.

In the early days of the high school the school agents and committees were elected from the most prominent and best qualified men in the town, and the long list of those who served on such committees embrace the names of those who were a power in their time. A great deal of care was invariable exercised in making the selection and as a result the school was always ably managed and thus enables to make a steady progress in the right direction that attracted to it the attention and praise of the surrounding towns. It is a lamentable fact however, that the complete record of the school was not preserved, and that the list of agents, committees and supervisors is sadly incomplete.

It was sometime in January last that Supervisor Gould, appreciating the disadvantages at which the pupils in the high school pursued their studies and having become assured from a careful examination that the opening of the next year would find the accommodations of the rooms disproportionate to the number of pupils, broached the oft-discussed subject of a new building to take the place of the structure on Washington street to the school board at one of its meetings. There was not a member of the board who did not feel the need of better quarters for the high school as well as that such quarters were the absolute necessity of a few years at the furthest, but each one considered it a matter, perhaps, that should first be brought up in the form of a recommendation by the supervisor, and it remained for him to make the suggestion and take the initial step in the agitation of the subject.

At the meeting above referred to Supervisor Gould laid before the board the facts that he had gleaned concerning the numerical strength of the higher classes in the grammar schools and the probable number that each would graduate and send to the high school at the commencement of another year, together with the poor accommodations the high school rooms offered in the way of light and ventilation for the successful pursuit of study, and the result was that the school board became easily convinced that the time was ripe for the district to make a decided move and to erect a building in accordance with the requirements that should last for years and fulfill its mission as long as the present generation at least, might feel the need of an educational institution of that character.

At that meeting, however no action was taken with regard to the matter, but what was said touching the subject was of a purely informal nature and had no immediate effect. But the seed took root then and there and at each succeeding meeting the project was more or less discussed. In this way matters went along until the school board held its monthly meeting for June, on the 6th, when the idea was very thoroughly talked up. In fact, but little else was taken under consideration. The board saw that something must be done to make room for the increased number of pupils that would constitute the high school the coming year and it decided to take the matter in hand without delay.

It was suggested that the present building could be repaired and thus the difficulty that had shown itself might be over come fro a time, but after careful deliberation, during which the subject was looked at in its every phase, it was concluded that it would be better and cheaper in the end to erect a new high school building than to repair the old.

Estimates were given showing that the cost of putting a new roof onto the present structure and making the other alterations necessary would reach between $6000 and $7000, and this being considered inadvisable on the score of economy, the board decided and so voted upon the petition of about thirty citizens to call a meeting of school district No 4, to be held sometime during the moth, and to recommend that a new high school house be built at once. A call was issued and the first meeting was held in the city council rooms in the City building on the evening of June 22d. It was decided at that meeting with scarcely a dozen dissenting votes to erect a building, but its location and the other details, required meeting after meeting and brought out numerous acrimonious discussions and sharp debates.

As the readers of the JOURNAL already know the meetings were continued through the summer and eight in all were held before it became a settled fact that the district would sanction what was imperatively necessary. The proceeding of these meetings are still fresh in the minds of the majority of the residents of Biddeford and vivid recollections are held of the stormy scenes that occurred at the most of them. It was such a summer as the district had never before passed through and in the meetings the true inwardness of factional heat and fierce contention was brought visibly to the surface.

At the meeting of June 22, Hon. John M. Goodwin being chosen moderator and Dr. Thomas Haley clerk, the needs of a new high school building were shown, and those who asked the question were told that if the district decided to build the structure on Washington street could be utilized for an evening and mixed school, the latter being one of the growing necessities of the town.

It was finally voted to erect a new building and after a committee consisting of Orrin H. Staples, Dr. C. E. Hussey, J. R. Libby, Edwin Stone and Supervisor Royal E. Gould had been raised to look up lots an adjournment was taken until the following Wednesday night. That meeting lasted about an hour and was a comparatively tame affair as subsequent events showed.

The meeting of June 29 was rather more exciting due to the report of the committee mentioned above recommending that the district pay Mrs. William P. Haines $10,000 for a lot in rear of the Second Congregational church upon which to build. This fell like a bombshell, especially among those who were opposed to building anyway, and in the speeches that were made denunciatory of the report the words economy and extravagance were probably more frequently used than at any meeting since the world began to see the need of school houses.

The next meeting was held July 6, in City hall, the city council rooms being far too small to admit all who sought to attend, either from a personal interest in the district or out of idle curiosity and a desire for amusement, and then the trouble began in real earnest. Was it a lively gathering? Ask anyone who was there. Did those who took part in the discussions allow their feelings to run away with them? Brush up your recollection, you who read the reports published at the time. Were there any warm debates? That can be answered in five words, -there were and they were singeing. The first thing the meeting did was to table the report of the committee, but this was not accomplished without a mighty effort and a considerable expenditure of time and then the advisability of buying a lot on Union street owned by James G. Brackett, as well as one on Birch street was discussed amid much excitement. Finally the meeting became tired, raised a committee to select and report prices of lots, which was made up of William Hill, John N. Anthoine, Benj F Day, William F. Libby, James H Fogg, Levi W Stone and Joseph H Dearborn and adjourned until the evening of the 11th.

At the meeting the committee made its report and gave the names of six lots that could be had. First, the Brackett lot on Union street, for $3,000, second, the Haines lot on Birch street, for $2,000, third, the Smith lot on Union street, familiarly known as the “old circus lots,” for $6,500; fourth, the John M Goodwin lot on Birch street at the corner of Prospect, for $6,000, including buildings, fifth, the residence of N.W. Kendall on Hill street, for $4,000, and sixth, five acres of land down on the Pool road extending near West brook, which the owner, George K Gibbs offered to donate. A vote was taken upon a motion to accept the Brackett lot and nearly two-thirds of the entire number present voted in the affirmative, but the opponents of the lot called up a legal stumbling block, and inaugurated a reign of confusion in which matters were conducted pretty much after the fashion of a bedlam in the midst of a tumult of voices and when angry discussion had reached its height Moderator Goodwin declared an adjournment for one week.

On the evening of the 13th, the largest meeting that the district ever held and right here it may be stated that it was one of the most orderly and decorous of the summer series, filled the floor and gallery of City hall and without any friction or opposition of any kind went to work and voted to build upon the Smith lot on Alfred street, paying not more than $6,000 for the piece of land. It also voted to raise $10,000 by a vote of the district to be taken up in five annual payments, to empower the committee of seven which has been mentioned to procure plans for a building and act as a building committee.

The next meeting was held on the evening of August 1, but nothing of the slightest importance was done as the City council had voted a few nights before to abolish the school districts in the city and the meeting was at a loss to know what to do in the matter of raising the money with which to enable the building committee to go on with its work. The peculiarity of the situation was talked over at some length and then the well worn refuge of an adjournment was again brought to the front.

The district met once more on the following Thursday night and held the shortest meeting of the summer season. All it did in the way of business was to satisfy itself that the action of the City council in voting to abolish the school districts was illegal owning to the fact that one member of the council at least, had not been notified of the meeting, as the law requires. This bit of news carried relief to many a troubled breast and a two weeks’ adjournment was voted with an apparent great relish.

ON the 18th the district held its last meeting and the turn affairs took occasioned as much surprise as lightning would in coming from a clear sky. The building committee reported that plans for a new high school house had been submitted by several architects and that those of H. G. Wadlin, of Boston, had been selected and submitted to the superintending school committee for approval. Then came the surprise in the shape of a motion to the effect that the building committee then in office be discharged and that a committee of three consisting of Levi W. Stone, Joseph H. Dearborn and William F. Libby be appointed in tis place. The motion was carried as there were not enough of the faction that placed the committee of seven in office present to stem the tide and stave off the result, and then the district adjourned without day [sic].

The above constitutes in brief the history of the agitation that has led up to the present strong probability of a new high school building. The school board voted to approve of the Wadlin plans, which have been subjected to some slight altercations and the school house will be erected in accordance with them.

At a recent meeting of the school board Orrin H. Staples, Edgar R. Clark and Tristram Hanson were elected a committee to confer with the building committee of the district, and together, the two are working in harmony to attain a common end, and to give the city of Biddeford a high school building that shall be commensurate with the present needs, an ornament to the place and a structure that may be pointed out to the chance visitor from abroad by our citizens.

Only one of the contracts has thus far been awarded and that to Charles H. Bragdon & Son, for furnishing the rough foundation. But two bids were submitted and as the firm of Bragdon & Son’s was the lowest, $2,090.50, it received the contract. According to Architect Wadlin’s plans, the building has three entrances, one from each side street for pupils and a front entrance in the center on Alfred street. These entrances are connected by corridors permitting a free circulation of air throughout the building, thus materially aiding in the ventilation of the school rooms in connection with large pivoted transom lights over the doors of the latter. The pupils’ entrances are located at right angles to the main axis of the principal corridor, thus preventing a direct draught when the doors are opened. All entrance doors open outwardly into recessed vestibules.

Four school rooms are provided, two amply accommodating 60 pupils each, and two 40 pupils each. Entering the front of the building a private office fro the principal is found at the right and, which communicates with the principal’s class room, and has private toilet room conveniences attached. On the opposite side of the corridor is an assistant’s toilet room and a flight of stairs leading directly to the platform of the hall in the second story. A good sized clothes room for each sex is located near the pupils’ entrances. The clothes rooms contain running water, but water closets, except those for the use of teachers, are provided in the basement and not upon the school room floor. The library is centrally located, and so arranged as the be directly entered from each of the two large class rooms as well as from the corridor.

The second story contains the assembly hall into which pupils may file from the stairways upon each side. The platform staircase from the teachers’ room below has already been referred to. A platform ante room is arranged, also an ante room from the entry uon each side of the hall for use in connection therewith. There are also toilet rooms in connection with the corridor upon each side, having direct outside air and light. The chemical laboratory and a gymnasium are located in the rear of the assembly hall and there are apparatus and chemical storerooms adjacent.

The basement contains water closets for pupils, large play or exercise rooms, boiler and fuel rooms, and a workroom for the janitor.
The lighting and ventilation of the rooms is carefully studied. The main light for the school rooms is from the left, with additional elevated windows at the rear so disposed as to avoid cross lights and shadows, and evenly distribute the light. The scheme of ventilation is connected with the heating, which is chiefly by indirect steam, fresh air properly warmed being introduced into the rooms, and foul air extracted by means of large extraction ducts at the floor level, all of which are carried to an annular ventilating shaft surrounding the boiler flue, the upward current in the shaft being accelerated by coils of steam pipes within it. Ventilating registers are also provided at the ceiling level, for use in summer or whenever it is desirable rapidly to change the temperature of a room.

The building is to be of brick with granite dressings. The interior finish is shellacked and varnished. The walls of the school rooms are to be tinted to overcome unpleasant reflection of light. The character of the exterior appears in the perspective view. The building will not be elaborate in ornamentation, but depends for its architectural effect upon such an arrangement of parts as most completely expresses the plan.

From the Biddeford Daily Journal, Tuesday evening, October 11, 1887. Page 3, cols. 2-7.

Washington street grammar school, circa 1955.

While the Alfred street building still stands, the first high school on Washington and Jefferson streets (later used as a grammar school and then a storage facility) was demolished in July 1967 after much debate.

Demolition of the Washington street school. From the Biddeford-Saco Journal, July 1, 1967, page 2.

The site of the city’s first high school is now a parking lot with a “pocket park”; it is also a stop in Biddeford’s Museum in the Streets.