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Full text of "Smith School House: Historic Structure Report--Boston African American National Historical Site"

I 29.88: SM 5 



PUBLIC DOCUMENTS 
DEPOSITORY ITEM 

JAN 1 5 1999 

CLEMSON 
LIBRARY 



THE SMITH SCHOOL HOUSE 




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Boston African American 
National Historical Site 




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Historic Structure Report 



SMITH SCHOOL HOUSE 
HISTORIC STRUCTURE REPORT 



Boston African American 
National Historic Site 

Boston, Massachusetts 



By 

Barbara A. Yocum, Architectural Conservator 

Building Conservation Branch, Cultural Resources Center 

National Park Service, North Atlantic Region 

Boston, Massachusetts 



Written 1990 
Published 1998 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

LYRASIS Members and Sloan Foundation 



http://archive.org/details/smithschoolhouseOOyocu 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

LIST OF FIGURES AND CREDITS viii 

PREFACE xiii 

INTRODUCTION AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS xv 

EDITOR'S NOTE xvi 

I. ADMINISTRATIVE DATA 1 

II. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND 5 

Abiel Smith's Legacy, 1815 7 

The African School, 1808-1834 9 

New School House, 1834-1835 12 

Smith School For Colored Children, 1835-1855 15 

Introduction 15 

Grammar, Primary School, and Other Classes 15 

Physical Appearance, 1835-1848 17 

Remodeling, 1849 19 

Attendance 23 

Teachers 25 

Heat and Ventilation 27 

Use of the Smith Fund 28 

Efforts to Abolish Segregated Schooling 29 

Attainment of Equal School Rights 32 

Integrated School, 1855-1882 33 

City Storage Building, 1882-1886 35 

Use by Veterans Groups, 1887-1984 35 

Architectural and Engineering Study, 1970 37 



in 



Renovations, 1975 39 

Offices, 1984-1990 40 

III. DESCRIPTION OF PHYSICAL EVOLUTION 57 

ORIGINAL APPEARANCE, 1835 59 

Exterior Appearance 59 

General Information 59 

Site 59 

Foundation and Walls 60 

Doorways 60 

Windows 61 

Roof 62 

Cornice and Gutters 62 

Chimneys 63 

Structure 64 

General Information 64 

Walls 64 

Floors 64 

Roof 64 

Interior Appearance 65 

General Information 65 

Cellar Classroom 65 

First Story 67 

Second Story 69 

PERIODS OF ALTERATION 72 

Alterations, 1836-1854 72 

New Closet, 1836 72 

Recitation Platform, 1846 72 

Ventilation, 1847 72 

Remodeling, 1849 73 

Alterations, 1855-1882 76 

Alterations, Circa 1882-1886 76 



IV 



Alterations, 1887-1970 76 

Alterations, 1970-1984 79 

Alterations, 1985-1990 80 

IV. EXISTING CONDITIONS 89 

EXTERIOR ELEMENTS 91 

Introduction 91 

The Site 91 

The Building 92 

Foundation 92 

Walls 92 

Doorways 92 

Windows 93 

Roof 94 

Cornice and Gutters 95 

Chimneys 95 

Signs 95 

Flagpole 96 

Finishes 96 

Protection Equipment 96 

STRUCTURE 106 

Walls 106 

Floors 106 

Roof 106 

INTERIOR ELEMENTS 108 

Cellar 108 

First Story 121 

General Information 121 

Entry and Stairway 121 

Museum Office 121 

Northeast Office 124 



Second Story 137 

General Information 137 

Hall 137 

Toilet Rooms 139 

NPS Office 141 

Storage Room 145 

Attic 156 



UTILITY SYSTEMS 160 

Heating System 160 

Ventilation System 160 

Plumbing System 161 

Electrical System 162 

Protection Systems 162 

Energy Conservation 163 

RECOMMENDATIONS 165 

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS 167 

Recommended Treatment 167 

The Name "Abiel Smith School" 167 

Compliance 167 

EXTERIOR ELEMENTS 168 

Introduction 168 

The Site 168 

The Building 169 



VI 



STRUCTURAL ELEMENTS 174 

INTERIOR ELEMENTS 175 

Introduction 175 

Historic Building Elements 175 

UTILITY SYSTEMS 177 

PROTECTION SYSTEMS 178 

VI. APPENDICES 179 

APPENDIX A. Abiel Smith's Last Will and Testament, 1814 181 

APPENDIX B. Report on the African School, 1833 185 

APPENDIX C. Deed for Purchase of the Smith School House Lot, 1834 .... 189 

APPENDIX D. Address at the Dedication of the Smith School, 1835 195 

APPENDIX E. Specifications for Remodeling the Smith School House, 

1849 205 

APPENDIX F. Mortar Analysis 211 

APPENDIX G. Paint Analysis 213 

APPENDIX H. Wallpaper Analysis 225 

APPENDIX I. Moldings Analysis 227 

IV. BIBLIOGRAPHY 233 



VII 



LIST OF FIGURES AND CREDITS 



1. Portrait of Abiel Smith (1746-1815). This painting was published in Memories 
of a Hundred Years by Edward E. Hale, Vol. II (1902), p. 244, and in Abiel 
Smith and Lydia Otis by Robert Lewis Weis (1923), p. 9. Mr. Weis, who 
was the great-great-great nephew of Abiel Smith and Lydia Otis, notes on 
page 2 of his book that the portrait was in his possession in 1923. He also 
notes that the portrait was painted by Gilbert Stuart (1725-1828) and is listed 
in "The Life and Works of Gilbert Stuart" by George C. Mason, Scribner's, 

1879 42 

2. Engraving of the First Independent Baptist Church (African Meeting House), 
showing the north yard wall of the Smith School House. Published in The 
Boston Almanac, 1843. Courtesy the Society for the Preservation of New 

England Antiquities (neg. no. 12300-B) 43 

3. Watercolor painting of the "Smith School, Belknap Street," circa 1848-49. 
From the collection of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department (G Cab. 

5.2), Boston Public Library 44 

4. Engraving of the "Smith School." Published in The Boston A Imanac, 1849 45 

5. Photograph of the First Independent Baptist Church (African Meeting House) 
circa 1860, showing the north yard wall of the Smith School House in the 
foreground. Photograph by Josiah Johnson Hawes. Courtesy the Society for 

the Preservation of New England Antiquities (neg. no. 12430-B) 46 

6. Plan of the Smith School House and adjacent properties, as surveyed 

May 28, 1875, and August 1, 1876. Records of the Boston City Surveyor's 

Office, Engineering Division, Public Works Department, City of Boston 47 

7. Plan showing the Smith School House, then used as the "City Storage 
Ho[use]," in the Boston Atlas, 1873 corrected to 1882. Fine Arts 

Department, Boston Public Library 48 

8. View of Smith Court and the Smith School House, 1890. Courtesy the 

Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (neg. no. 14858-A) 49 

9. Smith School House: Basement floor plan, 1970. Drawing by Architectural 
Heritage, Stahl Association for the report "Architectural, Historical, And 
Engineering Assessment And Report Of Old State House, Faneuil Hall, 
Dillaway House, Parkman House, 46 School Street For The Public Facilities 
Department, City of Boston," June 1970, page E30 50 

10. Smith School House: First-floor plan, 1970. Drawing by Architectural 

Heritage, Stahl Association for the report cited in figure 9, page E31 51 



vm 



11. Smith School House: Second-floor plan, 1970. Drawing by Architectural 

Heritage, Stahl Association for the report cited in figure 9, page E32 52 

12. Cover page, "Renovation of Old Smith School," October 3, 1975, by Stahl/ 
Bennett, Inc. Reduced copy of original drawing in Public Facilities 

Department, City of Boston 53 

13. Plans, Elevations & Details for the "Renovation of Old Smith School," 
Sheet A-l, October 3, 1975, by Stahl/Bennett, Inc. Reduced copy of 

original drawing in Public Facilities Department, City of Boston 54 

14. Electrical Plans and Legend for the "Renovation of Old Smith School," 
Sheet E-l, October 3, 1975, by Stahl/Bennett, Inc. Reduced copy of 

original drawing in Public Facilities Department, City of Boston 55 

The next nine figures are drawings prepared by J ana Gross of the National Park Service, 1990. 

15. Smith School House: Conjectural cellar plan, 1835 83 

16. Smith School House: Conjectural first-floor plan, 1835 84 

17. Smith School House: Conjectural second-floor plan, 1835 85 

18. Smith School House: Conjectural cellar plan, 1849 86 

19. Smith School House: Conjectural first-floor plan, 1849 87 

20. Smith School House: Conjectural second-floor plan, 1849 88 

21. Smith School House: East elevation, 1990 97 

22. Smith School House: North elevation, 1990 98 

23. Smith School House: West elevation, 1990 99 

All of the following figures are photographs taken by the author in January 1990, except as noted. 

24. Smith School House: East (front) and north elevations 100 

25. Smith School House: East elevation, first story 100 

26. Smith School House: East elevation, doorway transom 101 

27. Smith School House: East elevation, doorway steps 101 

28. Smith School House: North elevation, infill of two former doorways 102 

29. Smith School House: North and west elevations 102 



IX 



30. Smith School House: West elevation, cellar and first story 103 

31. Smith School House: Yard, northeast corner 103 

32. Smith School House: Roof, looking east (February 1990) 104 

33. Smith School House: Roof, looking west (February 1990) 104 

34. Smith School House: Junction of roof with adjacent south building, showing 

flashing line remaining from ca.-1909 roof alteration (February 1990) 105 

35. Smith School House: Section, looking west, 1990. NPS drawing by Jana Gross ... 107 

36. Smith School House: Cellar plan, 1990. NPS drawing by Jana Gross 113 

37. Smith School House: Cellar, meeting room, looking northwest 114 

38. Smith School House: Cellar, meeting room, area behind west counter 114 

39. Smith School House: Cellar, meeting room hall, looking east 115 

40. Smith School House: Cellar, section of original wall, as seen in the later 

north closet of the meeting room 115 

41. Smith School House: Cellar, mechanical room, looking west 116 

42. Smith School House: Cellar, mechanical room, looking southeast 116 

43. Smith School House: Cellar, mechanical room, looking east 117 

44. Smith School House: Cellar, men's anteroom, looking east 118 

45. Smith School House: Cellar, men's anteroom, looking west 118 

46. Smith School House: Cellar, men's room toilet enclosure 119 

47. Smith School House: Cellar, men's room shower 119 

48. Smith School House: Cellar, stairway to the first story 120 

49. Smith School House: First-floor plan, 1990. NPS drawing by Jana Gross 130 

50. Smith School House: First story, entry, looking east 131 

51. Smith School House: First story, entry, looking north 131 

52. Smith School House: First story, entry, looking southwest 132 



53. Smith School House: First story, entry, stairway to the second story 133 

54. Smith School House: First story, entry, stairway to the second story, 

looking south from the second-story hall 133 

55. Smith School House: First story, museum office, looking east 134 

56. Smith School House: First story, museum office, looking south 134 

57. Smith School House: First story, museum office, looking west 135 

58. Smith School House: First story, museum office, looking north 135 

59. Smith School House: First story, northeast office, looking northwest 136 

60. Smith School House: Second-floor plan, 1990. NPS drawing by Jana Gross 148 

61. Smith School House: Second story, looking northwest at hall and stairway 

balustrade from the first-floor entry 149 

62. Smith School House: Second story, women's room off hall 149 

63. Smith School House: Second story, NPS office, looking east 150 

64. Smith School House: Second story, NPS office, looking south 150 

65. Smith School House: Second story, NPS office, looking west . 151 

66. Smith School House: Second story, NPS office, looking north 151 

67. Smith School House: Second story, NPS office, northwest corner, showing 

recitation platform 152 

68. Smith School House: Second story, NPS office, looking west at ceiling 153 

69. Smith School House: Second story, NPS office, ceiling and attic hatch at 

west wall 153 

70. Smith School House: Second story, NPS office, 1835 door reused in 1849 

west- wall doorway to storage room 154 

71. Smith School House: Second story, storage-room side of reused 1835 door 154 

72. Smith School House: Second story, storage room, west-wall closet 155 

73. Smith School House: Second story, storage room, upper south wall 155 



XI 



74. Smith School House: Attic, looking east at king-post scissors truss, 

February 1990 158 

75. Smith School House: Attic, looking northeast at rafters and purlin, 

February 1990 158 

76. Smith School House: Attic, looking up at upper king post, rafters, and 

ridge board, February 1990 159 

77. Smith School House: Attic, looking southeast at roof hatch and ladder, 

February 1990 159 



xn 



PREFACE 



The Smith School and its importance in the history of Boston public education should not be 
forgotten. Many remember the fight to achieve integrated schools in Boston in the 1960s and the 
1970s. Few realize, however, that the same battle had been waged with the School Department and 
the City of Boston more than 100 years earlier. At issue was the Smith School, a public school 
exclusively for black children, that existed from 1835 to 1855. 

My experience in researching the building that housed the Smith School was that few people 
remembered this institution. I was informed at the Boston School Department that the City of Boston 
did not have, nor had it ever had, a school by that name. The problem may be due in part to the 
lack of preservation of the city's historic records. A report entitled State of the City 's Records found 
the conditions in the Boston School Department's Public Facilities Department to be as follows in 
1987: 1 

Archival and other inactive records are stored and arranged under 
completely unsatisfactory conditions that severely inhibit administrative 
retrieval and preclude public access. Historical records that remain in the 
custody of the School Department have suffered steady deterioration from 
unsatisfactory storage practices, harmful environmental conditions and 
improper handling.... Longtime employees of the department assert that a 
considerable amount of historical records was lost during the department's 
move from 15 Beacon Street to its present location [at 26 Court Street] in 
1976. 2 

The search for documentary information on the Smith School House was equally 
discouraging. No original architectural drawings on the building are known to exist. Specifications 
for the remodeling of Boston schoolhouses for the years 1847-69 that were in the School Department 
in 1983 could not be located in 1990. 3 

Editor's note: the city's specifications for the remodeling of the Smith School House 
in 1849 were found in 1997, filed with state records in the basement archives of the 
Massachusetts State House; they have been included in this report as Appendix E. 4 



1 The Public Facilities Department took over the management of the former School Building Department 
in 1966. 

2 Mark J. Duffy, State of the City's Records: A Report on the Status and Condition of the Public Archives 
and Records of the City of Boston (Boston: Municipal Archives and Records Project, Public Facilities 
Department, 1987), pp. 214, 217. 

3 Specifications for Grammar and Primary Schools, 1847-69, two volumes, uncataloged. These volumes 
are listed as item C8 in the Architectural Records in Boston by Nancy Carlson Schrock, 1983. 

4 "Specifications for Alterations and Additions to the Smith School House," Specifications of public 
buildings of which Gridley J.F. Bryant furnished plans and instructions, Vol. 1. 

xiii 



An early plan of the schoolhouse lot that is listed in an early index in the City of Boston Public 
Works Department, Engineering Division, has been removed and lost. 5 Finally, a scrapbook 
entitled Boston Public School for Colored Children that contained newspaper clippings on the Smith 
School from the mid- 19th century was found to have been deaccessioned from the collection of the 
Boston Public Library. 6 

Some information was found, however, in various archives throughout the city. These 
included the Boston City Council Library, the Boston National Historical Park, the Boston Public 
Library, the Bostonian Society Library, the Inspectional Services Department of the City of Boston, 
and the Massachusetts State Archives. That information has been compiled in this report in an 
attempt to document the history of the Smith School House. 



5 City Plans, Volume 1, p. 21 (1866). 

6 The scrapbook is cited in an article by Carleton Mabee dated 1968 and entitled "A Negro Boycott To 
Integrate Boston Schools," in The New England Quarterly. 

xiv 



INTRODUCTION AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 



Architectural research of the schoolhouse commenced in January 1990. Research on the 
written history of the building was pursued by consulting both primary and secondary sources. The 
building itself was also examined in detail, using such tools as mortar analysis, paint analysis, and 
molding profile comparisons. Little destructive investigation was undertaken because that the 
building is now in use as offices. The existing conditions were recorded photographically and in 
architectural drawings. 

The building has become known in recent years as the "Smith School." However, it was 
found in the course of the research that "Smith School" was used historically to refer to the 
educational institution, named for Abiel Smith, that met in the "Smith School House." Therefore, 
the term "Smith School House" will be used in this report. The more modern spelling of 
"schoolhouse" will be used when referring to the building in general. 

The physical evolution of the Smith School House was determined by studying both the 
documented history of the building and the building itself. Analytical techniques were used to help 
identify and date the existing building materials. These included mortar analysis, paint analysis, 
wallpaper analysis, and molding profile studies. Appendices F, G, H, and I of this report contain 
detailed information on the building materials. 

Many people deserve recognition for their assistance in preparing this historic structure report 
on the Smith School House. I wish to thank the staffs of both the National Park Service and the 
Museum of Afro American History for their cooperation during the on-site evaluation of the 
building. Special thanks go to Carter Lowe, NPS Site Manager; Ken Heidelberg, Chief of 
Interpretation; Monica Fairbairn, Museum Director; and Maurice Nobles, Jr., Museum Site 
Manager. Also helpful was Dorothea Powell, former NPS Site Manager, who took the time to talk 
with me from her new home in New Mexico. Paul Weinbaum, Historian for the Boston National 
Historical Park, helped in the historical research on the school. Steve Carlson, Cultural Resources 
Specialist with the Boston Park, also helped pull together the most recent information on the 
building. Bob Fox, Exhibit Specialist with the National Park Service Regional Office, donated his 
time and expertise to evaluate the structural conditions. Jana Gross, Architectural Technician with 
the National Park Service Regional Office, prepared the architectural drawings and the molding 
profiles that illustrate this report. 

The Smith School House was built in 1834-35 by the City of Boston, which still owns it 
today. Research was therefore conducted in various city departments and archives. The names of 
those departments and organizations and the people who assisted me are as follows: Boston 
Athenaeum (Research Librarian); Boston Auditor's Office (Sally Deacon, staffer); Boston City 
Archives (Bill Brown, Assistant Archivist); Boston City Council (Robert Hannah, Researcher); 
Boston Inspectional Services Department (Bill Gurney, staffer); Boston Landmarks Commission 
(Diana Prideux-Brune, Historic District Administrator); Boston Public Facilities Department 
(Elizabeth Cousins and Ian Kerrigan, staffers); Boston Public Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts 
(Mr. Zepp, Librarian); Boston Public Works Department, Engineering Division (William Chaput, 
staffer); Boston School Department, Division of Planning and Engineering (Andy Puleo, staffer); 
and, the Bostonian Society Library (Philip Bergen, Research Librarian). 



xv 



EDITOR'S NOTE 



Since the completion of the historic structure report (HSR) in draft form, the National Park 
Service began a project to complete the restoration and rehabilitation of the African Meeting House; 
to undertake the restoration and adaptive reuse of the Smith School House; and to link the two 
structures with a renovated courtyard. 

The adaptive reuse selected for the Smith School House was determined as follows: 

The historical significance of the building led to a decision that the 
restoration would not be for continued office use but as a multi-use facility 
incorporating permanent and temporary exhibits, the Museum's sales 
facility, and space for educational and interpretive programs and other 
functions. 7 

Archeological investigation of the Smith School House site was undertaken in 1991 by the 
Archeology Branch of the Northeast Cultural Resources Center. The information obtained from this 
work impacted the text of the draft historic structure report in several instances. Consequently, the 
draft text was amended— albeit minimally— during the editing process to reflect the new information. 
A report containing the complete results of archeological investigations at the Smith School House 
will be forthcoming from the Northeast Cultural Resources Center. 

More recently, a team led by Stull and Lee, Inc. , Coordinating Architects, produced the four- 
volume Final Report, Restoration and Adaptive Re-use of the Smith School House and African 
Meeting House in May 1994. Volume I consisted of the results of research by Anthony Cromwell Hill 
on the history of the efforts to desegregate education in Boston, and on the condition and use of the 
Smith School as an educational institution for black students prior to 1855. Volumes II and III 
contained reports on various tests, research, and investigations conducted on the building fabric by 
a variety of disciplines, including Robert G. Neiley, Architects; Rene Mugnier Associates, Structural 
Engineer; and SAR Engineering, Mechanical/Electrical Engineer. Since it was infeasible to revise 
the historic structure report to incorporate material from these studies, the reader interested in the 
complete body of information available about the Smith School House should consult these 
documents. 

Throughout the design process, the draft HSR was available to the design team. Its findings 
and recommendations were taken into account— although not always followed— in the development 
of the Preliminary Design presented in volume IV of the Final Report, and ultimately in the final 
plans and specifications for the restoration project, which was begun by the NPS in April 1998. 



7 Stephen P. Carlson, "Smith School Restoration to Begin," Tfie Broadside (Boston NHP, No. 1, 1998), 
p. 1. 



xvi 



I. ADMINISTRATIVE DATA 



The Smith School House is located at 46 Joy Street on the corner of Smith Court on Beacon 
Hill in Boston. The building was constructed in 1834-35, and it was dedicated on March 3, 1835. 
It was the first school building constructed by the City of Boston for the exclusive use of the children 
of African descent. Smith School served as a primary and grammar school for the black children 
of Boston for the next twenty years. It was an institution that was believed by the black community 
to symbolize unequal educational rights and unequal privileges. They protested by founding the 
"Equal School Association," circulating and signing petitions, boycotting the Smith School, and 
bringing a law suit against the City of Boston. Some of the leaders in this struggle were William 
Lloyd Garrison, Lewis Hayden, William C. Nell, and Wendell Phillips. Success was finally 
achieved 1855 when a new state law opened the public schools to all children regardless of their 
color or religion. Smith School continued in use as an integrated school until 1882. It was later 
used as a meeting place for black veterans of the Civil War. 

The Smith School House is named for Abiel Smith, a Boston merchant who lived from 1746 
to 1815. Upon his death, Smith willed assets valued at approximately $5,000 to the Selectmen of 
the City of Boston. These were to be used for a school to educate the "People of color." The 
Auditor of the City of Boston listed the status of the "Smith Fund" in the annual report for the years 
1835 through 1937. It was noted beginning in 1910 that the income from the fund was then credited 
for general public school expenses because there were no longer schools exclusively for colored 
children. An inquiry to the Auditor's office in 1990 revealed that the City of Boston no longer has 
a record of the Smith Fund. It is speculated that the fund was merged sometime after 1937 into a 
general fund for school expenses. 

The Smith School House remains today in the ownership of the City of Boston. Beginning 
in 1984, the National Park Service used the second story as offices for the Boston African- American 
National Historic Site, at first under an agreement with the USO (then tenants of the building), and 
later under a letter dated March 9, 1987, from the City of Boston that authorizes the NPS to occupy 
the building in exchange for providing "interior and exterior maintenance and utilities as necessary 
and subject to the availability of funds." In 1994 the City of Boston formally leased the Smith 
School House to the Museum of Afro American History, which had occupied the first story of the 
building since the late 1980s. 

Smith School House is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Beacon 
Hill Historic District. As such, it is within the jurisdiction of the Beacon Hill Architectural 
Commission. The commission is authorized "to review proposed changes to the exterior 
architectural features of buildings within the historic district before any alteration is undertaken and 
before a building permit is issued." 1 

The schoolhouse is also part of the Boston African American National Historic Site, 
established by Public Law 96-430 that was signed on October 10, 1980. The purpose of this 
enactment was to preserve "for the benefit and inspiration of the people of the United States as a 
national historic site certain historic structures and properties, located in Boston, Massachusetts, and 
associated with the creation and development of a free African American community within Beacon 
Hill prior to the Civil War." 2 



1 Pamphlet entitled "Historic Beacon Hill District: Architectural Guidelines," by the City of Boston. 

2 Title I, Section 101, of Public Law 96-430, "An Act to provide for the establishment of the Boston 
African American National Historic Site in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and for other purposes." 



This legislation referenced a boundary map (BOAF-80,000) dated March 1980, which 
identified 12 park sites, including the African Meeting House (1) and the Abiel Smith School (2), 
for inclusion in the park under cooperative agreements to be made between the National Park Service 
and the various property owners. As authorized under Public Law 96-430, such agreements have 
been concluded with the Museum of Afro American History for the African Meeting House and with 
the owners of the Lewis Hay den House. The National Park Service, as noted above, has occupied 
the Smith School House under agreement with the City of Boston since 1987, and, pursuant to 
Congressional direction and appropriations, has undertaken design and construction of a rehabilitation 
project for the structure. It anticipates including the Smith School House in future updatings of the 
existing cooperative agreement with the Museum of Afro American History. 

The proposed use of the Smith School House has been identified in two National Park Service 
planning documents. A draft General Management Plan completed in 1984 states: 

Under the proposed cooperative agreements, the exterior of the Smith 
School [House] will be preserved; the interior will be modified as needed 
for adaptive use.... A range of related uses will be considered, including 
exhibition space, visitor orientation, and meeting space for veterans' groups 
and other small community gatherings. 3 

The Interpretive Prospectus for the site dated February 1989 adds: 

The Smith School [House] is too important to be used exclusively for site 
administrative support. It should receive some preservation or restoration 
treatment for interpretive purposes while continuing to serve other functions 
as necessary.... In the interim, as much as possible, the school should be 
open to the public and used for interpretive purposes. Staff offices for both 
the National Park Service and the Museum will remain in the 
building.... The Abiel Smith School is the logical place to 
accomplish. . .general orientation and information [of the Black Heritage Trail 
properties]. 4 

It is the recommendation of this historic structure report that the exterior of the building be 
preserved and restored to its appearance when it was last remodeled in 1849. The interior should 
be adaptively used. Special care should be taken to preserve the historic architectural materials 
within the building. For more details on these recommendations and a description of significant 
architectural materials, see the "recommendations" section of this report. 

The Smith School House has been listed on the National Park Service's "List of Classified 
Structures," last updated in March 1994, as Structure Number 03 (IDLCS 40280). It is also 
considered to be a contributing resource to the Beacon Hill Historic District, which was designated 
as a National Historical Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior on August 8, 1963 (National 
Register 66000130). 



3 National Park Service, Boston African National Historic Site: Draft General Management Plan and 
Environmental Assessment. Boston: North Atlantic Region, National Park Service, November 1984, p. 26. 

4 National Park Service, "Interpretive Prospectus, Boston African American National Historic Site, 
Boston, Massachusetts." Typescript, n.d. [February 1989]. 



II. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND 



Abiel Smith's Legacy, 1815 



Abiel Smith, the person for whom the Smith School House is named, was a white man who 
lived from 1746 to 1815. He was the son of Job Smith of Taunton, and the husband of Lydia Otis 
of Scituate. Abiel Smith and Lydia Otis had no children, but together they ran a successful 
mercantile business in Boston. Their three-story brick house was south of the State House, at the 
corner of State and Devonshire Streets. The store was on the lower story and their home on the 
upper stories. Smith was described as a "thrifty, industrious man." 1 His great success as a 
merchant has been attributed to the money that he retained during the American Revolution when 
his wife and sister smuggled $20,000 in gold coins past the British lines. 2 Lydia Otis predeceased 
her husband, who died in 1815. 3 In his will, he bequeathed $164,566.67 in cash and stocks, along 
with real estate and personal property of an undisclosed value. He is known best for the money that 
he left to Harvard University, the income from which was "to be appropriated to the maintenance 
and support of a Teacher or Professor of the French or French and Spanish languages." 4 One 
person who benefitted from this legacy was Henry Wads worth Longfellow, who held the Smith 
Professorship from 1836 to 1854. 5 

Less is known about Smith's support of education for the colored citizens of Boston. Abiel 
Smith was one of 10 gentlemen who in 1805 subscribed $100 each for a schoolroom for the African 
School to be constructed in the basement story of the new African Meeting House. 6 He also made 
provision in his will for the maintenance and support of a school or schools for the "people of 
colour" as follows: 

I bequeath to the Selectmen of the Town of Boston for the time being, and 
to their successors in that Office forever, all my thirty shares in the 
Newbury Port Turnpike; all my twenty shares in the second Turnpike Road 
in New Hamshire [sic], my seventeen & an [sic] half shares in the 
Kennebeck bridge, my five shares in the bridge across from Tivertown to 
Rhode Island, my five shares in the Springfield bridge, my share in the 
Boston Theatre, my share in the bathing house in Boston with four thousand 
dollars in three per cent funded Stock of the United States in trust for the 
purposes following & no other; to wit, that they shall collect and receive the 
neat income thereon and appropriate and apply the whole income to the 
maintenance and support of a school or schools under their direction for the 



Robert L. Weis, Abiel Smith and Lydia Otis (privately printed: October 15, 1923), p. 5. 

2 Weis, pp. 6-7. 

3 Obituary, Boston Patriot, Saturday, November 25, 1815. 

4 Abiel Smith, "Last Will and Testament," Suffolk County Probate Court number 24791 , signed and dated 
October 6, 1814. See Appendix A for a published transcript of the complete will. 

5 Edward E. Hale, Memories of a Hundred Years, Vol. II (NY: The Macmillan Co., 1902), pp. 244-45. 

6 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1815-36, entry dated Oct. 11, 1833, pp. 401-02. The 
schoolroom was finally completed and the school moved into it in 1808 (see Appendix B). 



instruction of people of colour meaning Africans and their descendants either 
clear or mixed, in reading, writing and arithmetic, in such place, places, and 
manner, as said Selectmen shall deem best. And if said Selectmen shall and 
do accept this donation within one year after my decease for said purposes 
I then order my Executor to transfer to them all my title to said property for 
the purposes aforesaid. 7 

It has been said that Abiel Smith left his money for a school because of his regard for, and 
at the request of, Prince Saunders. 8 Saunders was an instructor of the African School from 1809 
to 1812 when the school met in the basement of the African Meeting House. 9 He was described in 
1817 as "a man of colour and of education." 10 A later recollection dated 1846 remembered 
Saunders as follows: 

Prince Sanders [sic],— who was brought up in the family of a lawyer in 
Thetford, Vermont, and had acquired some polish of manners and 
knowledge of the world, by intercourse with intelligent persons, though his 
education was very limited,— was brought to this City principally by the 
influence of the late Dr. Channing and Mr. Caleb Bingham, for the purpose 
of teaching a school for colored children, and otherwise laboring for the 
elevation of the colored people. He was supported, in part, for several 
years, by the liberality of benevolent persons, while he taught this 
school.... 11 

Abiel Smith died suddenly, on the night of Tuesday, November 19, 1815, at the age of sixty 
nine. 12 His bequest to the Selectmen of the Town of Boston was conveyed to them in a letter dated 
January 1816 from Barney Smith, brother of the late Abiel Smith, and Executor of his last Will and 
Testament. Their reply is recorded in the Selectmen's minutes, entry dated January 24, 1816: 

This letter and the extract from the Will having been considered. Voted that 
the Chairman be desired to express to Barney Smith Esq. the high sense 
which the Selectmen entertain of the benevolent intentions of his late brother 
Abiel Smith Esq. toward the unfortunate and neglected portion of the human 
species, and of his liberal bequest to carry those intentions into effect; and 
that he inform him that they will accept the trust committed to them, with 



7 M 



Last Will and Testament," pp. 2-3. 

8 City Document No. 23, "Report to the Primary School Committee," June 15, 1846, p. 17. 

9 City Document No. 23, 1846, pp. 16-17. 

10 Charles Shaw, Topographical and Historical Description of Boston (Boston: Oliver Spear, 1817), p. 
270. 

11 City Document No. 23, 1846, pp. 16-17. 

12 Obituary, November 25, 1815. 



an assurance that no exertions shall be wanting on their part to promote the 
liberal views of the testator. 13 

Barney Smith presented the certificates of property to the Selectmen on December 4, 1816. 14 
Finally, on February 5, 1817, "It was voted to proceed to the choice of a Treasurer to receive and 
manage the fund left by Mr. Smith for the support of an African school." 15 The city then assumed 
the entire support of the existing African School that met in the basement of the African Meeting 
House. 16 The city had granted previously, beginning in 1812, $200 per year for maintaining the 
school, under the direction of the School Committee. Proceeds from the new Smith Fund were used 
to pay the salary of an assistant instructor and to finance repairs to the existing school room. 17 



The African School, 1808-1834 



The African School met in the basement school room of the African Meeting House 
beginning in 1808. It was the only school for colored children in Boston that taught both 
intermediate and primary classes. 18 As explained in the previous section, the City of Boston had 
assumed partial support of the school in 1812, and the entire support in 1817 upon the bequest of 
Abiel Smith. The school was in the west part of the city, on the north slope of Beacon Hill, in 
School District No. 4. Barney Smith, brother of the late Abiel Smith, petitioned the city in 1826 
for a "high school... for the coloured children of the City," but no such school was established. 19 
The City of Boston did, however, institute two more primary schools for colored children besides 
the African School. One was established in July 1820 and was in School District No. 8. The other 
was established in February 1831, in the north part of the city in School District No. 1 (later 
changed to School District No. 2). However, it was closed in September 1835 due to poor 



13 A Volume of Records Relating to the Early History of Boston Containing Minutes of the Selectmen's 
Meeting, 1811 to 1817, and Part of 1818 (Boston: Municipal Printing Office), pp. 159-60. 

14 A Volume of Records, p. 206. 

15 A Volume of Records, p. 212. 

16 The African School commenced in 1798. It met first in private homes, later in a carpenter shop, and 
moved in 1808 to the newly completed basement room in the African Meeting House. 

17 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1815-36, entry for Oct. 11, 1833, pp. 401-02; A Volume of 
Records, entry dated May 20, 1818, pp. 290-91; and the Boston Almanac, 1849, p. 65. 

18 The primary schools in the City of Boston were for children under the age of seven. The intermediate 
schools, also known as the grammar and writing schools, admitted children ages 7 through 14 (boys) and ages 
7 through 16 (girls). Source: City of Boston numbered city documents. 

19 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1815-36, entries for Nov. 26, 1826, and Jan. 13, 1827, pp. 
203 and 207. 



attendance. These primary schools most likely met in existing buildings, since there is no mention 
in the records of construction for new school buildings. 20 

The poor condition of the African School's basement room in the African Meeting House 
came to the attention of the School Committee in the 1830s. The earliest indication of a problem 
is an entry in the records of the School Committee dated May 8, 1832: 

Ordered, that the sub committee of the African School be instructed to 
investigate and report, the causes of tardiness, and non attendance of pupils 
at that School, and what measures ought to be adopted to remedy the evil, 
and improve the character of the school— And that Alderman Binney and 
Mr. Curtis be added to the committee for the purpose aforesaid. 21 

No response was forthcoming until September 3, 1833, when 

Mr. Child offered the following vote and moved that the same be adopted, 
viz: voted that it is expedient and proper to provide a building at the 
expense of the City for the use of the African School, and that the Chairman 
be instructed to apply to the City Council, for an appropriation for that 
object. Read and referred to Mssr. Child, Binney and Fairbanks to consider 
and report. 22 

Misters Child, Binney, and Fairbanks responded with a lengthy narrative that was entered 
in the school records on October 11, 1833 (see Appendix B of this report). In summary, they found 
the school room to be hot in summer, cold in winter, inconvenient, and unhealthy. They noted the 
obvious contrast between this school and the schools for white children in the City of Boston. They 
also pointed out that the colored inhabitants paid taxes for public education. They concluded by 
stating 

The committee are therefore of opinion, that it is just and expedient that a 
suitable building be forthwith provided, at the expense of the City, to be 
placed in a healthy pleasant situation, for the accommodation of the African 



20 



City Document No. 23, 1846, p. 18. 

21 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1815-36, entry dated May 8, 1832, p. 341. 

22 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1815-36, entry for September 3, 1833, p. 396. "Mr. Child" 
was David Lee Child, a white lawyer and educator, who lived from 1794 to 1874. He was a devoted 
reformer who worked to end the institution of slavery. Child was one of 15 men who formed the New 
England Anti-Slavery Society on January 6, 1832, in the school room of the African Meeting House. He 
studied the beet-sugar business in Belgium in 1836 and built the first sugar operation in the United States in 
an auempt to find an alternative to slave-grown sugar cane. He was the editor of the abolitionist newspaper, 
the National Anti-Slavery Standard from 1843 to 1844. David Lee Child was the husband of Lydia Maria 
Child, an influential writer and author of That Class of Americans Called Africans published in 1833 and 
described as "the first hard-hitting, important antislavery book in America." Source: Helene G. Baer, The 
Heart is Like Heaven: The Life of Lydia Maria Child (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1964), 
pp. 63, 65, 90, and 162-65. 

10 



School, and that the Honorable Chairman of the School Committee be 
instructed to make a request to the City Council, to that effect. 23 

The report was read and accepted, but no action appears to have been taken on the recommendation. 

The following year, in March 1834, a petition was submitted to the School Committee by 
J.G. Barbadoes concerning the poor conditions at the African School. The matter was investigated 
again by the African School Committee, which reported as follows: 

The committee find the School decrepid in its condition, thinly attended and 
actually conferring very limited benefits on the class of persons for whom 
it is designed.... the principal [causes] seem very obvious. The school has 
not received that attention nor been provided with those accommodations 
which are necessary to encourage the master and secure the interest and 
good feeling of coloured people.... Can any reason be assigned why the 
African School in our own City should not be redeemed from its present 
state of depression and become a flourishing and effective school [?] The 
committee deem the object worthy at least of a fair experiment; and it is 
with a view to secure this object, and because they regard it as practicable, 
that they suggest the changes here as recommended. 24 

Three changes were recommended by the committee. The first was to secure a new 
master— Mr. Abner Forbes— for the school. The second was to increase the salary of the master by 
$200 per year. Third, it was advised "that measures be adopted to furnish for the School, a more 
commodious building. The committee regard this as reasonable and proper in itself, and highly 
important to the usefulness of the School." 25 A vote was taken by the School Committee, and the 
first and third recommendations were accepted; the second was ruled out of order. 

Steps toward a new school building were finally taken two months later, on May 13, 1834, 
when the following was recorded by the School Committee: 

Ordered, that Mssr. Eliot, Williams, and Emerson be a committee to 
prepare an urgent memorial to the City Council in favor of an appropriation 
for a new African School house. 26 

These gentlemen were Samuel A. Eliot, who was also a member of the Board of Aldermen, Henry 
Williams, and Frederic Emerson. Mr. Eliot was later inaccurately credited with "conceiv[ing] the 
design of furnishing a new house for its accommodation." 27 It was also noted that "though he was 



23 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1815-36, entry for Oct. 11, 1833, pp. 401-02. 

24 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1815-36, entry for March 7, 1834, pp. 421-22. 

25 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1815-36, entry for March 7, 1834, p. 422. 

26 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1815-36, entry for May 13, 1834, p. 423. 

27 See Appendix D, "Introduction." 

11 



strongly opposed, and several times thwarted and baffled in his plans, yet he steadfastly persevered 
till he saw the object accomplished." 28 



New School House, 1834-1835 



The City of Boston finally constructed a new schoolhouse for the African School in fiscal 
year 1834-35. 29 An initial appropriation of $2,500 was granted by the city in that year "for a 
building for the accommodation of the African School." 30 

A small lot was purchased by the City of Boston from the heirs of Joseph Powars for 
$1,935.00 on September 30, 1834 (see Appendix C). The lot was situated on Belknap Street 31 , next 
to the African Meeting House on the north slope of Beacon Hill. The property deed for the 
transaction describes the lot as "a certain piece of land with the buildings thereon." One of these 
"buildings" may have been a "10 foot building" described in an earlier deed dated 1810 that 
conveyed the west end of the property to Nancy Collins. 32 The deed of 1834 further describes the 
lot as measuring 30 feet along Belknap Street to the east, 64 feet 5 inches along a 20-foot 
passageway 33 to the north leading to the African Meeting House, 30 feet along a 6-foot passageway 
to the west, and 64 feet 6 inches along the land of Nancy Collins to the south. The deed also notes 
that a dwelling house was 18 inches from the south lot line on the land of Nancy Collins, and that 
a pump was situated about 30 feet down the 6-foot passageway. With the property was "a privilege 
in said six foot passage, pump and well therein, which are to be in common for the owners of both 



28 See Appendix D, "Introduction." It is interesting to note that Samuel Atkins Eliot (1798-1862) served 
as the Mayor of Boston from 1837 to 1839. He was subsequently elected to Congress where he voted for the 
Fugitive Slave Law and other pro-slavery measures. Source: manuscript card catalog, Rare Books and 
Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. 

29 The fiscal year covered the period of time from May 1 of one year through April 30 of the following 
year. 

30 City Document No. 17, 1835, "Annual Report of the Receipts and Expenditures of the City of Boston," 
p. 11. 

31 The south end on'y of Belknap Street was changed to Joy Street in 1851 in response to a petition by 
the wealthy residents on the south slope of Beacon Hill who wanted to disassociate themselves from the 
colored residents on the north slope. The colored citizens responded with a similar petition to the city 
government who granted their request and renamed the entire street Joy Street in 1855. Source: Charles K. 
Whipple, "Boston in Slavery Times," Boston Evening Transcript, July 17, 1893; and Allen Chamberlain, 
Beacon Hill: Its Ancient Pastures and Early Mansions (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1925), p. 115. 

32 Suffolk County Deed, Book 233, p. 113. 

33 This passageway was named May's Court in 1812. It was changed to Smith's Court in 1848. Source: 
Chamberlain, p. 249. Today it is commonly called Smith Court. 

12 



estates [the Smith School property and the African Meeting House property] , each paying half the 
repairs thereof...." 34 

Few details are known about the actual design and construction of the new school building. 
It is possible that the same procedure was followed in 1 834 as was later described in city document 
dated 1847: 

When a school house is to be built, a committee from the two branches of 
the City government is appointed to take charge of the work. They cause 
plans to be made; [and] they confer with a Committee of this [School] 
Board.... The work is [then] necessarily entrusted to architects and 
builders.... 35 

Construction appears to have been underway by November 1834, based on a bill from 
Cushing Nichols requesting "a further advance of $2,000 on account of erection of the African 
School House in Belknap Street." 36 Cushing Nichols was a mason who resided at 14 Charles 
Street, according to the Boston Directory of 1834. He was probably a white man, given his listing 
in the main part of the directory, instead of the back section that was entitled "People of Color." 
Work continued through the winter, and by February 10, 1835, it was noted that the "new School 
house on Belknap street... is now nearly completed." 37 Shortly thereafter, on March 3, 1835, the 
new building was dedicated and the African School was removed to it from the African Meeting 
House (see Appendix D). 

An entry separate from the construction cost is also cited in the city records as follows: 
"African School House:— Expended for rendering the building erected in Belknap Street, for Primary 
Schools, suitable for the accommodation of the African School. $2,500. " 38 This may represent 
the cost of finishing and equipping the building for school use; it is too much money to have been 
paid for architectural plans or "renderings." 

The total cost to the City of Boston for providing a new building for the African School was 
$7,485.61. These costs included $1,935.00 for the lot on Belknap Street, $3,050.61 for erecting the 
building, and $2,500 for "rendering" the building. 39 No money from Abiel Smith's bequest was 



34 Suffolk County Deed, Book 382, pp. 128-29. 

35 City Document No. 40, 1847, "Reports of the Annual Visiting Committees of the Public Schools of the 
City of Boston," p. 36. 

36 Ellen F. Rosebrock, "A Historical Account of the Joy Street Block," 1978, p. 18. No reference given. 

37 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1815-36, entry for February 10, 1835, p. 440. 

38 City Document No. 17, 1835, p. 29. 

39 City Document No. 17, 1835, p. 29. 

13 



used for this project. Nevertheless, the School Committee renamed the African School the "Smith 
School," as explained in their minutes of February 10, 1835: 

Whereas the late Abiel Smith, Esq, bequeathed to the town of Boston, a 
large amount of property, devoted to the education of the children of the 
people of color, resident here;— and, 

Whereas an opportunity is now afforded, by the erection of a new School 
house on Belknap street... for the accommodation of the above mentioned 
children, to show a suitable respect to his memory— therefore, 

Resolved, that said School be hereafter known and called by the name of 
Smith School. 40 

The School Committee further ordered on February 24, 1835, that this resolve "be published in the 
newspapers in which the ordinances and orders of the City are printed." 41 

The dedication address of the new Smith School building was given on March 3, 1835, by 
Judge William Minot, the chairman of the committee of the school. (The address, and an 
introduction to the published version of unknown authorship, are reproduced as Appendix D). The 
introduction described the dedication ceremony as follows: 

The exercises at the opening of the new school-house were very interesting 
and impressive. It was exceedingly gratifying to the large number of 
colored people and their friends who were present to see the perfect order 
and propriety in the behavior of the scholars. Judge Minot's address on the 
occasion, will speak for itself.... Rev. Mr. Barrett made an appropriate 
prayer, soon after which the audience quietly dispersed. 

The prospects of the school are cheering. Everything connected with it 
seems to promise that it will long be a blessing to the colored inhabitants of 
the city. 

It is apparent from the remarks of Judge Minot that the City of Boston had high expectations 
for the Smith School. Minot described education as the "surest remedy for the evils" of the present 
condition of the "whole colored population." He also noted that "the erection of this house is a 
pledge of interest which the city now feels in your improvement, and an assurance that it will not 
be reluctant to furnish the means as fast as your necessities require them." 



40 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1815-36, entry for February 10, 1835, p. 440. 

41 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1815-36, entry for February 10, 1835, p. 441. 

14 



Smith School for Colored Children, 1835-1855 



Introduction 



The new schoolhouse on Belknap Street officially opened its doors as the Smith School— a 
public school for the colored children of the City of Boston— on March 3, 1835. However, actions 
to close the Smith School and thereby abolish segregated schooling were initiated by the colored 
citizens of Boston in 1840. Protests against the school continued until 1855, when integration of the 
Boston public schools was achieved by order of the state legislature. The building was remodeled 
once during this period, in 1849. 

Rules and regulations were passed by unanimous vote for the Boston School Committee and 
the various public schools on September 28, 1841. 42 These included the "Regulations of the Smith 
School" in four sections. Section one described the school as "designated for the instruction of 
colored children of both sexes." Section two stated: 

The colored population in the City not being sufficiently numerous to 
require more than one school, it has been thought proper to provide in this, 
the means of instruction in all the branches of learning, which are taught in 
the several orders of schools for white children. 43 

Section three required that the instructors of the school be college-educated. Section four required 
that the text books be the same as those that were used in the other public schools in the City of 
Boston. 



Grammar, Primary School, and Other Classes 

The Smith School comprised "Grammar and Writing Departments, and two Primary Schools, 
for colored children" when it first opened in 1835. 44 The grammar and writing classes were for 
the older pupils, ages 7 through 14 for boys, and ages 7 through 16 for girls. A city document 
entitled "Public Schools" described the Boston grammar and writing schools in 1838: 

In these schools are taught the common branches of an English education. 
In the several buildings, where the arrangement is complete, there are two 
large halls occupied by two departments, one of which is for a Grammar 
School, and the other for a Writing School. The scholars are organized in 
two divisions. While one division attends to Grammar, the other attends to 
Writing; exchanging half daily. In the Grammar department, the pupils are 
taught chiefly, Spelling, Reading, English, Grammar, and Geography; in the 



42 



City Document No. 22, 1841, "Rules of the School Committee and Regulations of the Public Schools." 



43 City Document No. 4, 1851, "Rules of the School Committee and Regulations of the Public Schools," 
p. 33. 

44 Listing of "Real & Personal Property" for the City of Boston, in City Document No. 17 for 1835, 
"Annual Report of the Receipts and Expenditures." 

15 



Writing department, they are taught Writing, Arithmetic, and Book- 
keeping. 45 

Bowen's Picture of Boston, also published in 1838, further specified that the Boston schools 
were organized with the grammar division in an upper hall and the writing division in a lower hall, 
"the two branches being kept entirely distinct. " Therefore, the first story of the Smith School House 
was probably occupied by the writing division, while the second story was used by the grammar 
division. Grammar classes were definitely meeting on the second story in 1846, because this is 
where a platform for recitation— the practice of reading aloud— was built in that year. 46 Given the 
arrangement of the grammar school, it is likely that the primary school classes, for children under 
the age of 7, met in the cellar story of the Smith School. 

The classes that met in the Smith School House changed two years later, in November 1837, 
when the School Committee 

Resolved, that one of the lower rooms of the Smith school house, heretofore 
occupied by a primary school be used as a place of instruction for children 
too old for the primary school, and not qualified to join any of the classes 
of the Smith School, and that the master of the Smith School take charge of 
the same under the sub committee thereof.— Report accepted and resolve 
passed. 47 

It is interesting that only three months earlier, in August 1837, the Deacons of the African Baptist 
Church had conveyed the old schoolroom in the basement of the adjacent African Meeting House 
to the "Infant School Association for the Education of Colored Youth in the City of Boston." 48 
Although it is nowhere stated explicitly, it appears from this transaction that the primary school 
classes that had previously met in the cellar of the Smith School were moved to the nearby African 
Meeting House. 49 Here they met until about 1840. 50 



45 City Document No. 23, 1838, "Public Schools," p. 8. 

46 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1845-49, entry for February 12, 1846, p. 16. 

47 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1837-41, p. 51. 

48 Suffolk County Deed, Book 423, p. 102. 

49 Conflicting information is found in the listing of "Real and Personal Property" in the numbered 
documents of the City of Boston, which continued to describe "Grammar and Writing Departments, and two 
Primary Schools" in the Smith School House through 1841. It is possible, however, that these listings were 
not kept up to date. 

50 Suffolk County Deed dated 1855, Book 676, p. 302. The deed states that the Infant School Association 
had not used the basement rooms in the African Meeting House "for fifteen years and upwards," and that the 
association itself had been discontinued "for more than five years." 

16 



The use of the cellar story in the Smith School House changed again in November 1848, 
when the School Committee 

Ordered, That the room on the lower floor of the Smith school house, now 
improved by a class of the Smith school be relinquished to the primary 
school committee for the use of the Intermediate school for coloured 
children. Read, accepted and the order passed. 51 

A previous entry had proposed that "both grammar and intermediate schools... be under the charge 
of the principal of the Smith school and two other Instructors." 52 It is not known what age students 
the "Intermediate school" taught; presumably, these were young pupils, because the school was 
under the jurisdiction of the primary school committee. 

There is also some evidence that adult education classes were held in the Smith School 
House. The abolitionist newspaper The Liberator ran the following advertisement in several issues 
in the fall of 1834: 

WRITING: A writing school will be opened in Belknap-street, for colored 
persons, as soon as a sufficient number may be obtained. All who wish to 
avail themselves of this opportunity, are invited to leave their names at this 
office. 53 

Evening classes at the schoolhouse are mentioned in a letter written by C. Weston to D. Weston in 
March 1837: 

[Thursday]... evening went to the Belknap street school house to teach the 
coloured people— it was interesting but— to teach under Nat Southard oh— it 
was tough enough on my very honor. 54 



Physical Appearance, 1835-1848 

The historical documentation cited in the preceding section suggests that the Smith School 
House contained three stories of classroom space: a primary school (and later intermediate school) 
in the cellar, the writing division of the grammar school on the first story, and the grammar division 
of the grammar school on the second story. General descriptions of Boston schools of the period 
further suggest that each story was a large "hall" with few or no partitions. Such an arrangement 
would have facilitated heating, and enabled one instructor to manage a large number of children. 



51 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1845-49, entry for November 15, 1848, pp. 233-34. 

52 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1845-49, entry for November 1, 1848, p. 231. 

53 The Liberator, issues dated September 13, September 27, and October 4, 1834. The classes may have 
met initially in the schoolroom of the African Meeting House, pending completion of the Smith School House 
in March 1835. 

54 Letter from C. Weston to D. Weston dated March 3, 1837, in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division 
of the Boston Public Library. 

17 



Several specific descriptions are available of interior features within the schoolhouse and the 
exterior yard. A closet was constructed in 1837 for $25 by Abner Forbes, master of the school, for 
storing teaching equipment known as "Philosophical School Apparatus." 55 This equipment was 
used to illustrate the principles of pneumatics and electricity, and was therefore probably located in 
the writing department on the first story. 56 In 1846, the School Committee "Ordered, That the 
seats in the upper hall, of the Smith School, on which the classes sit, while they recite, shall be 
raised on a platform, so as to elevate the class which is reciting above the heads of the other 
scholars; or such other arrangement made as will best remedy existing inconveniences." 57 It was 
noted the following year, in 1847, that the school lacked a library 58 and separate recitation 
rooms. 59 The school was, however, outfitted with both blackboards and globes. 60 The most 
complete description of the building is provided by a report made in May 1847 in response to a 
proposal to erect a new schoolhouse for the Smith School: 

The building... has no recitation rooms; there is so small a space in the 
entries that no clothes can be hung in them. The yard for each division are 
but fifteen feet square, bounded on one side by the out houses and favoured 
[sic] on the other by a pump in questionable proximity. The only way to 
these great conveniences is through a dark and damp cellar. The internal 
arrangements of the house are peculiar; the building being so planned, that 
the oldest scholars are obliged to occupy the seats provided for the younger, 
and vice versa. The general appearance of the House within is singularly 
unclassic and presents as little of cheerfulness and comfort as can well be 
found in the same space.... 61 

The yard outside was enclosed by a wall, whose north side is illustrated in an engraving of 
the African Meeting House published in 1843 (fig. 2). Also shown in this view is the north wall and 
the roof of what may have been the "out houses." This is shown as one long, one-story building. 
It appears to have been located outside the yard and within the 6-foot passage to the pump described 



55 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1837-41, entry for May 3, 1837, pp. 28-29. 

56 Some of the principles that the equipment illustrated were the "Laws of Matter, Laws of Motion, 
Mechanics, Hydrostatics, Hydraulics, Pneumatics, Electricity, Optics, Magnetism, Astronomy, Arithmetic, 
Geometry, and Auxiliaries." It was recommended that the equipment be kept in a case or closet with glazed 
doors and that the closet be located in the classroom. Source: City Document No. 25 for 1847, "Philosophical 
Apparatus," pp. 8-9. 

57 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1845-49, entry for February 12, 1846, p. 16. This platform 
was apparently built, and still exists today at the west end of the second story. 

58 Letter dated September 23, 1847, from Ambrose Wellington, Principal of the Smith School, to G.B. 
Emerson, Chairman of the School Committee, in a scrapbook entitled "Letters of Teachers to George B. 
Emerson— 1847," Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. 

59 City Document No. 40, 1847, p. 55. 

60 City Document No. 40, 1847, p. 31. 

61 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1845-49, entry for May 19, 1847, pp. 112-13. 

18 



in the deed of 1834. Such a placement agrees with the previously cited report that describes the yard 
as bounded on one side by the "out houses" and on the other side by a pump (fig. 15). 

The earliest known view of the Smith School House exterior is a watercolor painting made 
sometime before the building was remodeled in the summer of 1849 (fig. 3). 62 The orientation of 
the artist was downhill and across the street from the schoolhouse, looking upwards toward the 
buildings on the west side of Belknap Street. The schoolhouse is shown on a corner lot, bordered 
on its east and north sides by sidewalks and on its south side by a two-story building that may have 
been a house. 63 The design of the schoolhouse is Grecian Revival, as characterized by its 
pedimented facade, gable roof oriented ridge-parallel to Smith Court, and dentil cornice. Large 
windows without shutters are in the first and second stories, and smaller windows are in the cellar 
story facing Smith Court. Most interesting is the doorway in the first story of the east elevation, 
which is offset to the left, rather than centered as it is today. Three projections are visible on the 
roof: a chimney on the east end, what appears to be a vent pipe in the center, and a ventilator on 
the west end. The ventilating equipment was probably installed in 1847 or 1848 as part of the 
campaign to improve the heating and ventilating in the city's schoolhouses. 64 Some artistic license 
seems to have been taken with certain other details, such as the walls that are rendered in a stone-like 
material, and the windows that are drawn with 15 instead of 24 panes of glass. 

Another exterior view of the Smith School House was published as an engraving in the 1 849 
Boston Almanac (fig. 4). Here too, the front doorway is offset to the left side as it is in the 
watercolor painting. All details of the engraving, in fact, are identical with those of the painting 
except the placement of the pedestrians. The reason for this similarity may be that engraving was 
based on the painting, or vice versa. Whichever the case, both show the Smith School House as it 
existed before the alterations of 1849. 



Remodeling, 1849 

Problems with the Smith School House became apparent as early as 1838— only three years 
after its original construction. 



62 This painting is one of a series of 24 that was made of the Boston public school buildings. The 
paintings have been dated incorrectly as "185?" by the Boston Public Library, where the collection now 
resides. 

63 A previous study assumed that this building was the "Home Club Stable" that was built on the lot 
sometime between 1836 and 1866 (Rosebrock, pp. 16-17). However, the steps at the front doorway are more 
in keeping with a residential structure rather than a stable. The earliest reference to a stable is a document 
dated 1860 (City Document No. 10, "Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Buildings," p. 154). 
Additional research indicates that the stable was built after 1852, based on a map that shows a small building 
on the lot, and before 1861, based on another map. 

64 City Document No. 46, 1847, "Reports and Other Documents Relating to the Ventilation of the School 
Houses of the City of Boston." 

19 



In April 1838, the School Committee appointed a subcommittee "to ascertain what alterations, 
if any, are expedient to be made to [the Smith] School House and report thereon." 65 Four months 
later, in August, a petition was presented to the School Committee by Primus Hall and others, 
"people of colour, praying that another story may be added to the Smith School house." 66 The 
petition was forwarded on to the City Council, but no action was forthcoming. The Annual Visiting 
Committee reported in 1845 that the school was "not only in an unsatisfactory, but in a deplorable 
condition.... [it] does not appear to be answering the objects for which it was instituted." 67 Another 
committee was then appointed "to examine the condition of the Smith School house, and report what 
alterations, if any, are required to render it better fitted for its purposes." 68 Two years later, in 
1847, the Visiting Committee reported "the situation of the house is good, but there is great want 
of space and consequently of yard room. The house is large enough, but needs some repairs." 69 
Misters Brooks, G.B. Emerson, and Coolidge were appointed as a committee in May 1847 "to 
consider the expediency of erecting a new school house for the Smith School." 70 Their report, 
submitted two weeks later stated in part: 

Your committee have examined the condition of the Smith sch. house, and 
find it perfectly deplorable; and are astonished it should have been suffered 
to remain so long without enlargement or repairs. The old school houses 
which have been abandoned were palaces in comparison with this; and we 
see no reason why this class of our children should not be provided for, 
especially considering that part of the expense of the school are paid by a 
fund. The building is much too small for its purposes.... [Other details are 
quoted in the previous section.] Your committee unanimously agree in 
reporting, that the Smith school house is unfit for the use of the school, and 
recommend the adoption of the following order. 

Ordered, That the City government be requested to erect a new school 
house, for the use of the Smith school upon some spot not far from the 
present one. ...Read and accepted. 71 



OS 



Report of the Boston School Committee, 1837-41, entry for April 9, 1838, p. 93. 

66 Report of the Boston School Committee, 1837-41, entry for August 7, 1838, p. 99. 

67 City Document No. 26, 1845, "Reports of the Annual Visiting Committees of the Public Schools of the 
City of Boston," pp. 22 and 159. 

68 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1842-45, entry for September 11, 1845, p. 253. 

69 City Document No. 40, 1847, p. 31. 

70 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1845-49, entry for May 5, 1847, p. 108. 

71 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1845-49, entry for May 19, 1847, pp. 112-13. 

20 



Again, no action was taken, and in January 1848 Mr. Brooks ordered "that the committee 
on School houses be directed to examine the Smith school house, and report on the expediency of 
enlarging it, or building a new one." 72 Mr. Barnes from that committee then reported in March 
1848: 

Ordered, That the City Council be requested to make alterations and repairs 
in the Smith school house and furnish it anew, in conformity to the ground 
floor plan, and the three floor plans of the proposed alterations herewith 
submitted and in accordance with suggestions contained in the report of the 
committee of this board, on the structure, alteration and ventilation of school 
houses on this subject, whole expense not to exceed six thousand dollars. 73 

Still no work was done, prompting the committee who visited the Smith School on May 24, 1848 
to remark as follows: 

The school house itself is discreditable to the City, and only supportable 
because habit has hardened the pupils and instructors to the endurance of 
annoyances, which made the Committee rejoice, that the class was small and 
the examination short. 74 

Another appeal was made in January 1849, "that the Committee on School houses be 
requested to examine the Smith School house and report on the expediency of altering it, or building 
a new one." 75 Finally, in March 1849, it was 

Ordered: That the Chairman of this Board be requested to apply to the City 
Council for an appropriation sufficient to meet the expense of altering the 
Smith School House in accordance with the plan drawn by G.J.F. Bryant 
last year. 76 The expenditure to be made under the direction of the Joint 
Standing Committee on Public Buildings. 77 



72 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1845-49, entry dated January 12, 1848, p. 161. 

73 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1845-49, entry for March 8, 1848, p. 183. 

74 City Document No. 31 , 1848, "The Report of the Annual Examination of the Public Schools of the City 
of Boston," p. 57. 

75 City Document No. 31, entry for January 17, 1849, p. 256. 

76 "G.J.F. Bryant" was Gridley James Fox Bryant (1816-99), a prolific Boston architect. By the time of 
this project, he had designed the Abbot Lawrence House (1838) and the Boston Long Wharf Bonded 
Warehouse (1846). Among his more famous Boston area buildings are the Suffolk County Jail (1848-51), the 
Mount Auburn Cemetery Tower (1853), the Massachusetts State House extension (1853-54), the Boston City 
Hospital (1861-64), and the Boston City Hall (1861-65). Bryant also prepared model plans for the primary 
school houses of the City of Boston in 1861. Source: folder with clippings on G.J.F. Bryant at the Boston 
Athenaeum, including articles by Ada Louise Huxtable. Also, City Document No. 13 for 1861, "Report on 
Plans of Primary School Houses." 

77 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1845-49, entry for March 7, 1849, p. 268. 

21 



No other entries are found in the records of the Boston School Committee concerning this 
project, nor has the referenced plan been located. This led an earlier study to conclude that the 
alterations were never made to the schoolhouse. 78 However, other sources confirm that the Smith 
School House was remodeled in 1849. 

First among these sources is a set of specifications that apparently accompanied the G.J.F. 
Bryant plan (see Appendix E). 79 The earliest indication that work was actually being done on the 
schoolhouse is the attendance record for July 31, 1849, which notes that the small number of pupils 
at the Smith School was "on account of Repairs &c." 80 Work appears to have been completed by 
August 29, 1849, based on a report of that date that stated 

The City Government... in accordance with an application from this [School] 
Board, have just finished some expensive alterations and repairs on the 
Smith School house, including an entire remodeling of the interior of the 
building, for the greater convenience and comfort of both pupils and 
teachers. All this has been done at a cost exceeding, it is stated, the sum 
of $2,000. 81 

A postscript to the report further noted that the Smith School had reopened on Monday, 
September 17, 1849. The newly improved building was described as follows: 

The schoolrooms, since their alterations and improvements, possess every 
desirable comfort and convenience. Their furniture, fixtures and apparatus, 
are all of the most approved description; and every thing has been done, 
which a considerate and liberal forecast could devise, to render the Smith 
School a source of pride and blessing to the Young of our Colored 
Population. 82 



78 Architectural Heritage, Stahl Association, "Architectural Historical And Engineering Assessment And 
Report... 46 School Street For the Public Facilities Department, City of Boston" (typescript, June 1970), p. 
7/E8. 

79 These specifications were probably included in the two-volume Specifications for Grammar and Primary 
Schools (1847-69). These specifications were prepared by architects, one of whom was Gridley J.F. Bryant. 
The two volumes were identified in 1983 as being uncataloged and in the Boston School Committee's 
Department of Planning and Engineering, but could not be located during research for this report. 

80 City Document No. 39, 1849, "The Report of the Annual Examination of the Public Schools of the City 
of Boston," p. 55. 

81 City Document No. 42, 1849, "Report of a Special Committee of the Grammar School Board, Presented 
August 29, 1849, on the Petition of Sundry Colored Persons, Praying for the Abolition of the Smith School," 
p. 13. 

82 City Document No. 42, 1849, p. 70. 

22 



The actual amount expended on the work was less than $2,000, according to the auditor of 
the City of Boston, who reported that $1,739 was paid for "alterations on Smith School House." 
This included $95 for the "plans and surveys," and $1,644 for the "alteration and repairs." 83 It 
is also interesting that the Smith School House is listed in the "Real and Personal Property" section 
of this document as having been "built in 1834, enlarged in 1849." 84 



Attendance 

Scanty records are available for the Smith Primary School that met for a time in the cellar 
of the Smith School House. The only known reference to attendance in that school is a report for 
the half year ending in October 1837, which said 

The progress of this school is very much retarded by the irregularity and 
want of punctuality in attendance on part of the children, and also by the 
scanty supply of books. The teachers complained that the parents are very 
indifferent in regard to sending their children to school, or in providing 
them with the necessary books. If these difficulties were removed, the 
Committee is of the opinion that this school can be raised to a high rank. 85 

More complete attendance records are available for the Smith Grammar School that met on 
the upper stories of the Smith School House. These records cover the years 1838 to 1855. The 
largest number of students recorded in the grammar school was 165 in 1846; the smallest number 
was 60 in 1851. One factor affecting attendance was the ongoing boycott of the Smith School that 
was organized by William C. Nell's "Equal School Association" (1 844-55). 86 Another was the fact 
that the children were liable to be "called away to service of various kinds" in the spring. 87 All 
known attendance information is summarized in the table on the following page. 88 



83 City Document No. 21 , 1850, "Annual Report of the Receipts and Expenditures of the City of Boston," 
pp. 33 and 65. 

84 City Document No. 21, 1850, p. 140. 

85 City Document No. 22, 1837, "Semi-Annual Report of the Condition of the Primary Schools of the City 
of Boston," p. 9. 

86 Carleton Mabee, "A Negro Boycott to Integrate Boston Schools," New England Quarterly, 1968, 41(3): 
341-61. 

87 City Document No. 31, 1848, p. 57. 

88 All attendance records were obtained from the numbered city documents as follows: 1838, City 
Document No. 23; 1845, No. 26; 1846, No. 28; 1847, No. 40; 1848, No. 31; 1849, No. 39; 1850, No. 38; 
1851, No. 52; 1852, No. 50; 1852-53, No. 73; 1853, No. 65; and 1854, No. 74. 

23 



ATTENDANCE AT THE SMITH GRAMMAR SCHOOL 



YEAR 

1838 
1845 
1846 
1847 

1848 
1849 
1850 
1851 
1852 

1852-53 

15 

1853 

15 

1854 

1855 
pupils 



BOYS GIRLS BOTH AVERAGE 



OTHER INFORMATION 



158 


109 




163 


109 


4 classes 


165 




Average age, 10 


143 


90 


1st class, 53 pupils 
2nd class, 46 pupils 
3rd class, 44 pupils 



69 



48 



24 



22 



28 



27 



30 



32 



33 



55 



56 



40 



38 



42 



43 



49 



58 



51 



124 



104 



64 



60 



70 



70 



79 



90 



84 



66 



53 



25 



37 1/6 



44 



54.4 



51 



54 



42 



Attendance small due to repairs 



Number of seats, 40 

Number of seats, 80; one pupil 
older than 15 

Number of seats, 80; one pupil 
older than 15; 69 pupils ages 5- 



Number of seats, 80; no pupils 
older than 15; 79 pupils ages 5- 



Number of seats, 80; 7 pupils 
older than 15; 83 pupils ages 
5-15 

No pupils older than 15; 84 

ages 10-15 



24 



Teachers 

Information was found on the instructors of the Smith Grammar School only. No information 
was available on the instructors of the Smith Primary School that also met for a time in the Smith 
School House. 

Smith Grammar School was taught by two instructors in the years 1835-1855: these were a 
master, who was college-educated, 89 and a female assistant. Smith School had three masters during 
its 20 years as school exclusively for colored children: Abner Forbes, Ambrose Wellington, and 
Thomas Paul. Less is known about the female assistants who served under the masters. 

Abner Forbes was a white man who taught at the Smith School from its inception in March 
1835 until his replacement in September 1845. He had previously taught in the Franklin School, and 
was transferred in 1834 to the African School that met in the basement of the African Meeting 
House. 90 He was elected in January 1835 as an officer of the New England Anti-Slavery 
Society. 91 Forbes was well regarded by the School Committee, who granted him a raise of $200 
per year in August 1835 "from a belief that the labors of Mr. Forbes are necessarily more arduous 
than those of any other public instructor in the City, and that they are ably and faithfully 
discharged." 92 The views of the School Committee were different 10 years later, when the annual 
visiting committee gave him a poor evaluation, possibly precipitating his dismissal in 1845. The 
visiting committee reported: 

It is to be regretted that the present incumbent has not more faith in his 
desire of the colored population for the education of their children, and in 
the capacities of the children themselves; for we fear that, without much 
faith, and even some enthusiasm, no great harvest can follow the teacher's 
labors. We think this school calls loudly for improvement. 93 

Ambrose Wellington— also a white man— replaced Abner Forbes in 1845. Wellington taught 
at the Smith School for four years, from September 1845 until September 1849. Little is known 
about his tenure. He received a poor evaluation in 1849, when the annual visiting committee 
reported that the school was "in almost all respects... in a very low condition.... The general tone of 
the school was disorderly.... There is no one of our public institutions that more needs reform." 94 



89 Section three of the "Regulations of the Public Schools" for the Smith School specified that the master 
have this qualification. 

90 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1815-36, entry for March 7, 1834. 

91 Vie Liberator, January 31, 1835, Vol. V, No. 5, p. 19. 

92 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1815-36, entry for August 11, 1835. 

93 City Document No. 26, 1845. 

94 City Document No. 39, 1849. 

25 



In August of that year, two petitions were submitted by the colored citizens of Boston, both 
requesting that Mr. Wellington be replaced by a colored teacher. 95 

Thomas Paul began serving as the first colored master of the Smith School House on 
September 17, 1849. Paul was the son of the late Reverend Thomas Paul, who had served as the 
pastor of the African Baptist Church from 1806 until 1829. Young Paul was a graduate of 
Dartmouth and had served as an apprentice to William Lloyd Garrison, publisher of The 
Liberator? 6 He was employed as the master of the Smith School until September 1855 when it 
ceased to be a school for colored children exclusively. 

The duties of the masters of the Boston Public Schools were many, and included tasks outside 
the realm of teaching. The Boston School Committee ruled in 1841 that 

It shall be the duty of the Masters to give vigilant attention to the ventilation 
and temperature of the school rooms. A regular system of ventilation shall 
be practiced, as well in winter as in summer, by which the air in the room 
shall be effectually changed, at the end of each school-time, before the 
house shall be closed. 97 

It was also ruled the following year, in 1842, that the masters prescribe regulations to insure that the 
yards and outbuildings of the public schools be "kept in a neat and proper condition. " 98 

The job of the female assistant was to undertake the duties assigned to her by the master, and 
to instruct the girls in needlework. 99 The names of six of the assistants, and the years in which they 
worked at the Smith School, were: Abigail A. Eaton (1835), Sarah Forbes (1836-?), Susan Paul 
(sometime after 1836 and before her death in 1841), Chloe Lee (1841 -? and 1849-50), Sarah H. 
Southwick (1848), and Charlotte M. Knowles (1 852-54). 10 ° Sarah Forbes may have been related 
to Abner Forbes, the first Master of the Smith School. It is also possible that Susan Paul was the 
same Susan Paul who was the eldest daughter of the late Reverend Thomas Paul. This would have 
also made her the sister of young Thomas Paul, the master of the Smith School from 1849 to 1855. 
The Reverend's daughter was a life member of the New England Anti-Slavery Society, and was well- 
known as a lecturer on antislavery. 101 



95 City Document No. 42, 1849. 

96 Mabee, pp. 348-49. 

97 City Document No. 22, 1841, p. 12. 

98 City Document No. 12 for 1842, "City of Boston Schools," p. 4. 

99 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1815-36, entry for February 10, 1835, p. 439. This is the 
first mention of a female assistant for the "African School." 

100 Information on the female assistants of the Smith School was obtained from the Records of the Boston 
School Committee, the numbered documents for the City of Boston, and the Boston Directories. 

101 George A. Levesque, "Inherent Reformers-Inherited Orthodoxy: Black Baptists in Boston, 1800-1873," 
Journal of Negro History, p. 503 (note 21). 

26 



One other instructor, a music teacher by the name of James C. Johnson, appears in the 
records of the Smith School for one year only in 1852. 102 



Heat and Ventilation 

Proper heating and ventilating of the Boston public schools became a concern in the 1840s. 
The earliest documented record of this issue was a new regulation for the schools that was passed 
by unanimous vote on September 28, 1841. This required "the Masters to give vigilant attention to 
the ventilation and temperature of the school rooms." 103 Five years later, in 1846, the annual 
visiting committee reported on the general state of the heating and ventilating in the city's 
schoolhouses: 

The greatest evils of our school rooms arise directly from their arrangement 
and provisions for winter. They are generally without fire-places and are 
heated by furnaces and stoves; small apertures are made in the ceilings or 
upper part of the walls, which sometimes by still smaller apertures 
communicate with the external air, and no other means are used to make a 
draught of air. The consequence is, that not one of the rooms of our 
common schools can be used in the severest day in winter without opening 
the windows in school-houses.... 

But a far greater evil than this... arising from the construction of our school- 
houses, is their want of ventilation: in many of the school rooms, in spite 
of all the efforts of the instructors, the air becomes so foul as to affect, 
every day, both pupils and teachers. This produces every year ill health, 
sickness, and, doubtless, permanent injury.... 104 

Improvements were undertaken the following year, in 1847, according to City Document 
Number 46 entitled "Reports and Other Documents Relating to the Ventilation of the School Houses 
of the City of Boston." According to this document, 16 grammar schoolhouses had been outfitted, 
according to plans and specifications, with: 

the necessary flues, tops, and other apparatus for discharging the foul air ; 
and they require nothing more for that purpose. We have altered, enclosed, 
or rebuilt, 21 stoves and furnaces, and set up and supplied with the ducts, 
valves, and c, 26 of the new ventilating stoves.... A few houses still 
require stoves or furnaces or alterations of the same. 105 

The ventilating apparatus that was being installed on the rooftops was further described as a metal 
"Ventiduct" or "Ejecting Ventilator." This device had been invented by a local man, a "Mr. 



102 City Document No. 73, 1852, "Second Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Schools of the 
City of Boston," p. 56. 



103 



City Document No. 22, 1841, Section 11, p. 12. 



104 City Document No. 28, 1846, "Reports of the Annual Visiting Committees of the Public Schools of 
the City of Boston," pp. 36-37. 

105 City Document No. 46, 1847, pp. 25-26. 

27 



Emerson." The literature of the day recommended that the "Ventiducts" be positioned at a distance 
from the interior stove or furnace register so as to function most efficiently. 106 

It is likely that the Smith School House was one of the 16 grammar schools that received new 
equipment, based on the report of the annual visiting committee in 1847, which noted: "The 
Ventilation of the [Smith] School occasioned a vacation of nine days." 107 In addition, two early 
views of the schoolhouse show a rooftop apparatus that closely resembles the "Ventiduct" illustrated 
in the report of 1847. Both views predate the remodeling of the Smith School House that was 
undertaken in the summer (July- August) of 1849. One is the watercolor painting of the "Smith 
School" (fig. 3), and the other is an engraving published in the 1849 Boston Almanac (fig. 4). 

More specific information on the heating and ventilating of the Smith School House was 
provided in a city report dated June 1851. Included in this report was a statement of the expenses 
for heating and ventilating the various schools for the period January 1, 1848, to May 1, 1851. The 
report also listed the quantity and types of fuel furnished to each school. The total cost of heating 
and ventilating the Smith School House was $457.98. This included $112.44 for "Ventilation," 
$63.01 for "Heating Apparatus" and $282.53 for "Fuel Including Housing." The types and 
quantities of fuel provided to the Smith School House were: coal, 39 1/2 tons; hard wood, 4 cords; 
p.p. [pitch pine?] wood, 2 1/2 cords; and bark, 2 1/2 cords. Also noted under the category "Kinds 
of Furnaces and Stoves" was "1 Clark's Stove." 108 Henry G. Clark of Boston patented an "Air- 
Heating Stove" in 1848, and it is likely that this type of stove was installed in the schoolhouse. 109 



Use of the Smith Fund 

Contrary to popular belief, the proceeds from Abiel Smith's bequest were not used to 
construct the Smith School House. Instead, the money generated by investment of the Smith Fund 
was allocated to three uses: 

• Paying for a portion of the salary of the master of the Smith School. This amount was 
approximately $200 per year. 110 

• Buying books and stationery for pupils who could not afford them. This amount was 
usually specified "not to exceed $35.00. '"" 



106 City Document No. 46, 1847, p. 33. 

107 City Document No. 40, 1847, p. 54. 

108 City Document No. 39, 1851, "City of Boston Report of Superintendent of Public Buildings on 
Expenses of Warming and Ventilating School Houses." 

109 Clark's patent was dated August 10, 1848, and antedated February 10, 1848. The patent number is 
difficult to read, and was either number 5,704 or 5,764. 

110 City of Boston numbered documents for the years 1834-55, entitled "Annual Report of the Receipts 
and Expenditures of the City of Boston." 

111 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1837-41, entries for February 14, 1837, p. 7; February 13, 
1838, p. 83; February 12, 1839, p. 137; February 14, 1840, p. 178; and March 16, 1841, p. 242. 

28 



• Paying for special projects or purchases. In 1837, for example, $25 was granted from the 
Smith Fund to reimburse the master for a closet and other fixtures to hold the newly 
acquired teaching equipment known as "Philosophical Apparatus." 112 

The investments of the Smith Fund changed over the years from the time they were 
bequeathed by Abiel Smith in 1815. Retained the longest were shares in the "Bridge across from 
Tivertown to Rhode Island," which were listed until 1864. Omitted from the fund by 1835 were 
shares in the "Kennebeck Bridge," the shares in the "Springfield Bridge," and the "Stock in the 
United States." Also dropped from the fund at later dates were the shares in the "Second Turnpike 
Road in New Hampshire" by 1842, the share in the "Boston Bathing House" by 1844, the shares 
in the "Newbury Port Turnpike" by 1846, and the share in the "Boston Theatre" by 1852. New 
investments added to the fund by 1835 were several shares in the Suffolk Bank, and approximately 
$4,000 in the stock of the City of Boston. Added also in 1852 were several shares in the Boston and 
Providence Railroad Corporation. 113 



Efforts to Abolish Segregated Schooling 

Petitions, boycotts, and a lawsuit were employed in the fight to obtain equal school rights, 
and more particularly, to abolish separate schools for colored children, such as the Smith School. 

The earliest protest occurred in 1840, when a petition was submitted "asking the City 
Government to grant equal school rights." The petition was signed by William Lloyd Garrison, 
Wendell Phillips, Francis Jackson, Henry W. Williams, and William C. Nell. 114 No progress was 
made at that time. 

Another petition was presented to the School Committee four years later, in May 1844, 
"praying that separate schools for colored children may be abolished and that they be permitted to 
attend the several schools of the City...." 115 This petition was signed by Thomas Dalton and other 
colored citizens. A vote was taken by the School Committee, and the request was denied by a vote 
of 17-2. 116 The colored citizens responded with a boycott of the public schools that would continue 
for the next 10 years. 117 



112 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1837-41, entry for May 3, 1837, pp. 28-29. 

113 City of Boston numbered documents for the years 1835-50 entitled "Annual Report of the Receipts and 
Expenditures of the City of Boston. " 

114 "Triumph of Equal School Rights in Boston: Proceedings of the Presentation Meeting Held in Boston, 
Dec. 17, 1855, Including Addresses by John T. Hilton, Wm. C. Nell, Charles W. Slack, Wendell Phillips, 
Wm. Lloyd Garrison, Charles Lenox Remond" (Boston: R.F. Wallcut, 1856), p. 5. 

115 Records of the School Committee, 1842-45, entry for May 7, 1844, p. 127. 

116 Records of the School Committee, 1842-45, entry for May 15, 1844, p. 131. 

117 Mabee, p. 344. 

29 



A similar petition was presented in March 1845, and was again rejected. 118 A fourth 
petition was submitted the following year, in June 1846, to the Primary School Committee of the 
City of Boston. It was signed by George Putnam and 85 other persons. The petition charged: 

the establishment of exclusive schools for our children is a great injury to 
us, and deprives us of those equal privileges and advantages in the public 
schools to which we are entitled as citizens. These separate schools cost 
more and do less for the children than other schools, since all experience 
teaches that where a small and despised class are shut out from the common 
benefit of any public institutions of learning and confined to separate 
schools, few or none interest themselves about the schools — neglect ensues, 
abuses creep in, the standard of scholarship degenerates, and the teachers 
and the scholars are soon considered and of course become an inferior class. 

But to say nothing of any other reasons for this change, it is sufficient to say 
that the establishment of separate schools for our children is believed to be 
unlawful, and it is felt to be if not in intention, in fact, insulting. If, as 
seems to be admitted, you are violating our rights, we simply ask you to 
cease doing so.... 119 

A subcommittee of the Primary School Committee was appointed to study the issue; it submitted a 
lengthy report in support of the existing system. The petition was denied by a vote of 59 to 16. 120 

The fight for equal school rights, however, was not deterred. Three years later, in August 
1849, a meeting was held at the African Meeting House. The notice of the meeting stated: 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: GREAT SCHOOL RIGHTS MEETING 

Every individual who wears a colored face is called upon to meet at the 
Belknap street Church, on Monday evening next, August 6, at 7 
o'clock;— then and there to decide the question, whether we are satisfied to 
be humbugged out of our rights in regard to Common School instruction for 
our children; also, to remonstrate against the appointment of any individual 
as master in the Smith School, to continue in one moment as an exclusive 
School. Let our motto be, Down with the School! [Signed] J.T.H. [John 
T. Hilton] B.F.R. [Benjamin F. Roberts] L.B. [?] 



Boston, August, 1849 



121 



118 City Document No. 23, 1846, pp. 20-21. 

119 City Document No. 23, 1846, p. 1. 

120 City Document No. 23, 1846, p. 1. 

121 City Document No. 42, 1849, p. 26. 

30 



Five petitions resulted from the meeting at the African Meeting House. Three petitions 
demanded the abolishment of the Smith School, and two petitions requested that the incumbent white 
master of the Smith School be replaced by a colored master. Those wishing to abolish the Smith 
School were John T. Hilton and others, a committee of colored citizens; Jonas W. Clark and 201 
others, colored persons; and Robert E. Davis and 37 others, colored children. Those requesting a 
new master for the school were Joseph Russell and 33 others, and Reverend James Simmons and 
others. A special committee of the grammar school board was appointed to study the issues, and 
two reports were issued. One was a majority report in support of the present system. The other was 
a minority report in support of the petitioners. One argument of the majority report was that the 
bequest of Abiel Smith required the city to maintain an exclusive colored school. The minority 
report countered with a suggestion that the Smith Fund be used to educate colored persons moving 
to Boston from the South and elsewhere. Again, the majority report prevailed and the Smith School 
was retained. In a compromise move, a colored master was appointed to the school that 
September. 122 

The legality of separate schools was tried in the Supreme Court of Massachusetts in 
December 1849 in the case of "Sarah C. Roberts vs. The City of Boston." At issue was the fact that 
Sarah Roberts, aged five, had not been permitted by the City of Boston to attend the primary school 
in her neighborhood that was for white children exclusively. Sarah and her father Benjamin F. 
Roberts were represented by two lawyers: Charles Sumner, who would later become a United States 
Senator, and Robert Morris. Despite an eloquent argument by Sumner 123 , the decision was made 
by the court in April 1850 that Sarah Roberts had not been "unlawfully excluded from public 
instruction." 124 

The year following the Roberts decision, in May 1851, a bill was presented to the 
Massachusetts legislature that would ensure that "no child shall be excluded from any of the Public 
Schools of the Commonwealth on account of color or race...." 125 The Boston School Committee 
noted its disagreement with this bill, believing 

the Public Schools of Boston are now liberally and happily organized with 
separate schools for the two principal races of children, offering equal 
opportunity to both.... 126 

The bill of 1851 did not pass, but a similar bill was proposed in 1854. A show of support 
was provided by petitions that were circulated by the colored community and signed by 1,469 people. 



122 City Document No. 42, 1849, and Records of the Boston School Committee, 1845-49, entry for August 
29, 1849, pp. 299-300. 

123 Argument of Charles Sumner, Esq, Against the Constitutionality of Separate Colored Schools, in the 
Case of Sarah C. Roberts vs. The City of Boston, Before the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, Dec. 4, 1849 
(Boston: B.F. Roberts, 1849). 

124 Arthur Burr Darling, "Prior to Little Rock in American Education: The Roberts Case of 1849-1850," 
Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings, 1957-60, p. 141. 

125 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1850-54, entry for May 13, 1851, pp. 149-50. 

126 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1850-54, entry for May 13, 1851, pp. 149-50. 

31 



Of the signatures, 87 were obtained by Lewis Hayden. 127 This time the bill did pass the 
legislature, and was signed into law by the governor on April 28, 1855. 128 The new act decreed 
that "no distinction shall be made on account of the race, color, or religious opinions, of the 
applicant or scholar" in all the common schools of Massachusetts. 129 



Attainment of Equal School Rights 

The Smith School for Colored Children was closed on August 31, 1855. The City Auditor 
noted, "children who formerly attended that School, are now accommodated in the various School 
Districts where they reside." 130 

Monday, September 3, 1855, was the first day of integrated schooling in the City of Boston. 
William C. Nell later recalled a scene he had witnessed the Sunday before in his neighborhood on 
Beacon Hill: 

On the morning preceding their advent to the public schools, I saw from my 
window a boy passing the exclusive Smith School, (where he had been a 
pupil,) and, raising his hands, he exultingly exclaimed to his companions, 
"Good bye for ever, colored school! Tomorrow we are like other Boston 
boys." 131 

The Boston School Committee did not make note of this historic event until one week later, 
on September 11, 1855, when it was recorded: 

Mr. Tuxbury offered the following— Whereas, by a recent act of the 
Legislature of this Commonwealth, the several towns and cities are required 
to admit into their public schools all children of suitable age and 
qualifications, without distinction in regard to color, thereby rendering any 
further provision for the separate instruction of the colored children of this 
city unnecessary and inexpedient, therefore, ordered, That the school now 
existing in Joy Street, and designated as the "Smith School," together with 
the Primary School and the school for Special Instruction connected 
therewith, and all other schools being for the exclusive education of colored 
children, be discontinued and abolished; and that the Secretary be directed 
to inform the several persons recently elected as teachers in said Schools, 
that their services in that capacity will no longer be required by the city. 132 



127 "Triumph f Equal School Rights," p. 6. 

128 Mabee, p. 356. 

129 Darling, p. 141. 

130 City Document No. 48, 1856, "Auditor's Annual Report of the Receipts and Expenditures of the City 
of Boston," pp. 60-70. 

131 "Triumph of Equal School Rights," p. 9. 

132 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1855-58, entry for September 11, 1855, pp. 87-88. 

32 



Integrated School, 1855-1882 



Previous studies on the Smith School House have assumed that the building ended its use as 
a school in September 1855. Additional research, however, reveals that the building continued in 
use as a schoolhouse until about 1881. 

Records on the first year of integration, 1855-56, are scanty, suggesting that the schoolhouse 
may have been closed for a time. By 1856-57, the building was listed by the City Auditor as one 
of the city's "Primary School Houses," and further described as "Joy St. (old Smith Gr. Sch. House) 
built in 1834.— Enlarged [sic] 1849, 2 schools." 133 Similar descriptions of the building are found 
for fiscal years 1857-58, and 1 858-59. 134 The value of the Primary School on Joy 
Street— presumably the old Smith School House— was assessed on May 1, 1859, at $4,500. 135 

The old schoolhouse was used as a grammar school again by the latter half of 1 859 and 
through 1860, when it became "occupied by a branch of the Phillips Grammar School." 136 The 
reason for this was explained in a petition to the School Committee, to wit: 

The present [Phillips School] building, on the corner of Pickney and West 
Centre streets, has not sufficient capacity to accommodate the pupils,— a part 
of whom attend school in the vestry of the Baptist church in Charles street, 
and another portion in the Smith Schoolhouse, formerly used by colored 
children, in Joy street.... 

The larger number [of pupils] have been for some years [sic] provided with 
quarters in the old Smith Schoolhouse, so called, on the slope of the hill and 
immediately adjacent to a large stable in Joy street. 137 

Construction of a new schoolhouse for the Phillips School commenced sometime in I860. 138 
By September of the following year it was reported that 

A new edifice for the Phillips School, has been erected at the corner of 
Anderson and Southac Streets.... It will enable the master to gather all his 



133 City Document No. 54, 1857, "Auditor's Annual Report of the Receipts and Expenditures of the City 
of Boston," p. 265. Primary school was for children under the age of seven, according to City Document 
No. 23, 1859, "Annual Report of the School Committee of the City of Boston," p. 18. 

134 City Document No. 29, 1858, p. 265, and City Document No. 41, 1859, p. 275, both entitled 
"Auditor's Annual Report of the Receipts and Expenditures of the City of Boston." 



135 



City Document No. 77, 1859, "Valuation of the City Property, 1859," p. 6. 



136 City Document No. 56, 1860, p. 318, and No. 53, 1861, p. 351, both entitled "Auditor's Annual 
Report of the Receipts and Expenditures of the City of Boston." 

137 City Document No. 10, 1860, "Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Buildings," pp. 152 and 
154. 

138 City Document No. 10, 1861, "Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Buildings," pp. 9-10. 

33 



scholars under one roof. It will be ready for occupation by the end of the 
year. 139 

The new Phillips School House was finished sometime before December 31, 1861, according to a 
report that noted "the new Grammar School House for the Phillips District has been completed and 
is now in use." 140 The grammar school scholars were presumably removed from the old Smith 
School House by 1862, and the building reclaimed as a primary schoolhouse. The building is listed 
in the City Auditor's records as a "Primary School House" in the annual reports for fiscal year 1861- 
62, 1862-63, and 1863-64. 141 

It was also listed as a primary school by the Superintendent of Public Buildings in 1865, and 
described as follows: 

Joy Street School. On the corner of Smith's Court; was built for and 
formerly used as a Grammar schoolhouse. Built in 1834. Three rooms. 
The cost of repairs, and supplies, and c. the past year [1864], has been, 
$453.85; for fuel, $251.00; making total of $704.85. H2 

A report was published by the city in 1865 entitled "Naming Primary Schoolhouses." The 
report noted that the names chosen were associated "with the names of gentlemen whose valuable 
and disinterested services claim for them the grateful memory of the community thus benefited." 143 
It was thus that Abiel Smith was again honored by renaming the building the "Smith Primary 
School" house, even though it was no longer used as a school for colored children. The city 
government was requested to place name tablets on each building, although there is no documentation 
to verify that this was ever done. 

Smith School House on Joy Street continued to be listed as a "School House" in the records 
of the City of Boston for the next 20 years. That the building was being used as a school is verified 
by its listing as a schoolhouse in the "Annual Report of the School Committee" for the years 1873 
and 1875. 144 The exact date when it ceased to function as a school is not known. 



139 City Document No. 74, 1861, "Annual Report of the School Committee of the City of Boston," p. 9. 

140 City Document No. 8, 1862, "Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Buildings," p. 8. 

141 City Document No. 58, 1862, p. 356; No. 78, 1863, p. 375; and No. 65, 1864, p. 340; all entitled 
"Auditor's Annual Report of the Receipts and Expenditures of the City of Boston." 

142 City Document No. 12, 1865, "Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Documents," p. 38. 

143 City Document No. 101, 1865, "Report on Naming Primary Schoolhouses," pp. 4, 6, and 8. 

144 City Document No. 81, 1874, pp. 354-58, and City Document No. 104, 1876, p. 223. Although the 
reports are dated 1874 and 1876, they actually reported on the previous school years of 1873 and 1875. 

34 



City Storage Building, Circa 1882-1886 



Smith School House was converted to use as a storage building for the City of Boston 
sometime after 1875 and before 1882. It is shown on the Boston Atlas for 1873, corrected to 1882, 
as the "City Storage Ho, Old Furn'e &c." (i.e., "City Storage House, Old Furniture and etcetera." 
That this was a change in the use of the building since 1873 is suggested because it has been "pasted 
over" with new paper— a device that was used to update the atlas. This atlas was updated seven 
times: in 1875, 1876, 1878, 1879, 1880, 1881, and 1882. Which year the Smith School House 
update was applied is not known. 145 

The earliest mention in the city records that the schoolhouse was no longer in use as a school 
is the annual report of the Superintendent of Public Buildings for 1884. This document lists the 
Smith School House as being "used as a store-room." The same notation is in the Superintendent's 
report for the following year, and the City Auditor's report for fiscal year 1884-85. 146 



Use by Veterans' Groups, 1887-1984 



The Smith School House is presumed to have continued in use as a storage facility until 1887, 
when the Superintendent of Public Buildings reported that it was "Leased to Post 134, G.A.R., from 
Jan. 1, 1887, to Jan. 1, 1888. " 147 The Superintendent further noted that this was one of several 
buildings that had been "surrendered to this department as not wanted for school or fire 
purposes." 148 The city records examined up to 1930 show that the building was leased to Post 134, 
GAR, through that year. 149 The Boston Directories also list Post 134 in the building for the next 
10 years, through 1940. 15 ° 

The "GAR" was the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization for veterans of the Civil 
War. It was open to all honorably discharged soldiers and sailors of the U.S. Army, Navy, and 



145 The Boston Atlas viewed for this report is in the Fine Arts Department of the Boston Public Library. 

146 City Document No. 24, 1885, p. 16; No. 10, 1886, p. 16; and No. 76, 1886, p. 276. 

147 City Document No. 20, 1887, "Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Buildings," p. 6. The 
lease was presumably done as a result of a March 6, 1885, Massachusetts state law that authorized cities and 
towns to lease public buildings to GAR posts. 



148 



City Document No. 20, 1887, p. 6. 



149 City Document No. 100, 1890, p. 308; No. 4, 1895, p. 233; No. 4, 1900, p. 298; No. 4, 1910, p. 
269; No. 4, 1920, p. 283; and No. 4, 1930, p. ?); all entitled "Annual Report of the Receipts and 
Expenditures of the City of Boston." 



150 Architectural Heritage, Stahl Association, p. 11/E12. 

35 



Marine Corps who had served between April 12, 1861, and April 9, 1865. 151 Each post was 
named for a distinguished member, with Post 134 named for Robert A. Bell. 152 City records from 
the 20th century indicate that this was a post for "colored" veterans. 153 Its members are said to 
have met every Thursday with regularity until later years, as members died and meetings became 
less frequent. 154 

The earliest known photograph of the Smith School House was taken in 1890, only three 
years after Post 134 began to lease the building (fig. 8). Because the main subject of the photograph 
was Smith Court, only the lower portion of the building's north elevation is visible. In this view, 
the building appears unchanged from its condition today, with only a few exceptions. The cellar 
doorway is fitted with a simple hinged door, although it does not appear to have been in common 
usage. The windows in the first story were fitted with 12-over-12 sashes. 155 The window sashes 
themselves are painted a dark color, while the frames are a light color. A wood sign is mounted 
between two of the first-story windows that reads " - THIS IS A - PRIVATE WAY DANGEROUS 
PASSING." Finally, the north wall enclosing the rear yard is solid brickwork, with no doorway as 
exists today. 

Scanty documentary information is available on the Smith School House when it was used 
by Post 134. An "Egress Report" by the City of Boston Building Department noted that egress was 
sufficient at 46 Joy Street on May 31, 1916. The exterior brick coping was reported to be "in a very 
dangerous condition due to the bricks becoming loose," according to a letter dated August 20, 1923. 
Finally, a defective wood bulkhead on the Smith Court side of the building was reported in 
correspondence dated September 10, 1927. The bulkhead was summarily repaired by a carpenter 
from the Public Buildings Department. 156 

The Smith School House was next occupied by another veterans organization, the James E. 
Welch Post Number 56 of the American Legion. The American Legion was founded originally in 
1919 as an organization for the veterans of World War 1(1917-18). It was expanded in later years 
to include the veterans of World War II (1941-46), the Korean War (1950-55), and the Vietnam War 



151 J. Franklin Jameson, Dictionary of United States History, 1492-1895 (Boston: Puritan Publishing Co., 
1894), p. 272. 

152 No research has been done to determine who Robert A. Bell was and what his accomplishments were 
during the Civil War. It is recommended that Boston NHP try to learn if any members of Post 134 had served 
under Robert Gould Shaw in the famous 54th Massachusetts Regiment. 

153 Correspondence from the City of Boston Police Department, Office of the Commissioner, to the City 
of Boston Building Department; in the files of the City of Boston Department of Inspectional Services. 

154 Architectural Heritage, Stahl Association, p. 11/E12. 

155 While nine panes only can be seen in each double-hung window sash, the perspective of the view 
suggests that the sashes were in fact 12-over-12. 

156 All information on the building for this period is on file at the City of Boston Department of 
Inspectional Services. 

36 



(1961-75). 157 While Boston directories suggest that the American Legion took over the building 
at 46 Joy Street from the GAR in 1941, it is likely that the post was located there as early as 1920, 
when the State Legislature directed that cities and towns provide quarters (or funds for quarters) to 
all American Legion posts in the state. This assumption is supported by an application by the Welch 
Post for a "Public Hall License" at 46 Joy Street in 1937. The letter of response from the city said 
that no license would be issued until an additional means of egress was created, exit lights were 
installed, and the two hall doors were reversed to open outwardly. 158 This work was presumably 
done, and the post occupied the schoolhouse for several decades, according to occupancy permits 
issued to it by the Boston Fire Department through the year 1982. 159 

By 1982, another veterans' organization was sharing the building with the American Legion. 
This was the John F. Kennedy Chapter 44 of the Disabled American Veterans. The USO— the 
United Service Organization— also occupied the building for a time. 160 

The use of the building by these various veterans organizations (GAR, American Legion, and 
DAV) and the USO has not been researched. It is recommended that the park undertake a special 
history study on the use of the building by these groups and that those groups which still exist be 
contacted to determine what, if any, records or photographs are extant. 



Architectural and Engineering Study, 1970 



An architectural and engineering study of five Boston buildings, including 46 Joy Street, was 
undertaken by Architectural Heritage, Stahl Association, for the Public Facilities Department of the 
City of Boston in June 1970. The results of this study were written in a report that was entitled 
Architectural, Historical, and Engineering Assessment And Report of Old State House, Faneuil Hall, 
Dillaway House, Parkman House, 46 Joy Street. The chapter for each building was organized into 
five sections, including a historical report, an evaluation of the existing conditions, visual 
documentation (photographs and architectural drawings), short-term recommendations, and long-term 
recommendations . 

The study found that the exterior of the schoolhouse had been little changed from its original 
appearance in 1835, with a few exceptions. First, the touth side of the roof had been altered by 
changing the slope and covering it with tar and gravel. This also involved altering the east and west 



157 



Telephone conversation, April 1, 1990, with the Massachusetts State Office of the American Legion. 



158 Letter dated November 4, 1937, to the Superintendent of Public Buildings from the Building 
Commissioner; in the files of the City of Boston Department of Inspectional Services. 

159 Three occupancy permits made out to the "James Welch Post 56" are hung on the west wall of the 
mechanical room in the Smith School House; these are dated 1970, 1972, and 1982. 

160 The "Disabled American Veterans" organization is mentioned as sharing the building with the 
American Legion in the report by Architectural Heritage, Stahl Association dated 1970. The "J.F.K. Chapter 
44" is the name on the Fire Department's occupancy permit dated July 31, 1984. "U.S.O." is the name on 
the gas meter in the building for an entry dated December 28, 1984. 

37 



brick pediments that had been built up on their south sides. Second, two doorways in the north 
elevation on Smith Court had been filled in. Third, the front door had been replaced with a modern 
door. It was also stated that the location of the front doorway may have been moved from the south 
side of the east elevation to its present location in the middle. Fourth, most of the basement window 
sashes were thought to have been installed at a later date. Last, there were no window shutters on 
the front of the building, although some old hardware was still in place, including the pintles and 
shutter dogs. 

The condition of the exterior was found to range from good to poor. In good condition were 
the granite foundation, the granite lintels on the west elevation, and most of the brickwork, including 
the cornice. In poor condition were the 12-over-12 window sashes, and the brownstone window 
lintels and sills. 

Inside, it was found that modern materials had been installed in several areas, obscuring what 
may have been the original building fabric. The specific observations for each story are summarized 
here. The basement was divided into a large lounge to the west, a mechanical room in the middle 
of the east wall, and a small men's room in the northeast corner (fig. 9). There were two means of 
egress: the stairway to the first story in the southeast corner, and a wide exterior doorway in the 
north end of the west wall. The finish in the basement was described as a nonhistone pine paneling, 
furred out about 1 foot from the foundation walls. The original foundation was visible in two 
closets, where it seemed in good condition. The framing of the first floor was covered by ceiling 
material, and four posts had been added in the lounge area for extra support. The earlier exterior 
entrance from Smith Court had been infilled with concrete blocks, and a closet created there. 

The first story was divided into three areas: a front entry and stairway to the east, a large 
meeting room to the west, and a small kitchen in the northeast corner (fig. 10). It was observed that 
much original material remained in the first story, including the window frames, the window sashes, 
the wainscot, and some ceiling plaster. Even the kitchen was found to have retained some original 
material. These materials were described as being in run-down condition, especially the window 
sashes. The staircase in the entry and the frame of the front doorway were thought to be either 
original or of a slightly later date. Two posts had been added to the middle of the large meeting 
room as additional support for the second floor. Most unusual was a window of undetermined date 
in the partition wall between the entry and the meeting room. It had been covered over on the 
meeting-room side of the partition by later finish materials. 

The second story consisted of a stairway in the southeast corner, a women's toilet room and 
a closet at the head of the stairway, a large meeting room to the west, and a small storage room in 
the northeast corner (fig. 11). Original materials were identified to be the window sashes, window 
frames, and wainscot. The windows were found to be in deteriorated condition, similar to those in 
the first story. An interesting feature of the meeting room was a pressed-metal ceiling that followed 
the original arched ceiling. It was thought to have been installed later, over an earlier plaster ceiling 
that may have been in poor condition. The wood floor in the meeting room was described as a later 
wood floor— in fairly good condition— that had been installed over the original wood floor. The 
partition wall dividing the women's room from the storage room was described as modern. Some 
original material was observed to remain in the storage room. 

The short-term recommendations for the building were to install a fire-alarm system, install 
an emergency lighting system, repair the roof, repair the windows, and repoint the exterior masonry. 



38 



A security system was deemed to be unnecessary "due to [the] nature of [the] present tenancy"— the 
American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans. The estimated total cost for the proposed 
work was $12,503. The long-term recommendation for the building was to rehabilitate it completely. 
Proposed work included shoring the first and second floors, replacing deteriorated window sashes 
and other deteriorated window elements, restoring the roof to its original gable form, remodeling the 
interior rooms, installing new wiring, and installing new plumbing. No cost estimate was provided 
for this work. 



Renovations, 1975 



The Smith School House was renovated under contract with the City of Boston Public 
Facilities Department in 1975. The number assigned to the project by the city was "PFD-365-SD-2- 
74." The architect was Stahl/Bennett, Inc., then at 177 Milk Street in Boston. Consulting Engineers 
were Lemessurier Associates, Inc., of Cambridge and Metcalf Engineering of Framingham, 
Massachusetts. The contract documents included specifications and three pages of architectural 
drawings. The specifications were entitled "Renovations to Smith School (46 Joy Street)." The 
drawings were titled on the cover page "Renovation of Old Smith School, Boston, Massachusetts." 
They included Sheet A-l, "Plans, Elevations & Details," and Sheet E-l, "Electrical Plans & 
Legend." The drawings, including the cover page, are reproduced in this report as figures 12, 13, 
and 14. Bids for the job were received from five building contractors. Their prices ranged from 
$30,629 to $54,407. No documentation has been found on which contractor was chosen. If the 
criterion was low bid, the contractor was F. Dicenzo & Sons, Inc. 

The information that follows is a summary of the specifications and the architectural 
drawings. It is a description of the work that was specified, not the work that was done. 

A general description of the work is provided in the "Summary of Work" section of the 
specifications: 

In general, the work includes upgrading of exterior weatherproofing of the 
building, structural reinforcing of the second floor and walls, new fire 
extinguishers, new shutters (one elevation only), restoration of original roof 
line, exterior painting of trim, new electrical service and emergency 
lighting.... This Contract includes no interior finish work; it is anticipated 
that the tenants of the building [a Chapter of the American Legion] will do 
this work, as well as upgrading of wiring, plumbing and mechanical 
systems. [Section 1F-1]. 

Work on the exterior granite foundation and brick walls involved removing the old hardware, 
and raking and repointing the mortar joints. The entire surface was to be raked to a depth of one- 
half inch, except where sound mortar was found. The new mortar was to match the color of the 
existing mortar, described as an "egg shell" or a "straw" color. The mix for the new mortar was 
specified to be: 

4 parts Portland cement, ASTM C-150, Type I or II 
2 parts hydrated lime, ASTM C-207, Type S 
4 1/2-1/6 parts light-colored mason's sand 

39 



The mortar joints were to be tooled slightly concave. After repointing, the entire building was to 
be washed and rinsed from top to bottom. 

Restoration of the brickwork was also required on the south sides of the east and west 
pediments. These had been built up when the roof was raised on the south side. This probably 
occurred in 1909, when the apartment building that exists today was built on the south adjacent lot. 
Work on the pediments involved removing the later brickwork that had been added to build up the 
south end of the roof. In the event that additional bricks were needed to restore the original lines 
of the pediments, it was recommended that old bricks be used from the partially disassembled wall 
in the backyard. 

The work on the windows involved providing and installing five pairs of exterior wood 
shutters for the east elevation. No mention was made of shutter hardware. 

The roof and gutter work needed was extensive. First, it was necessary to restore the 
original roof line on the south side. This involved removing the existing built-up roofing, including 
the later rafters and sheathing boards. Next, it was specified that all the existing slate roof shingles 
be removed and saved for reinstallation on the north side of the roof. The sheathing boards beneath 
the shingles were to be replaced wherever they were found to be unsound. Next, all existing 
flashing, vent hood, gutters, and leaders were to be removed. Only the vent hood was to be saved 
for reinstallation. New roofing materials were specified to be felt underlay (30-pound asphalt- 
impregnated), asbestos shingles for the south side of the roof only, new replacement slate shingles 
to replace the damaged slate shingles for the north side of the roof, new lead-coated copper flashing, 
and two roof vents to replace the existing vents. The new asbestos shingles were further specified 
to match the slate in color, and to be the heaviest weight, finest grade, self-sealing asbestos shingles 
available. The new slate shingles were specified to be dark gray in color, with two nail holes each, 
and 12 inches wide by 20 inches long by three-sixteenths of an inch thick. Also specified were all 
new lead-coated copper gutters, gutter hangers, leaders, and downspouts. Both downspouts were 
to be located on the rear (west) elevation. 

All exterior woodwork was to be painted, of a color to match the existing. Exterior 
woodwork included doors, doorway frames, window sashes, window frames, window shutters (new), 
and cornices. The paint was to be an exterior oil-based type with a flat finish. 

Inside the building, the most extensive work involved the reinforcing of the second floor. 
First, it was necessary to remove two columns and the entire lath and plaster ceiling in the large west 
room on the first story. Two small areas of ceiling were also removed in the entry and the small 
northeast room at the east wall. New structural materials included two steel I-beams, through-wall 
masonry tie rods and support angles, and eight exterior iron plates of star design. The steel I-beams 
were slated for installation in the ceiling of the large west room in the first story. The tie rods were 
specified to number two in the east elevation, four in the north elevation, and two in the west 
elevation. Their function was to tie the framing of the second floor to the exterior brick walls. 

The electrical system was also specified to be upgraded at this time. This work involved first 
removing all abandoned wiring devices, panels, and other electrical equipment. Next, new 
equipment was to be installed including a panel main disconnect, wire, conduits, connections, and 
devices. Finally, a new fire- and smoke-detection and alarm system was slated for installation, as 
well as a new emergency lighting system. 



40 



No documentation has been found that confirms whether the work specified by the contract 
documents was carried out. However, examination of the building today indicates that the work was 
done. This was confirmed by a conversation with Frank Adams of Stahl Associates Architects, Inc., 
the architectural firm that prepared the contract documents. Mr. Adams had worked on the Smith 
School House project and remembered the job as a relatively small one. He was unable to locate 
any documentation on the contract, and did not remember the name of the contractor. 



Offices, 1984-1990 



The National Park Service established an office in the second story of the Smith School 
House in the summer of 1984. 161 This was the office of the Boston African American National 
Historic Site, which had been established in 1980 by Public Law 96-430. The basement and first 
story were occupied in 1984 by the United Service Organization (U.S.O.), which maintained an 
agreement with the City of Boston to use the building. The National Park Service paid rent to the 
U.S.O. until 1987, when the U.S.O. moved to a new location. The National Park Service signed 
an agreement with the City of Boston on March 9, 1987, to occupy the schoolhouse in exchange for 
maintaining the interior, the exterior, and the building utilities. Sometime thereafter, the Museum 
of Afro American History moved their administrative office into the first story of the building. 

Interior rehabilitation of the interior was undertaken by the National Park Service in 1988. 
Section-106 review of the project was initiated in June 1988 by the submittal of a "XXX" form with 
a two-page proposal entitled "Rehabilitation of the Abiel Smith School, 46 Joy St., Boston." This 
report proposed rehabilitation work in the basement, the first story, and the second story. The work 
would prepare the basement for use for small meetings and interpretation. The first story was to 
continue in use as the office of the Museum of Afro American History. The former kitchen was to 
be divested of its cabinets and nonhistone paneling and reused as a small meeting or conference 
room. The second story was to continue in use as the office of the Boston African American 
National Historic Site. The existing storage room was to be used as a break room and food- 
preparation area. 

Approval for the project was granted by the North Atlantic Regional Office of the National 
Park Service in a memorandum dated July 1, 1988. Work commenced shortly thereafter. No 
completion report was prepared after the work was finished. To determine what was actually done, 
it was necessary to compare the proposal with current conditions, and to interview members of the 
park staff involved with the work. Chapter III, "Periods of Alteration, Alterations 1985-88" contains 
a complete list of proposed actions, as well as an assessment of which were actually accomplished. 



161 Telephone conversation, March 7, 1990, with Wendell Simpson, Assistant Superintendent, BNHP. 

41 




Figure 1. Portrait of Abiel Smith (1746-1815). 



42 




Figure 2. Engraving of the First Independent Baptist Church (African Meeting House), showing 

the north yard wall of the Smith School House. 



43 



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Figure 3. Watercolor painting of the "Smith School, Belknap Street," circa 1848-49. 



44 



1' I" II III' S i, II (I O I. S IN 



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Mknap street. ) ct/ttttt cnrnnT ( I'.reetcd, 1834. 
t •latdishcd, 1812. f BMUH 0L11UUL. {cost, »7,485.61. 
A.MliltOSJC WLLUNOTUN, Master. 
Sabaii II. Sol niwirii. .-iifiilanl. 
Thl' schnol Is fur colored children "I bah sexes. A school for 
Africans whs ' nitimi n< cd by lliem<c]i c<. ill 17!'-*, tl.r Selectmen 
ining first tranti'1 permission. :uul was kept til the house oil 
Iriitiiis Hall. The yellow lever broke il up, and three vcars 
m-Tivards It was revived In Itrv. I>r*. Morse cl Cliarh stown, 
Klrklnni] of Harvard College. Cliiiiinlii'.'. ami Lowell, mid Ilcv.l 
M' I - iiiiT.-nn <ii r..i-i..i. in. i priivtdid lor its cmiro support 
I'"".!!.-'. II w.i? then proposed tn have the colored people hire | 
I ballding. and a mrpon tor's simp was selected niljninine to the 

•41 rhurch, and this ninth J three rear*. J lie site ol the 

•vi ting-house was thru select oil, and purchased by subscription, 
»-l Hie African I'.aptisl t'hmrh erected a Imusci of which Hie 

• hoiil occupied the I M i in. m The room was < ipletcd 111 

t-is, .mil hnniodUiloli m citpled Ivy the school, and the reverend I 
r iitli'uicn nuntl'ined supported the school, with aid rroiniub-l 
Kitpllons, until lsl-.», when tile town ih-^t took notice of lt.i 
rwitinc tSOOamiunlli InlSl-J Alilel Smith, 1>.| .died, and left 

• 1'i.uv ul aliout a-'ifiOO. the In ie of which is in i><- apprnprl- 

•ifl "for tiie free Instruction ol colored children In reading, 

• t. line and arithmetic." 'I'll- cltr then t'.ok the school under 
•u entire clntrjie, anil in Is;; 1 1 .,■ Ul-oouditiou nl tlm room at- 
IH't'd attention, and a t.'oininittee, of which 1). L. Child was 
ikilrman. reported in I'm or ol a new hoii-e. The present house 
»••• Iniilt in the nest two vcars, and on tin 10th of I'obruarv, 
•»■•'•. I lie school n ns nained for its Ijoiielui lor. lis Masters have 
»r«ti. Prince Saiimlers, James Waldach. John IS. Kusswurm, 

lltiain ISasouin, Hwur Forbes, and Hie present incumbent, 
1«J«. Latest returns show unly 7S pupils ; attendance, b£. 



Figure 4. Engraving of the "Smith School,' 
1849. 



45 




Figure 5. Photograph of the First Independent Baptist Church (African Meeting House), 
circa 1860, showing the north yard wall of the Smith School House in the foreground. 



46 



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in the Boston Atlas, 1873 corrected to 1882. 



48 




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III. DESCRIPTION OF PHYSICAL EVOLUTION 



Editor's note: As stated previously, the plans and specifications 
prepared for the 1849 remodeling could not be found when this report 
was being written, so information about the building's appearance 
prior to and after the work was limited to that obtained from the 
architectural investigation. The drawings have remained missing, but 
the specifications were located in 1997 and have been included in this 
report as Appendix E. They confirmed many conclusions previously 
drawn from the architectural and archeological investigations, but 
contradicted a few. The following text has been updated to include 
their information, along with that from the architectural and 
archeological investigations. 



57 



ORIGINAL APPEARANCE, 1835 
Exterior Appearance 



General Information 



Two views document the early exterior appearance of the Smith School House. These are 
the watercolor painting of circa 1848-49 and the engraving from the Boston Almanac of 1849 (figs. 
3-4). The earliest photograph of the building is also an important historical document, even though 
it was taken many years later, in 1890 (fig. 8). The building today is only slightly changed from 
its appearance when it was constructed in 1835. Where changes have occurred— most notably to the 
doorways— it is often possible to determine the earlier configuration by studying the physical 
evidence. The written documentation is also useful in identifying the historic building materials. 



Site 

The schoolhouse was sited in 1835 on the north slope of Beacon Hill. The original lot size 
was 30 feet wide along Belknap Street (now Joy Street) by 64.5 feet deep along May's Court (now 
Smith Court). The lot was originally bounded on its south side by a nearby house, and on its west 
side by a passageway 6 feet wide. 

A yard for the pupils was situated immediately behind the schoolhouse. A brick wall 
enclosed the north side of the yard as early as 1843 (fig. 2), and may have been part of the original 
construction in 1834-35. The original grade level of the yard is not known. Although there is a 
clear line in the building's west foundation wall with rubblestone below and cut granite above, the 
line does not appear to have related to original grade. As will be explained shortly, two original 
cellar doorways are known to have been in this wall; if grade had extended up as high as the 
rubblestone, either the doors would have been very short, or stairwells would have been needed to 
reach them. An 1847 report indicates that the yard was subdivided into two smaller yards. 1 The 
1849 specifications suggest that the yard was paved with bricks laid in sand. 

Based on figure 2, a shed of undetermined function stood at the north end of the west 
passageway by 1843; the 1847 report suggests that a pump and well were near the south end. An 
outhouse was also in the vicinity of the yard, and was described in 1847 as being within questionable 
proximity to the pump. The 1991 archeological investigation uncovered a line of stones in the yard 
that may be part of the first privy block. A shed in which to store wood for heating the building 
may also have been somewhere on the site. 



1 Records of the Boston School Committee, 1845-49, entry for May 19, 1847, pp. 112-13. 

59 



Foundation and Walls 

The foundation walls of the schoolhouse were constructed of cut granite blocks above grade, 
and granite rubble below grade. The exposure of the cut granite foundation varied at each elevation 
due to the siting of the building. Least exposed was the south elevation, which was on the high side 
of the hill; most exposed was the north elevation. 

The upper walls and pedimented gable ends were constructed of red brick. The brickwork 
was laid in the common bond pattern, with 11 rows of stretchers to one row of headers. The 
original mortar was an "eggshell" or a "straw" color, according to the architectural and engineering 
report of 1970. The 1835 mortar mix was most likely a mixture of mortar and sand. 



Doorways 

Four doorways existed in 1835: one in the east (front) elevation, one in the north (side) 
elevation, and two in the west (rear) elevation. 

The front doorway is documented by the watercolor painting of 1 848-49 and the engraving 
in the 1849 Boston Almanac. Both show the doorway offset to the left side and fitted with a transom 
window. The doorway is now centered in the wall, and previous studies have doubted the veracity 
of the two early renderings. However, both the 1849 specifications and the architectural 
investigation prove that the original doorway was indeed offset to the left. The specifications clearly 
describe the relocation of the doorway to the center of the wall. Also, the existing arrangement of 
the interior stairway to the second story is not original, based on the paint analysis. The original 
stairway was fit tightly into the southeast corner of the building, based on the framing of the second 
story, the uneven spacing of the east-elevation windows, and the knowledge that each story then 
consisted of one large classroom. This stairway could have been directly accessed from an exterior 
doorway that was offset to the left. Such an arrangement would have allowed pupils to enter the 
second-story classroom without disturbing the pupils in the first-story classroom. 

Paint analysis indicates that portions of the original doorway still survive, having been reused 
in the present doorway. These include the transom window and the doorway frame. The doorway 
also had sidelights originally, although these have since been replaced by modern wood panels. The 
door itself may have had six panels, similar to the one surviving interior door that has been dated 
1835. 

The doorway in the north elevation provided access to the first-story classroom (see figure 
16). This was located between two of the first-story windows. The doorway was closed up in 1849, 
but it is clearly recalled by several features in the wall, including a brownstone lintel, a brick patch, 
one granite step, and the stubs of two iron boot scrapers— one on either side of the former opening. 
This was a recessed doorway, with the steps ascending to the first story located within the walls of 
the schoolhouse. This is suggested by the placement of the boot scrapers and the location of the first 
step, within the foundation wall. The doorway opening in the exterior wall was probably fitted with 
a transom window but no sidelights, based on the height and width of the opening. The transom was 
probably similar in design to the transom that exists today above the front doorway. The door itself 
would have been inside, at the top of the steps. It may have had six panels, similar to the one 
surviving interior door that has been dated 1835. 



60 



The two doorways in the west elevation provided access from the two rear yards to the two 
cellar classrooms. They were at either end of the wall, aligned with the windows of the stories 
above them (see figure 15). As explained previously, it is not known how the doorways related to 
the original grade of the yard; stairwells may have been needed to access them. The doors here may 
have had six panels, similar to the one original interior door. The south doorway opening was wider 
than the north one. It was closed up with concrete blocks in the 20th century, but its brownstone 
lintel survives in the wall today. The north doorway remains in use today, although somewhat 
modified. 



Windows 

Windows provided the primary source of light to the interior classrooms of the Smith School 
House in 1835. They were therefore large and numerous. All of the windows were in three 
elevations only: the east, north, and west. There were no windows in the south elevation, for several 
reasons. First, a large house was very close to the schoolhouse on this side. This house is 
mentioned in the deed for the schoolhouse property dated 1834, and can be seen in the watercolor 
painting of 1848-49 (fig. 3). Second, wall space was needed for blackboards, and the physical 
evidence suggests that blackboards were on the interior south walls. Third, it may have been 
considered desirable to face students towards a wall with no windows, so as to minimize both glare 
and distractions. 

The windows of the east and north walls are documented by the watercolor painting of 1 848- 
49 (fig. 3) and the photograph of 1890 (fig. 8). The watercolor shows small windows in the north 
cellar wall, and large windows in the first and second stories of the east and north elevations. The 
east elevation is depicted as different from conditions today, as follows: (a) it does not show the 
extant cellar window in the east wall; (b) it shows a window in the center of the first story, where 
the front doorway is now located; and (c) there are no window shutters. Physical evidence suggests 
that the extant east-wall cellar window is original, and was inadvertently left out by the artist. As 
stated previously, it is known that the front entrance and the center window were reversed in position 
in 1849, after the painting was done. 

The window sashes as depicted and the lack of shutters are more problematic. The painting 
shows the cellar window sashes with eight panes of glass, and the first- and second-story sashes with 
15 panes of glass. Common practice suggests that the cellar windows had one sash per opening, 
hinged either at the top or at the bottom. The large windows, on the other hand, were probably 
fitted with two sashes per window; a six-pane sash and a nine-pane sash would produce a total of 
15 panes, as seen in the painting. However, it is quite possible that the 15 panes of glass per 
window was another error by the artist. The earliest photograph of the building shows not 15 but 
24 panes of glass per window, divided into two sashes of 12 panes each. These sashes were still 
extant in 1970, in deteriorated condition. Their age is not known, because all of the window 
woodwork, including the sashes, was replaced sometime after 1970. A similar problem exists with 
the window shutters; the age of the earliest shutters is not known, because those extant today date 
to 1975. One possible explanation for the differences between the watercolor painting and later 
views is this: the remodeling of 1849 may have included the replacement of window sashes and the 
addition of window shutters. 



61 



The watercolor painting does not show the south or west walls of the building. There were 
no windows in the south wall, due to the close proximity of a house there. It is assumed that the 
west wall had first- and second-story windows similar to those of the east wall, since such exist 
today. It is possible that there was one small window in the center of the west cellar wall. This 
location is now infilled with brickwork that appears to date to 1849. However, the former sides of 
the opening are clearly defined by the existing cut granite and rubble foundation, and the brickwork 
patch where the lintel was removed is evident. The lintel was situated immediately above the level 
of the foundation; the patch is approximately eight brick lengths long by four bricks high. 

The original window lintels and window sills were of two different materials, granite and 
brownstone. This is based on an examination of the windows as they exist today, since it is unlikely 
that these building elements would have been replaced. Granite— a very hard igneous rock— was 
used for the lintels and sills of the cellar windows, and for the lintels only of the first- and second- 
story windows in the west elevation. Brownstone— a reddish-brown sandstone— was used for the 
lintels and sills of the first- and second-story windows in the east and north elevations, and for the 
sills only of the first- and second-story windows in the west elevation. The use of granite instead 
of brownstone for the upper windows of the rear (west) elevation seems an unusual choice. An 
explanation may be that insufficient amounts of either material were available to do the entire job, 
such that the odd pieces were relegated to the less-visible rear elevation. 

Most of the original window openings survive today. Those in the north wall of the cellar 
measure about 4 feet wide by 2 feet high; those in the first and second stories measure about 4 feet 
wide by 7 feet high. One original window opening is known to have been altered since 1835. This 
is the center window in the first story of the east elevation, which was remodeled to become the front 
doorway in 1849. The materials from this window, including the lintel and sill, are believed to have 
been reused in the window that replaced the original doorway; this window exists today. Also, 
assuming that a west- wall cellar window did exist, it was bricked up in 1849. 



Roof 

The original roof was and still is a gable type, oriented ridge-parallel to Smith Court. It is 
documented by the watercolor painting of 1848-49 and by the 1849 engraving in the Boston Almanac. 
The original roofing surface was probably slate shingles. Slate shingles— possibly the original 
ones— remained on the roof in 1975. These were dark gray in color and measured approximately 
12 inches wide by 20 inches long by three-sixteenths of an inch thick. Each shingle was pre-punched 
with two holes and installed using two nails. These shingles were all removed in 1975 and 
reinstalled on the north side of the roof, where they exist today. 

The surface to which the slates were nailed were wide wood sheathing boards. Many old 
boards that may date to 1834-35 survive on the roof today. This was determined by viewing the 
undersides of the boards, which are visible in the attic. Some sheathing boards were replaced in 
1975. 

Flashing would have been used in 1834-35, as it is today, at the ridge, the chimneys, and the 
gutters. No original flashing survives, having been replaced with lead-coated copper in 1975. The 
original flashing material was probably lead. 



62 



A hatch on the south side of the roof toward the west end may have been an original feature. 
Its antiquity is difficult to establish, because its frame was completely rebuilt in 1975. The hatch 
provides direct access from the attic to the roof. 



Cornice and Gutters 

The cornice that exists on the building today is believed to be basically unchanged from its 
appearance as originally built in 1834-35. It is documented by the watercolor painting of 1848-49 
(fig. 3) that shows a dentil design. This feature extended to the front (east) elevation where it 
formed the lower chord of a classical pediment. Today the cornice on the north side of the 
schoolhouse is composed of flat brickwork that projects slightly from the plane of the wall below. 
It is further articulated by projecting brick dentils that are immediately below the cornice. As in the 
historical view, the cornice and dentils extend to the front (east) side of the building to form the 
classical pediment. No such pediment exists on the rear (west) elevation, and there is no physical 
evidence to suggest that this differs from the historical appearance of 1835. 

Less clear is the evidence for the gutters. While it is possible that gutters and downspouts 
existed in 1835, none are visible in the watercolor painting of 1848-49. If there was a drainage 
system historically, the downspouts may have been on the less-visible rear (west) elevation. The 
existing lead-coated copper gutters, leaders, and downspouts replaced existing gutters of an unknown 
date in 1975. 



Chimneys 

The two brick chimneys that exist today on the east and west ends of the roof were probably 
constructed in 1834-35. Each chimney contained two flues, making four flues total in the 
schoolhouse. Three of these flues are believed to have vented stoves that were used to heat the 
schoolrooms originally. The fourth flue may have been a fresh-air duct. The flues are visible today 
below the level of the roof at the end walls of the attic. The two flues of the east chimney are both 
brick and probably vented two stoves: one in the cellar and one on the first story. The two flues of 
the west chimney are made of two different materials: one brick and the other wood. The brick flue 
is believed to have vented a stove on the second story. The wood flue was most likely a duct for 
fresh air; today it extends as far as the first floor, and it may have also reached as far as the cellar 
floor originally. 

The earliest documentation for the chimneys is the watercolor painting of 1848-49 (fig. 3). 
This view shows only the east chimney, similar to its appearance today. No chimney is shown on 
the west end of the roof, but rather a ventilator cap. While the ventilator cap may have existed by 
this time, it seems improbable that it existed independent of a chimney, given the physical remains 
of a brick flue. More likely, the ventilator cap was mounted to a chimney that was inadvertently left 
out by the artist. The ventilator itself is believed to have been installed in 1847. 



63 



Structure 



General Information 

The structure of the Smith School House as built in 1834-35 is little changed from its 
condition today. Descriptions of the structural systems are therefore based on the conditions as they 
exist in 1990. The building is two stories tall with a full cellar, a small attic, and a gable roof. It 
is three window bays wide by five window bays long, and measures about 30 by 50 feet. 

Walls 

The historic walls of the schoolhouse are masonry. The materials are rubble granite below 
grade, cut granite up to the level of the first floor, and bricks up to the level of the roof. The 
building as originally constructed was freestanding, with no other building abutting it. The north 
and south walls carried the majority of the loads from the floors and the roof, which were transferred 
by the beams and the trusses. The east and west gable walls were primarily self-supporting, except 
for minimal loads transferred by the ends of floor joists and roof sheathing boards. 



Floors 

Three floors existed in the historic schoolhouse: a cellar floor, a first floor, and a second 
floor. The cellar floor is now composed of a modern poured concrete slab that probably replaced 
a wood floor; no physical evidence was found for the framing of the original cellar floor. The first- 
floor framing is presumed to be historic. A more conclusive determination could not be made due 
to the covering of ceiling and flooring materials. The second-floor framing can be viewed from 
below by removing panels in the modern drop ceiling in the large office on the first story. It is 
assumed that the framing of the second floor was me same as the framing of the first floor, as would 
have been common for this type of building. 

The second floor was supported by four large beams that spanned north-to-south. These 
beams were built directly into the brickwork of the north and south walls, between the five window 
bays. Floor joists were framed into the beams, except at the east and west gable ends, where the 
joists were framed directly into the brick walls. A large opening in the floor was framed in the 
southeast corner where a stairway connected the first and second stories. A similar opening was in 
the southeast corner of the first story, where an interior stairway descended to the cellar. 



Roof 

The gable roof was framed by four king-post scissors trusses. Other framing members 
included lower purlins, upper purlins, a ridge board, and rafters situated approximately 20 inches 
on center. The ends of the trusses may have been built directly into the brickwork of the upper 
north and south walls. The "scissors" configuration of the truss's lower chords enabled the ceiling 
of the second story to be arched. Framing for a hatch on the southwest side of the roof may have 
been an original feature. 



64 



Interior Appearance 



General Information 



The documentary information suggests that the interior of the Smith School House contained 
three classrooms— one in each story— and two or more entries so small that coats could not be hung 
in them. Information obtained by the architectural investigation generally verifies this description. 
The 1849 specifications state that prior to that year, the cellar story was divided into two rooms by 
a "partition wall lengthwise of the cellar." However, it seems likely that only the north-side room 
was used for classes; the south-side room had insufficient windows. The first and second stories 
each had one large classroom. Each classroom had a separate exterior entrance. The cellar 
classroom was occupied by the Smith Primary School, and the classrooms on the first and second 
stories were occupied by the Smith Grammar School. The first story was used by the grammar 
school as the writing department, and the second story was used as the grammar school's reading 
department. More information on the Smith Primary and Grammar Schools is found in Chapter II. 



Cellar 

Introduction 

The only documentation concerning the original cellar, aside from the 1849 specifications, 
is a report to the school committee dated May 1847. This noted that the only way to reach the yard, 
the pump, and the outhouses was through a cellar that was dark and damp. Other information on 
the probable appearance of the cellar in 1835 was obtained from the architectural investigation. 

Floor 

The 1849 specifications state that the cellar floor prior to the remodeling consisted of 
"paving," which was relaid at that time. It is not known if the paving material was bricks or stones; 
it is also not known if it was covered by a wood floor similar to the one in the basement of the 
adjacent African Meeting House, which housed a schoolroom for the African School from 1808 until 
1834. Any physical evidence of the early floor is covered by a modern concrete floor. 

Walls 

The outer walls of the classroom consisted of the lower foundation walls of the schoolhouse. 
Small sections of the original walls may be seen today behind modern pine paneling mat was installed 
sometime in the 20th century. These walls were composed of exposed granite rubble below and 
brickwork above. The material of the partition wall was probably brick, because the 1849 
specifications indicate that it had a foundation and was load-bearing. 

The walls appear to have been whitewashed at an early date. While it is difficult to say 
conclusively that the whitewash was an original treatment, the multiple layers observed in paint 
sample P001 suggest that it was. Whitewash would have lightened the walls, given them a uniform 
appearance, and sealed them from moisture to a limited extent. Other details may be learned upon 
removal of the modern paneling. 

65 



Baseboards or a low wood wainscot may have existed in the cellar classroom, although no 
physical evidence for either feature was found. More information may be obtained when the modern 
paneling is removed from the walls. 

Ceiling 

The ceiling was finished with plaster on wood lath. This is based on plaster stains that 
survive on the undersides of the floor joists at the north wall, within a later closet. The lath and 
plaster were removed sometime in the 20th century, when they were replaced by modern concrete 
plaster on wire lath. 

Doorways 

Two doorways, one at either end of the west wall, provided direct access from each cellar 
room to the outside. The south-end doorway was closed up with concrete blocks in the 20th century, 
and no doorway woodwork such as the casings, jambs, architraves, or doors survives. The north- 
end doorway remains in use today, although much modified. 

Windows 

Four windows were in the upper north wall of the cellar. These were small, measuring only 
4 feet wide by 2 feet high. All four exist today, spaced two on either side of the remains of a 
doorway. There were no windows in the south wall, due to the close proximity of a house on the 
south adjacent lot. There was probably one window at the north end of the east wall; one exists here 
today. The watercolor painting of 1848-49 does not show it (fig. 3), but the present window opening 
seems to be an integral part of the foundation construction, and it is the same size as the original 
cellar windows in the north elevation. There may also have been a window in the center of the west 
wall; this area is now bricked up. If so, the "lengthwise" partition was probably not centered. 

It is not known if any of the historic window woodwork or sashes survive, because the 
existing window openings are boarded over on their interior and the exterior sides. Each window 
sash may have had eight panes of glass, as shown in the watercolor painting. 

Stairway 

Interior access to the upper stories from the cellar was also possible by means of a stairway 
in the southeast corner. This original stairway is missing today, having been replaced by the present 
stairway in 1849. However, it is thought to have been in the same location as the present one, based 
on the framing and the fenestration in the upper stories. The original stairway may have been 
enclosed by wood partition walls, although no physical evidence for the walls was found in 1990, 
due to the presence of modern paneling. 



66 



Utility Systems 

Heat was probably supplied to the cellar classroom by burning wood in a cast-iron stove. 
The flue for the stove was in the east wall, where the furnace is vented today. Exactly where in the 
room the stove was situated is not known, since the stovepipe could have been a long one. 

The primary source of light in 1835 would have been the windows. Lamps that burned oil 
or candles may have been used to supplement the natural light on dark days. 



First Story 

Introduction 

The first story was divided into three separate areas: the front entry, the side entry, and the 
classroom. No historical descriptions are known to exist of the first story. Documentation says only 
that the entries were small, and that the first story was used by a department of the Smith Grammar 
School— most likely the writing department. Specific information on the interior features of the 
classroom and the entries in 1835 were obtained by the architectural investigation. 

Front Entry 

The front entry was situated in the southeast corner of the building. It functioned as the 
primary entrance to the classroom in the second story, and as the secondary entrance to the 
classrooms in the first story and in the cellar. The most important part of the entry was the cramped 
staircase that curved up to the second story and down to the cellar. Neither the entry nor the 
stairway exist today, both having been replaced in 1849 by the present larger entry and stairway. 

The historic configuration of the front entry has been deduced from several pieces of 
information. These include the written documentation that describes the original entries as too small 
to hold coats, the watercolor painting of 1848-49 that shows the front doorway offset to left, the 
existing framing of the second floor, and the existing, unevenly spaced fenestration of the east 
elevation. The only feature from the original entry that may survive in situ is the floor, a few boards 
of which can be seen beneath the stairway today. Some elements from the original front doorway 
also survive, reused in the present front doorway when it was created in 1849. These elements 
include the left side and lintel of the architrave, and the transom window. One of the entry's interior 
doors may also have been reused in 1849. This door, now located on the second story, has six 
panels and is of mortised construction. The age of all of the doorway elements was based on an 
analysis of the painted finishes. 

Side Entry 

The side entry was squeezed between the third and fourth windows of the north elevation. 
The physical evidence on the outside of the building suggests that the stairway from the sidewalk up 
to the first story was within the building. It was probably contained within a vestibule that had side 
walls of frame construction and a doorway at the top of the stairway. This entry was the primary 
entrance to the classroom in the first story. Although it was removed in 1849, physical evidence of 
the entry exists in the form of a large brick patch in the wall on the exterior side, and a wood patch 



67 



in the wainscot on the interior side. A patch in the floorboards might also be found when the later 
carpet and linoleum tiles are removed. 

Classroom 

A large classroom comprised the rest of the space in the first story. It must have been of 
unusual shape, judging by the intrusions of the front entry in the southeast corner and the side entry 
at the north wall. 

Floor 

The floor of the classroom was wood floorboards. These survive today beneath later flooring 
materials (wall-to-wall carpet and linoleum). It is unlikely that the floor was covered in 1835 with 
a carpet or floor cloth for reasons of economy and maintenance. 

Walls 

The classroom walls were finished with wainscot and plaster. The wainscot was 
approximately 2 feet 7 inches high. It was composed of random-width beaded boards installed 
horizontally with a cap molding. The plaster was applied directly to the exterior brick walls. It is 
likely that the interior partition walls for the entries were also plastered, although this could not be 
confirmed because the partitions were removed in 1849. Most of the original wall materials survive 
today in what is now the large museum office. Original wainscot exists at the north, west, and south 
walls. Original plaster presumably survives above the wainscot and beneath a later skim coat of 
modern plaster. 

Ceiling 

The ceiling was finished with plaster applied to wood lath. While most of the original ceiling 
plaster was removed in 1975, it may survive in the areas now known as the entry and the northeast 
corner office. 

Doorways 

Two doorways are thought to have opened to the classroom, one from the front entry and 
one from the side entry. Both entries and their doorways were removed in 1849. Their appearance 
has been conjectured based on the available documentation and physical evidence. 

It is known that a front entry and stairway were located in the southeast corner of the first 
story. Access to thin entry from the first-story classroom would have enabled one to go down the 
stairway to the cellar, up the stairway to the second story, or out the front doorway. It is therefore 
assumed that a doorway was within the partition wall of the entry at the north wall. 

A second doorway provided direct access from the classroom to the outside. This was 
probably located at the end of a small vestibule that projected into the room from the north wall. 
The vestibule contained the stairway that exited onto May's (now Smith) Court. Physical evidence 
of the opening in the exterior north wall for the vestibule can be seen in the form of a patch in the 



68 



wainscot. One original six-panel door that may have been reused from one of these two classroom 
doorways is in the second story today. 

Windows 

Ten large windows allowed natural light into the classroom. Two were in the east wall, five 
in the north wall, and three in the west wall. The five windows at the southeast corner of the 
classroom are documented by the exterior watercolor view of 1848-49 (fig. 3). Nine of the original 
10 window openings survive today. The one missing window, in the middle of the east elevation, 
was enlarged to create the present doorway in 1849. No historic window woodwork remains, having 
been replaced with all new woodwork— including the trim and sashes— in the 1970s. 

Blackboards 

Blackboards or other teaching aids may have been hung on the south wall, the only wall 
without windows. The Smith School House was outfitted with blackboards in 1847 according to the 
historical documentation, although it is not known where or in which classroom they were installed. 

Utility Systems 

The classroom was probably heated by burning fuel in a cast-iron stove. The flue for this 
stove is believed to have been within the east wall, between the two windows. The exact location 
of the stove within the room is not known. The fuel used in 1835 was probably wood. 

The primary source of light in 1835 was undoubtedly natural light. Supplementary light 
could have been provided by oil lamps and/or candles on dark days. 

Finishes 

Little is known about how the classroom was finished originally. The paint analysis indicates 
that the first finish on the wainscot was a white lead oil-based paint. No information is available on 
how other features in the room were treated, such as the other woodwork in the room, the plaster 
walls, the plaster ceiling, and the wood floor. A plausible treatment for the other woodwork would 
have been to paint it white similar to the wainscot. A white paint or calcimine may also have been 
the finish of choice for the walls and ceiling, so as to lighten the room as much as possible. A 
typical treatment for the floors at this time would have been to leave them unfinished. 



Second Story 

Introduction 

The second story appears to have been devoted entirely to one large classroom, except for 
the southeast corner where the stairway enclosure was located. This classroom was used by the 
grammar department of the Smith Grammar School. Its appearance in 1835 was determined 
primarily on information obtained from the architectural investigation. 



69 



Floor 

The floor was level in 1835, with no raised platform as exists today at the west end of the 
room. The floor was composed of wood floorboards that were said in 1970 to exist beneath a later 
wood floor. Presumably the original floorboards still survive today beneath the later wood floor, 
which is now covered with modern carpet and ceramic tiles. 

Walls 

The walls were finished with two materials: wainscot and plaster. The wainscot was 
approximately 2 feet 3+ inches high and composed of random-width beaded boards installed 
horizontally with a cap molding. The walls above the wainscot were finished with plaster applied 
directly to the brick walls. Much of the original wainscot and the original plaster survives today. 

Ceiling 

A unique feature of the original ceiling was its arched design. This configuration was made 
possible by the trusses in the attic that had lower "scissors" chords. The ceiling was finished with 
plaster applied to wood lath. Analysis of one of the plaster keys (M001) found that the 1835 plaster 
was a lime type with a hair binder and poorly sorted sand that contained large pebbles. Most of the 
original plaster ceiling is preserved today beneath a pressed-metal ceiling that was installed sometime 
in the late 19th century. Exposed plaster exists at the east end of the building, but its age has not 
been established. A hatch to the attic at the west end of the ceiling may also date to 1835. 

Doorways 

It is doubtful that there were any doorways in the second-story classroom in 1835. Rather, 
the entire second story appears to have been completely open with no partition walls. This is based 
in part on the paint analysis, which indicates that the present north-south partition wall is a later 
addition. The concept of one large "hall" is also in keeping with the historical writings of the period 
about the Boston Public Grammar Schools. 

Windows 

The second-story classroom was illuminated by 11 large windows. Three were in the east 
wall, five in the north wall, and three in the west wall. All of the original window openings survive 
today in unaltered condition. None of the original woodwork remains, having been completely 
replaced in the 1970s. 

Blackboards 

The Smith School House was furnished with blackboards by 1847 according to the historical 
documentation. If blackboards existed in the second-story classroom, these would have been 
mounted on the one wall without windows— the south wall. No physical evidence for the 
blackboards was identified on the plaster wall during the architectural investigation. 



70 



Stairway 

Nothing remains of the original stairway, which was replaced by the present stairway in 
1849, according to the paint analysis. The configuration of the historic stairway is therefore 
conjectural, being based on the historical documentation and the physical evidence. 

The stairway was the only entrance to the classroom in the second story. It appears to have 
been located in the southeast corner of the building, based on the location of the front doorway and 
the front entry in 1835, the framing of the second floor, and the spacing of the windows in the 
second story of the east elevation. A close look at the spacing of the windows reveals that the south 
window was offset to the south, disrupting the even spacing of the windows. This seems to have 
been a deliberate design solution that reflected the interior placement of the stairway (fig. 17). By 
offsetting the window, it was possible to fit in a railing at the upper stairway landing. Railings 
instead of partition walls may also have enclosed the stairwell on its north and west sides. Such an 
arrangement would have been in keeping with the open floor plan, and would have had the additional 
advantage of not blocking the light from the southeast window. 

Utility Systems 

The second-story classroom was probably heated by burning fuel in a cast-iron stove. The 
flue for the stove appears to have been in the west wall between the north and center windows. A 
brick flue is visible in this location today in the attic story. The hole for the stovepipe might remain 
behind a flag case that was attached to the wall sometime after 1880. The fuel in 1835 was most 
likely wood. 

The primary source of light in 1835 would have been natural light. Supplementary light 
could have been supplied on dark days with oil lamps and/or candles. 

Finishes 

The paint analysis suggests that the second-story classroom was finished in a manner similar 
to the first-story classroom in 1835. The original wainscot was painted with a white lead oil-based 
paint. No information is available on the finishes for the floor, the plaster wall, or the plaster 
ceiling. 



71 



PERIODS OF ALTERATIONS 



Alterations, 1836-1854 



New Closet, 1836 

A new closet was built in 1836 to hold teaching equipment known as "Philosophical 
Apparatus," according to the records of the Boston School Committee. This closet is presumed to 
have been in the first-story classroom where the writing department for the Smith Grammar School 
met. It was the writing department that taught the subjects for which the philosophical apparatus 
would have been used. No specific descriptions of the closet were found in the historical 
documentation, nor does any trace of the closet survive today. 



Recitation Platform, 1846 

The School Committee ordered in the winter of 1846 that a platform be built in the upper hall 
of the Smith School. The stated purpose of the platform was to raise up the seats of the scholars 
who were reciting above the heads of the other scholars. It is thought that this platform was indeed 
built, and that it is the one extant at the west end of the second story today. This platform spans the 
entire width of the room and measures 28 feet long by 5 1/2 feet deep. It is reached by one step that 
also extends across the width of the room. The structure and floorboards of the 1846 platform and 
step are assumed to be preserved beneath a later covering of modern wall-to-wall carpet. Future 
investigation beneath the platform may reveal important information about the early finishes of the 
second-story classroom. 



Ventilation, 1847 

Modifications appear to have been made to the Smith School House to improve its ventilation 
in 1847. This is based on the historical documentation as recorded in the numbered documents of 
the City of Boston. Exactly what this work entailed is not known. The watercolor painting of 1848- 
49 (fig. 3) shows equipment on the roof that may have been installed in 1847. This includes what 
appears to be an ejecting ventilator on the west end of the roof and a ventilator pipe in the center of 
the roof. The ejecting ventilator no longer exists, but a metal shaft that resembles the ventilator pipe 
at the center is on the roof today. This vertical metal shaft extends through the attic and opens to 
the ceiling of the large room on the second story. A baffle within the shaft could probably be 
controlled from the room below to regulate the flow of air. Also within the attic is a wood flue at 
the west wall that was presumably used for ventilation. This flue extends down as far as the first 
floor today, and may have originally continued as far down as the cellar floor. Its location at the 
west wall suggests that the flue may have been connected to the rooftop ventilator illustrated in the 
watercolor painting. 



72 



Remodeling, 1849 

Introduction 

The Smith School House was remodeled in the summer of 1849. Drawings and specifications 
for the work were prepared by Gridley James Fox Bryant, a Boston architect (see Appendix E). The 
cost for the remodeling, including both planning and construction, was $1,739. The schoolhouse 
was described after the alterations and improvements were completed as possessing furniture, 
fixtures, and apparatus that contributed to the comfort and convenience of the school. 

Site Work 

The specifications state that the two "yards" in the rear of the building were to be dug out 
to the level of the cellar flooring, and new walls were to be built around them. (Apparently the area 
remained divided into two yards in 1849.) The single block of privies was to be removed, and two 
new blocks of privies with cesspool vaults built beneath them. Water was to be brought from the 
roof of the schoolhouse from the conductors through aqueducts into the vaults, and a new barrel 
drain was to connect with the common sewer of the street. 

Exterior Work 

Doorways and Windows 

The cellar received one new doorway, in the center of the north wall directly below the 
middle window (see figure 18). The specifications contain much detail about this doorway, and the 
physical evidence of it is clearly evident today, even though the opening has been infilled with 
concrete blocks. (It can be seen in the later closet at the north wall.) The doorway opening was 
within the granite foundation, so that granite blocks comprised the jambs and lintel. Because the 
cellar was below the grade of Smith Court, steps leading down to the doorway were needed. These 
steps were situated within a stairwell that projected out from the building and into the sidewalk. The 
exact size of this stairwell may be ascertained today, based on the granite blocks that define it at the 
sidewalk level. 

Such a stairwell must have posed some problems in its day, such as the hazard of people 
falling into it from the sidewalk, and the tendency of such a feature to collect rainwater. For these 
reasons, it is possible that the stairwell was either covered over when not in use, or fitted with 
guardrails at the sidewalk level. That the former may have been the case is suggested by the 
photograph of 1890 (fig. 8), which shows the stairwell covered with boards, and the portion of 
doorway opening above the sidewalk closed with a pair of short doors. The iron pintles for these 
doors' hinges, mounted in the granite jambs, exist today. 

The two original doorways in the west cellar wall were deepened to match the reduction of 
grade in the yard, and fitted with new granite thresholds. The physical evidence suggests mat an 
original cellar window in the center of that wall was also bricked up at this time. The specifications 
suggest that the closure was related to the installation of a new heating system. They state that "two 
flues 8 by 1 2 inches are to be commenced from the cellars and properly connected with the present 
flues over the said cellar." The two new flues were for two furnaces; the "present" flues were those 
embedded in the brick west wall for the earlier cast-iron stoves at first- and second-story levels. The 



73 



center of the west cellar wall is the only place the new flues could have "commenced from the 
cellars" and connected with the existing flues. 

In the first story, the original window opening in the center of the front elevation was 
converted to a new front doorway. The paint evidence indicates that several pieces of the original 
doorway's woodwork were reused for the new doorway, including the exterior frame, the transom 
window, the interior left-side architrave, and the interior architrave lintel. The removed window 
components were likewise used to create a new window where the doorway had been. 

The original doorway in the north elevation to the first-story classroom was completely 
removed and the opening bricked in. Although the specifications do not actually say this, the paint 
on the interior wainscot that patched over the opening provides indisputable evidence that this did 
happen. Perhaps this was a change decided upon during construction. 

Finishes 

The specifications state that new exterior woodwork was to be painted with three coats of 
"white lead" paint, and that old exterior woodwork was to receive two coats of the same. The final 
coat was a mustard-color oil-based paint that contained lead, based on paint analysis of the early 
paint layers on the transom and frame of the front doorway. 

Structure 

The specifications directed the workmen to 

Support the present first and second floorings with new girder sticks and 
piers and iron columns as found necessary in consequence of the removal 
of the present interior party wall of the cellar and the present partitions in 
the first story.... 

Four new brick piers were to be built in the cellar, and still other piers beneath the new front 
entrance doorway. 

Interior Work 

Plan 

The interior plan of all three stories was greatly changed in 1849. The lengthwise partition 
in the cellar was removed. The first story was repartitioned to create one large entry, one 
classroom, and a small room in the northeast corner off the classroom. The second story received 
a corresponding but larger room off its classroom. 

The changes in plan required the complete removal and rebuilding of the three-story staircase, 
which is described in great detail in the specifications. Also required was the removal and patching 
over of the side entry vestibule, and the installation of new partition walls and wainscot. 



74 



Floors, Walls, and Ceilings 

The specifications state that "In relaying the paving of the cellars, they are to be deepened 
as much as can be done safely... without injury to the foundations of the walls of the building." It 
is not known why the word "cellars" is used; the specifications are clear that the lengthwise partition 
formerly in the cellar was to be removed as part of the remodeling. 

The specifications would suggest that very few original interior finishes on the upper floors 
survived the work: 

The partitions and every thing connected therewith in the two stories (first 
and second) of the building including also the stairways are all to be 
removed.... All the upper floors are to be removed and the lining of the 
walls of the two stories.... New upper floors of "best planers" are to be laid 
throughout the first and second stories... the boards to be in narrow 
widths.... A platform is to be built across each of the School rooms, as seen 
in the plans. 

However, the architectural investigation indicates that the following original interior features were 
in fact retained: the wood floors, the outer plaster walls and ceilings, the wainscot in the classrooms 
on the first and second stories, and one (or more) of the six-panel doors. Also retained was the 
recitation platform on the second story that had been installed in 1846. 

One interesting woodwork element that was installed atop the wainscot in the second-story 
classroom in 1849 was a wide concave-shaped molding. This molding was on the south wall and 
on the south side of the east wall only, suggesting that it may have functioned as a chalk and eraser 
holder for the blackboards. Its date of installation is based on the paint analysis. No such molding 
exists in the first-story classroom. 

Finishes 

The specifications stated that "the entire interior wood work of every part of the building 
excepting only the floors and stairs" was to be given two coats of paint and then grained in imitation 
of oak. The paint analysis did indeed find such graining: a yellow oil-based paint that contained 
lead, followed by a coat of varnish. 

Utility Systems 

Oddly, the specifications make no mention of improvements to the school's lighting system. 
One might think that gas lighting would have been installed, replacing earlier oil lamps and/or 
candles. 2 

Extensive improvements were made, however, to the heating and ventilating systems. The 
specifications mention "the pots, pipes, registers and other metal fixtures of two Furnaces." They 
also state: "Cut out recesses as directed for ventilating flues in each story to received wooden boxes 



2 Research on the nearby African Meeting House indicates that gas lighting was introduced there only six 
years later, in 1855. 

75 



or flues. Put in funnel stones and registers to each of the present flues in each story where 
directed." Finally, they cite new "smoke, hot-air, and ventilating flues." 

It is possible that one of the two furnaces cited in the specifications was already in the 
building by 1849, and that only one furnace was purchased new. The Superintendent of Public 
Buildings reported in June 1851 that between January 1, 1848, and May 1, 1851, $63.01 had been 
expended on the heating apparatus at the Smith School House that included "1 Clark's Stove." 3 
(The superintendent also reported that the school used both coal and wood.) Henry G. Clark of 
Boston patented an "Air-Heating Stove" in 1848, and it was likely his stove that was installed in the 
schoolhouse. More research into Clark's patent may determine how the stove functioned within the 
Smith School House. 4 

The specifications state that the first and second stories were to receive one sink each, 
supplied with "Cochituate [city] water" by heavy lead pipe five-eights of an inch in diameter. The 
sinks were to have hose cocks, and waste pipes leading to "the drains." This equipment may have 
been the subject of the following grammar-school expense in the auditor's annual report for the fiscal 
year 1853-54: "Plumbers' Bills for Water Works," and "Water Rates, Viz, 22 Schools at $15." 5 



Alterations, 1855-1882 



No alterations were documented as having been made to the schoolhouse while it was in use 
an integrated primary school, and as a temporary branch of the Phillips Grammar School. Toilets 
may have existed inside the building by circa 1860, based on the exterior photograph of that date that 
does not show the outhouses of 1849 (fig. 5). 



Alterations, Circa 1882-1886 



No alterations were identified as having been made to the schoolhouse while it was in use 
as a storage building for the City of Boston. 



Alterations, 1887-1970 



Many changes were made to the Smith School House during the time it was used by the GAR 
Post Number 134 from 1887 to circa 1920, and by the American Legion Post Number 56 from circa 



3 City Document No. 39, 1851. 

4 The patent number was difficult to read and is either 5,704 or 5,764. 

5 City Document No. 59, 1854, "Auditor's Annual Report of the Receipts and Expenditures of the City 
of Boston," p. 37. 

76 



1920 to 1982. The documentation for this period is scanty, so that most of the information that 
follows is based on the architectural investigation and the architectural/engineering report of 1970. 6 

The earliest changes, made sometime between 1887 and 1900, were identified as having 
occurred in the large former classroom in the second story. Chief among these was the installation 
of a pressed-metal ceiling that was installed over the original plaster ceiling, probably because the 
latter was in poor condition. The earliest metal ceilings date to 1 868 and were of crude corrugated 
iron. Stamped metal ceilings similar to the one in the Smith School House began to be advertised 
in the 1880s. Metal ceilings reached their height of popularity between the years 1895 to 1915. 7 

Two large wooden flag cases were attached to the west wall of the former classroom on the 
second story. These were situated between the three windows in the west wall, with one on either 
side of the center window. While it is possible that the flag cases may have been associated with 
the Smith School, the findings of the paint analysis indicate that these cases were installed at a later 
date. This is further verified by a wallpaper that was found behind the north flag case. The paper 
stock is mechanical wood pulp and the design is machine-printed, both of which date the wallpaper 
as post- 1855. In addition, the predominantly red floral design is a type that was popular in the latter 
part of the 19th century. For more details on the wallpaper, see Appendix H. 

Another early addition to the second story is found in the small northeast room. This is a 
shallow closet built against the west wall. It was thought initially that this may have been the same 
closet that was built by Master Abner Forbes in 1837 to house the new teaching equipment for the 
Smith School known as "Philosophical Apparatus." It was later discovered, however, that the west 
partition wall against which the closet was constructed had been installed in 1849. The paint analysis 
confirmed that the closet was of later construction, possibly installed in 1887. The closet is made 
of narrow matched-board paneling. It has two compartments and two doors, the north one of which 
is made of the same matched-board material as the closet itself. The south door is an old four-panel 
door reused from somewhere other than the Smith School House, based on its painted finishes. 

A major change to the roof was made at some point, probably in 1909 when the existing 
apartment building was constructed on the south adjacent lot. This work involved changing the slope 
of the south side of the roof by building a new roof on top of the existing roof, and building up the 
south sides of the east and west gable ends with new brickwork. The south edge of the roof was 
butted and flashed into the brickwork of the new building. Although the roof has since been changed 
back to its original appearance, remnants of flashing from the raised roof survive today in the brick 
wall of the south adjacent building (see figure 34). 

The cellar was extensively remodeled sometime in the 20th century. This may have occurred 
as late as 1952, which is the date of manufacture stamped on the toilet in the northeast toilet room. 
Two of the three cellar doorways were closed up— the 1849 one in the middle of the north wall, and 



6 Architectural Heritage, Stahl Association. 

7 Mary Dierickx, "Metal Ceilings in the U.S.," Bulletin of the Association for Preservation Technology, 
Vol. VII, No. 2, 1975, pp. 83-84; and "A Glance Back at Tin Ceiling," Tfie Old-House Journal, March 1979, 
p. 29. 

77 



the original one at the south end of the west wall. The precise date of this work is not known. 8 
However, the material used to close both doorways is concrete blocks. 

Other 20th-century changes involved the following work: 

- replacement of the existing floor with a poured concrete floor and linoleum tiles; 

- replacement of the existing lath and plaster ceiling with a new ceiling comprised of 
concrete plaster on wire lath; 

- installation of four columns to give additional support to the first floor; 

- construction of a mechanical room at the east wall, using concrete-block partition walls; 

- furring out of the remaining exterior walls and installation of wide pine paneling; 

- installation of a toilet room in the northeast corner of the cellar; 

- installation of a counter, or bar, and a sink at the west end of the cellar; and 

- installation of new light fixtures. 

Alterations of unknown date that were probably done in the 20th century include: 

- installation of electrical service; 

- installation of the existing steam-heating system, including the cast-iron radiators in the 
first and second stories; 

- replacement of the front door and sidelights with a modern door and wood panels; 

- installation of two columns in the large room in the first story to give additional support 
to the second floor; 

- installation of a kitchen in the northeast corner room in the first story; 

- installation of linoleum tiles in the first story; 

- installation of a new wood floor in the second story; 

- partitioning of the northeast room in the second story to make a toilet room and closet at 
the head of the stairway; and 

- paving with macadam the sidewalk on the Smith Court side of the building. 



8 Previously these closures were thought to have occurred before 1937, based on a letter of that date 
denying a public hall license because there was only one means of egress from the building. However, it is 
now believed that the extant doorway at the north end of the west cellar wall has remained open since its 
creation in 1834-35, so the 1937 letter must have not included cellar doorways. 

78 



Alterations 1970-1984 



Numerous changes were also made to the schoolhouse between 1970 and 1984, including 
major renovation work in 1975. The building was still being used by veterans' groups at this time. 

All of the old window sashes and window woodwork in the first and second stories were 
replaced with new sashes and new woodwork sometime between 1970 and 1975. This work 
occurred sometime after June 1970, when an architectural/engineering report stated that the old 12- 
over-12 window sashes were extant but deteriorated. These presumably had been replaced by the 
current windows by the fall of 1975, when other restoration work was undertaken that did not 
include the windows. No record was found for the work, perhaps because the job cost less than 
$2,000 and was therefore done as a work order with the City of Boston. The new window sashes 
were double-hung and fitted with 12 panes of glass each. Some of the glass panes appear to be old 
due to their irregularities, and may have been reused from the old sashes. Also replaced at this time 
was the window trim on both the exterior and the interior sides of the windows, including the jambs, 
architraves, sills, stools, and aprons. 

A contract was undertaken in 1975 with the City of Boston Public Facilities Department to 
renovate the "Old Smith School." The work that was specified for this contract is documented in 
the contract documents, which are described in the "Historical Background" section of this report. 
The work that was actually done is summarized below: 

exterior walls 

- remove extraneous hardware; 

- rake out and repoint the mortar joints; 

- install eight through-masonry tie rods at the second-story level with exterior cast-iron end 
plates in a star design; and 

- remove the circa- 1909 brickwork from the south side of the east and west gable ends, and 
restore the gable ends at the same time as the roof. 

doorways and windows 

- parge the deteriorated brownstone lintels and sills with a mortar mix pigmented to 
resemble the brownstone; and 

- install new wood shutters at the east-elevation windows only. 
roof and gutters 

- remove the circa- 1909 roofing materials from the south side of the roof; 

- remove all the slate shingles from the roof; 



79 



- reinstall the old slate shingles on the north side of the roof, and install new asphalt 
shingles that resemble the slate on the less-visible south side of the roof; 

- install new lead-coated copper flashing; and 

- install new lead-coated copper gutters and downspouts. 
second-story structure 

- remove the two columns supporting the second floor in the large room on the first story; 

- reinforce the second floor by installing two new steel I-beams and eight through-masonry 
tie rods; 

- remove the lath and plaster ceiling in the large room on the first story in order to gain 
access to the framing of the second floor; and 

- install a new drop ceiling in place of the old plaster ceiling. 
utility systems 

- update the existing electrical system; and 

- install a new fire- and smoke-detection and alarm system. 

The second story was updated two years later, in 1977: the hall closet was removed and the 
toilet room was partitioned to make two separate toilet rooms. The date was determined based on 
the date of manufacture stamped on the undersides of the two toilet-tank covers. Also probably 
installed at this time were the ceramic tiles on the floors and lower walls of the two toilet rooms. 

The toilet room in the cellar was also remodeled in 1977. This involved installing a new 
plasterboard partition wall to make an anteroom, moving the sink and urinal from the toilet room 
to the anteroom, installing a mirror in the anteroom, and installing a shower in the toilet room. This 
remodeling is known to have been done sometime after June 1970, based a plan of the cellar 
included in the architectural/engineering report that does not show the anteroom. 

The heating system was updated on December 28, 1984, when the fuel was changed from 
oil to natural gas and the existing steam boiler was installed. This date is recorded on both the gas 
meter and on the owner's manual, which is stored in an envelope in the mechanical room. 

Alterations, 1985-1988 



The last work that was done on the Smith School House was undertaken by the National Park 
Service, which has occupied the building since 1984. The work that was done in 1988 was primarily 
cosmetic in nature and involved cleaning, painting, and interior decorating. Since no completion 
report was prepared for the project, knowledge of the specific tasks actually done had to be deduced 

80 



from the proposal that was submitted for Section 106 compliance, the conditions that exist today, and 
a conversation with one of the maintenance employees who did the work. The identification of 
materials such as cleaning products and paints was based on the materials that were found stored in 
the cellar's north closet. 

The basement was intended to be used for small meetings and interpretation. Work proposed 
here included the following: 

- clean the paneling with "Butcher's One-Step Cleaning Wax"; 

- paint the ceiling; 

- install new light fixtures where previous fixtures had been removed; 

- inspect the electrical system for possible safety problems; and 

- clean the rest room, and either repair or replace the plumbing fixtures, and add a new 
fiberglass shower enclosure. 

It was expected that the first story would continue in use as the office of the Museum of Afro 
American History, with the former kitchen being renovated as a small meeting or conference room. 
Work proposed was as follows: 

clean, paint the walls and trim, and install new gray wall-to-wall carpet over the existing 
tile floors, and on the stairway to the second story; 

- replace the panels of the suspended ceiling in the large room with new panels, and install 
additional ceiling light fixtures; and 

- clean the small northeast room (former kitchen) cleaned thoroughly, remove the cabinets 
and nonhistone paneling, and smooth and paint the walls. 

It was foreseen that the second story would continue in use as the office of the Boston 
African American National Historic Site. The existing storage room would be used as a break room 
and food-preparation area. Proposed work included the following: 

- clean, paint the walls and ceiling, and install new gray wall-to-wall carpet; 

- install new light fixtures along the walls of the large room; 

- outfit the storage room with a small sink with cabinets and counter top; 

- install an exhaust system and new ceilings in the two rest rooms; and 

- remove the nonhistone wall paneling from the hall outside the rest rooms, and plaster the 
walls. 

Paints used in this work were as follows: 

- ceilings and walls ~ California Ceiling White, Acrylic Latex, Interior Flat; 

- interior trim -- Benjamin Moore, Interior Enamel, Semi-Gloss Latex, Rose"; and 
floor in cellar toilet room ~ "True Value Interior/Exterior Oil-Base, Floor and Trim 
Enamel, Battleship Gray. 



81 



The sink and counter top proposed for the small northeast room in the second story was 
apparently not installed. Work that was done but not mentioned in the proposal included: 

- removing the wainscot from the northeast room on the first story; 
installing plasterboard walls over the old plaster in that room; 

- removing old trim and old doors from various doorways, and installing new trim and new 
doors; and 

- replacing the single door in the cellar doorway at the north end of the west wall with a 
pair of modern metal fire doors. 

The justification for removing the wainscot and the doorway woodwork was its deteriorated 
condition. All old materials were discarded. 9 

Air-conditioning units were installed by the National Park Service in the windows of the first 
and second stories at an unknown date. 



9 Telephone conversation, April 26, 1990, with Varnie Carter, Maintenance Foreman— Buildings, BNHP. 

82 



o 



PUMP 



YARD 




DWELLING HOUSE 

OF 
NANCY COLLINS 
/y 





location of "the 
partition wall 
lengthwise of the 
cellar" not known 



SCHOOL ROOM 





1=1 



=1 
o 
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JOY STREET 



Figure 15. Smith School House: 
Conjectural cellar plan, 1835. 




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543210 



83 




DWELLING HOUSE 

OF 
NANCY COLLINS 



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SCHOOL ROOM 






ENTRY 



C/) 



JOY STREET 



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543210 



Figure 16. Smith School House: Conjectural first-floor plan, 1835. 



84 




SCHOOL ROOM 




e» 



54 32 10 



Figure 17. Smith House School: Conjectural second-floor plan, 1835. 

85 



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YARD 





SCHOOL ROOM 




ir 

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ul 




JOY STREET 



Figure 18. Smith School House: 
Conjectural cellar plan, 1849. 




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JOY STREET 



543210 



Figure 19. Smith School House: Conjectural first-floor plan, 1849. 



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543210 5 



Figure 20. Smith School House: Conjectural second-floor plan, 1849. 



IV. EXISTING CONDITIONS 



89 



EXTERIOR ELEMENTS 



Introduction 



The exterior appearance of the Smith School House today is depicted in figures 21-34. It is 
only slightly changed today from its appearance after its remodeling in 1849. Notable exceptions 
include various features of the site, several elements of the front doorway, and the cellar openings 
in the north and west walls. These are discussed below in detail. 



The Site 



The Smith School House remains on its original site on the north slope of Beacon Hill. The 
property is still bordered on its east side by a street and on its north side by a passageway, although 
their names have been changed. Belknap Street to the east has been known as Joy Street since 1855, 
and May's Court to the north was renamed Smith's Court in 1848. l The 6-foot passageway to the 
west that contained a pump and well survives today as a piece of property that no one seems to own 
and on which no taxes are paid. No evidence of the pump and well are visible. The property to the 
south now has a five-story brick apartment building that was erected in 1909. This building is 
intrusive both for its size and because it was built directly up against a portion of the Smith School's 
south elevation. 

While the schoolhouse takes up most of its site, there is also a sidewalk along its east and 
north sides and a small yard to the rear. The grade of the sidewalks does not appear to have 
changed significantly since 1835. They are bounded on their street sides by granite curbs that most 
likely date to the 19th century and are in fair-to-good condition. The sidewalk along Joy Street to 
the east is paved with bricks set in sand that were installed by the city sometime within the last 20 
years. While the bricks themselves are not historic, they reproduce what was most likely the 
historical appearance of the walk in the 19th century. Modern intrusions in the Joy Street sidewalk 
in front of the schoolhouse include a fire hydrant at the south end and a manhole cover at the north 
end. The sidewalk along the Smith Court side of the schoolhouse is paved with macadam that 
replaced earlier brick paving sometime after circa 1937. 

The yard behind the schoolhouse measures approximately 15 feet deep by 30 feet side. It 
was historically bounded on its north, west, and south sides by a brick wall. The north brick wall 
is intact except for the addition of a doorway sometime in the 20th century. The west wall was in 
deteriorated condition in 1975, and it was completely disassembled sometime thereafter. A small 
portion of the low south wall remains today, but in mostly ruinous condition. 

The grade of the yard adjacent to the west wall of the building is similar to the historic 
(1849) grade, judging by the threshold level of the historic doorway in the north end of the wall (see 



1 This is commonly known as Smith Court today. 

91 



figs. 30-3 1). 2 The 1991 archeological investigation found that this area was dug out, and the steps 
to the doorway in the north yard wall were built, probably sometime in the 1980s. The grade of the 
rest of the yard is as much as 3 feet higher than historic grade, primarily due to the deposition of 
dirt and construction debris in the yard since 1975. Documentation indicates that the veterans' 
groups headquartered in the building in the late 1 9th and early 20th centuries also performed some 
repaving, which may have affected the grade level. 

The yard was described in 1847 as bounded on one side by the outhouses, and on the other 
side by the pump. The 1991 archeological investigation found a line of stones in the yard that might 
have been part of the pre- 1849 privy block's foundation. 



The Building 



Foundation 

The granite foundation walls are original (1834-35) and in good condition. They were last 
repointed with a mortar mix containing portland cement in 1975. A portion of the rubble foundation 
is exposed today on the west elevation where it was originally covered with earth. The regrading 
of the back yard that exposed the foundation occurred in 1849. 



Walls 

The brick walls are original (1834-35). They are in good condition generally, except for 
some bricks that are pitted, and a few joints that are missing mortar. The walls were last repointed 
with a mortar mix containing portland cement in 1975. The brickwork of the south sides of the east 
and west gable ends was restored as part of the roof restoration in 1975. Through- wall anchors with 
cast-iron, star-shaped end plates were installed in the walls in 1975 to stabilize the second floor. 



Doorways 

The schoolhouse has two functioning exterior doorways, both of them historic. One is in the 
first story of the front (east) elevation; it dates to 1849. The other is in the cellar story of the rear 
(west) elevation; it is thought to be original, although much altered. Three other historic doorways 
have been closed up. 

The existing front doorway is in the center of the east elevation in the first story. It replaced 
an original window opening in 1849. Several components of the doorway are earlier than 1849, and 
were apparently reused from the original front doorway. These early components include the 
doorway frame and the transom window. Other reused features may include the granite step and the 
brownstone lintel. Cast-iron boot scrapers may have been installed on either side of the doorway 
in 1849— their stubs remain today. The lintel is parged with a pigmented mortar that was probably 



2 As explained previously, the original (1835) grade is not known, but the 1849 specifications called for 
it to be lowered as part of the remodeling of that year. 

92 



applied in 1975. Modern components of the doorway that were installed sometime in the 20th 
century are door itself, the door hardware, and wood panels that replaced the sidelights. 

The existing rear doorway is at the north end of the west wall of the cellar. The 
specifications for the 1849 work indicate that it was one of two doorways in this wall at that time. 
The doorway has a granite lintel and a pair of modern metal fire doors. 

The original front doorway, at the south end of the east elevation, was converted to a window 
in 1849. There are no obvious patches in the brickwork to suggest that a doorway had ever existed 
here. Instead, the evidence is found in the 1849 specifications; the window spacing, which suggests 
location for the front entry and stairway different from those of today; and the information obtained 
from the paint analysis. 

The original doorway in the first story of the north elevation was closed in 1849. Its location 
is clearly defined by the brickwork patch that fills the opening. Other clues include original features 
that survive within the wall, such as the first granite step, the brownstone lintel, and the remnants 
of two cast-iron boot scrapers. The lintel is parged with a pigmented mortar that was probably 
applied in 1975. 

The 1849 doorway in the cellar story of the north elevation was closed sometime in the 20th 
century. Its location is discernable by the modern concrete blocks that in fill the opening. Historic 
doorway materials that survive here include the granite lintel, the granite jambs, and the granite 
retaining walls for the stairwell that extend out into the sidewalk. The stairwell is paved with 
macadam today, so it is not known if the steps survive below the level of the sidewalk. 

The original cellar doorway at the south end of the west elevation was also closed sometime 
in the 20th century, and is also infilled with modern concrete blocks. Its brownstone iintel survives 
today within the wall. Both the lintel and the masonry patch are parged with a mortar that was 
probably applied in 1975. 



Windows 

All window openings in the Smith School House are in the east, north, and west elevations 
of the building. This appears to have been the historical arrangement, determined by the proximity 
of a building on the adjacent south lot in 1834 and the functional needs of the interior classrooms. 
Most of the window openings that exist in the schoolhouse today are original and date to the 
construction of the building in 1834-35. The few exceptions are as follows: 

- the cellar window in the east elevation, possibly installed in 1849; and 

- the first-story window at the south end of the east wall, created from the original 
doorway opening in 1849. 

A brickwork patch in the center of the west foundation wall may have been the location of an 
original window opening; it includes the outline of a lintel. Mortar analysis has dated the brickwork 
to the 1849 remodeling; the specifications for that work suggest it was introduced to extend existing 
stove flues down to new heating equipment in the cellar. 



93 



Of the window openings that exist today, all retain their original lintels and sills. The sills 
and lintels of the cellar openings are granite in good condition. Granite was also used for the lintels 
of the windows in the first and second stories of the west elevation. These are also in good 
condition. A less-durable brownstone was used for the sills of the windows in the upper stories, and 
the lintels of the windows in the upper stories of the east and north elevations only. Most of the 
brownstone is parged with a pigmented mortar that was probably applied during the exterior 
restoration of 1975. This parging exists on the lintels and sills in the east elevation, and the lintels 
only in the north elevation. Exposed brownstone exists at the window sills of the north and west 
elevations only. These sills are in various stages of deterioration, with all exhibiting some degree 
of delamination, cracking, chipping, and general wear. 

All of the window sashes and trim in the first and second stories of the building were 
replaced sometime in the 1970s and are in good condition. All of the cellar window openings are 
boarded over, so that the condition of their sashes is not known. A report on the building in 1970 
assessed that all the cellar sashes were of later manufacture, except possibly the sash in the east 
cellar window. 

Window shutters exist at the five windows of the east elevation only. These shutters were 
installed in 1975 as part of the exterior restoration of the building. Shutters were believed to have 
been on the east elevation of the building at an early date, based on the presence of old shutter 
hardware including pintles and shutter dogs. The historical research suggests that shutters were not 
original (see figs. 3-4), but they may have been installed during the remodeling of 1849. Because 
no shutters remained on the building in 1975 and no historical views of the shutters exist, the style 
chosen for the new shutters must have been a guess. Each shutter leaf has two panels of equal size, 
and each panel is fitted with 20 fixed louvers. The shutters were not removed for this study so it 
is not known how much, if any, of the old hardware was left in place in 1975. 

The historical appearance of the windows is most disrupted by four air-conditioning units. 
Two are in the north elevation and two are in the west elevation. These units remain in the 
windows year-round. 



Roof 

The appearance of the roof today dates to the exterior restoration of 1975. Presumably 
original slate shingles are on the north side of the roof only, where they were reinstalled in 1975. 
Black asphalt shingles cover the less-visible south side of the roof. The ridge cap and other flashing 
is lead-coated copper. A ventilation apparatus that may date to 1847 is mounted on the center ridge 
of the roof; it is coated with a black tar-like substance. There are two modern sewer vent pipes, 
both at the east end of the roof. One is visible from the street, because it is in the lower north slope 
of the roof; it probably services the cellar toilet room. The other is less visible, because it is in the 
south slope near the chimney; it probably vents the toilet rooms on the second story. A hatch that 
provides direct access to the attic is in the south slope at the west end of the roof. The hatch appears 
to have been newly constructed in 1975, although it may have reproduced an earlier hatch that was 
in deteriorated condition. Remnants exist of flashing from the former roof alteration of circa 1909 
in the upper brick wall of the adjacent south building (see fig. 34). 



94 



The wide wood sheathing boards to which the slate and asphalt shingles are nailed are 
probably original (1834-35). The undersides of the boards may be viewed from the attic. Some 
boards are new, and were most likely installed in 1975. 

The condition of the roof is generally good, except for three slate shingles that are cracked, 
and the asphalt shingles, which are somewhat brittle. 



Cornice and Gutters 

The brickwork cornice retains its original 1835 appearance despite repairs made to it in the 
20th century. The most recent repairs probably date to 1975, when the entire building exterior was 
repointed. 

The existing drainage system was installed on the building in 1975. It was learned from a 
conversation with an architect who worked on the building that the design of the present system was 
not based on historical research. Existing drainage components include gutters, leader boxes, and 
leaders, all made of lead-coated copper. Gutters are on both the north and south sides of the 
building. The leaders and leader boxes are mounted at the far corners of the west elevation. Both 
drain to a sewer pipe at the lower northwest corner of the west elevation. 

The drainage equipment appears to be in good condition, although there is a problem with 
water backing up in the winter in the southwest corner of the building. Water seepage has caused 
damage to the plaster in the second-story office of the National Park Service. 



Chimneys 

The schoolhouse has two chimneys: one on the east end of the building, the other on the west 
end. Both are simply designed and constructed of brick. Only one flue in the east chimney is in 
use today, as the vent for the boiler of the central heating system. 

The chimneys are in good condition. They were most recently repointed in 1975. In 
addition, the east chimney has a coat of cement parge on its top course of brickwork on the west 
side— presumably applied in 1975 to repair bricks that were in poor condition. The west chimney 
is encircled by two metal straps that appear to be the obsolete supports for a former antenna. 



Signs 

Several nonhistone signs are attached to the east and west exterior walls. All but one were 
installed sometime after 1984 by the Museum of Afro American History and the National Park 
Service. 

Two signs are attached to the east elevation. One is bolted to the south side of the front 
doorway and reads "Administrative Offices, Museum of Afro American History and Boston African 
American National Historic Site, In the Historic Abiel Smith School, 46 Joy Street." The second 



95 



sign is suspended over the sidewalk from a metal support that is bolted near the north corner of the 
building. Its purpose is to direct visitors to the "African Meeting House" farther down Smith Court. 

Three signs are clustered on the east corner of the north elevation. One is a small metal sign 
that explains the historical significance of "Smith Court. " The second is a glass-door display case 
in which notices are posted by the "Museum of Afro American History: African Meeting House." 
The third is an older wood sign that reads "Private Way, Dangerous Passing." 



Flagpole 

A large flagpole is mounted to the sill of the center window in the second story of the east 
elevation. No flagpole appears in the early views of the schoolhouse (figs. 3-4), and no references 
to a flag or a flagpole were found in the historical records. However, it was common practice for 
schools to have a flagpole. Additional research may reveal whether the installation of a flagpole in 
this location dates to the later historic period, or to the years when the building was used by 
veterans' groups (1887-1984). 



Finishes 

The primary exterior finish of the Smith School House is unpainted brickwork. There is no 
indication that the exterior brickwork of the building has ever been painted. 

The only exterior features of the schoolhouse that are painted those made of wood. The front 
doorway's side panels, transom window, and ceiling are painted white. Also painted white are the 
window sashes and trim of the first- and second-story windows. The window shutters on the east 
elevation are painted black. The painted finishes are in good condition, although they look somewhat 
worn. 



Protection Equipment 

Fire-safety equipment extant on the exterior of the building dates to 1987. This equipment 
includes a light over the front doorway, a light over the back doorway, an alarm mounted to the 
upper north wall at the east corner, and a rigid electrical conduit mounted to the interior side of the 
yard's north wall. Intrusion-alarm equipment was also installed in 1987. 



96 




543 2 10 5 



Figure 21. Smith School House: East elevation (1990). 



97 













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Figure 23. Smith School House: West elevation (1990). 



99 




Figure 24. Smith School House: East (front) and north elevations (1990). 





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Figure 25. Smith School House: East elevation, first story (1990). 



100 



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Figure 26. Smith School House: East elevation, doorway transom (1990). 




Figure 27. Smith School House: East elevation, doorway steps (1990). 



101 




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102 




Figure 30. Smith School House: detail of lower west elevation (1990). 




Figure 31. Smith School House: detail of north yard wall (1990). 



103 




Figure 32. Smith School House: Roof, looking east (1990). 







Figure 33. Smith School House: Roof, looking west (1990). 



104 




Figure 34. Smith School House: Junction of roof with 

adjacent south building, showing flashing line 

remaining from circa- 19 10 roof alteration (1990). 



105 



STRUCTURE 



Walls 

The walls appear to be in sound condition following their stabilization in 1975. While some 
settlement has occurred, most notably at the west wall, there does not appear to have been recent 
movement. 



Floors 

Of the three floors in the schoolhouse (fig. 35), only two —the first floor and the second 
floor— date to the original construction in 1834-35. The cellar floor was replaced by the existing 
modern cast-concrete floor sometime in the 20th century. The original framing of each the first and 
second floors consists of four beams that span north-south, and floor joists that span east-west. 

The first floor was reported in 1970 to feel springy and to have considerable sag despite four 
columns that supported it in the cellar. No stabilization was done on the floor in 1975, and the same 
conditions exist today that were described in 1970. 

The second floor was stabilized in 1975, and the equipment installed at that time exists today. 
This includes two steel I-beams and through-wall anchor bolts that tied the floor structure to the 
exterior east, north, and west walls. Despite this work, one specific area of the second floor still 
sags noticeably when walked upon, perhaps due to a cracked floor joist. 



Roof 

Most of the original (1834-35) roof framing remains in the building today. The roof framing 
components include the four king-post scissors trusses, the ridge board, the lower purlins, the upper 
purlins, and the roof rafters. These seem to be in good condition, except for some water stains that 
may predate the reroofing of 1975. See the subsequent section "Interior Elements, Attic" for more 
information on the roof framing. 



106 





NATIONAL PARK SERVICE 
OFFICE 



MUSEUM OFFICE 



MEETING ROOM 



EXISTING 1990 

SECTION 



543210 



Figure 35. Smith School House: section looking west (1990). 



107 



INTERIOR ELEMENTS 

Cellar 



General Information 

The cellar is depicted in figures 36-48. It was completely remodeled sometime in the 20th 
century, possibly as late as 1952. What was originally one large classroom in 1835 is now 
partitioned into a large meeting room to the west, a small mechanical room to the east, and a toilet 
room in the northeast corner. The cellar is used only occasionally for meetings and class groups. 



Floor 

The floor is composed of modern cast concrete. This floor is believed to have replaced an 
earlier wood-framed floor. No evidence of the earlier floor was found during the architectural 
investigation. 

The concrete floor slopes slightly, most notably in the large meeting room. In addition, the 
floor is elevated approximately 6 inches in the northeast toilet room, most likely to accommodate 
plumbing. The boiler in the mechanical room is raised on a concrete platform that measures 6 feet 
6 inches wide by 6 feet 10 1/2 inches long. 

The concrete floor has three finishes. First, it is unfinished in the closets off the main room 
and in the mechanical room. Second, it is covered with linoleum tiles in colors of yellow and blue 
in the meeting room and the anteroom off the corner toilet room. Third, it is painted "battleship 
gray" in the toilet room. 



Walls 

Most of the exterior walls in the cellar are furred out about 1 foot 6 inches from the 
foundation and paneled with wide-board knotty pine paneling with a varnish or a shellac finish. This 
paneling is of fairly recent vintage and may have been installed sometime in the 1950s. Doors in 
the paneling in the meeting room are for three closets: one in the north wall at the former exterior 
doorway, one in the south wall beneath the stairway, and another in the south wall to the west of the 
stairway closet. The original granite and brick walls are visible in the north closet and at the east 
wall of the mechanical room. Remnants of an early whitewash finish are visible on the closet walls. 

Concrete-block walls partition the mechanical room at the east end of the cellar. These were 
probably used to create a fireproof room for the heating system. They are believed to be 
contemporary with the pine paneling. 

A later plasterboard wall partitions an anteroom to the west of the corner toilet room. This 
is thought to have been installed circa 1977 at the same time that alterations were made to the toilet 
room on the second story. 

108 



Ceiling 

The ceiling is composed of hard cement plaster on wire lath. It too probably dates to the 
circa 1950s remodeling of the cellar. Physical evidence of the earlier/original lath and plaster ceiling 
is visible in the north closet. This evidence is in the form of white plaster stains on the undersides 
of the ceiling joists. 

Four posts, encased with pine boards, support the ceiling/first floor. These are in the large 
meeting room and support the two center beams that span north-south. They are believed to have 
been installed during the remodeling of the cellar to provide additional support to the first floor. 



Doorways 

There are several interior doorways and one exterior doorway in the cellar. All date to the 
remodeling of the cellar or later. Three closets open off the large meeting room on the north and 
south sides of the room. The doors are made of the same pine paneling as the walls. The door 
hardware is a black colonial-style reproduction. The doorway to the interior toilet room is the same 
vintage as the closets. It is fitted with a solid wood flush-style door that is either varnished or 
shellacked. 

The doorway to the mechanical room has a modern hollow-core door. It is lined on its 
interior side with a metal fireproof material known as "Titekote." Vents in the lower portion of the 
door provide ventilation to the mechanical room. The doorway to the anteroom of the toilet room 
is also fitted with a modern hollow core door. 

An exterior doorway is in the north side of the west wall. It was installed sometime in 1937 
or later. It is believed to have replaced an original window opening. Today the doorway is fitted 
with a pair of modern metal fire doors that swing outward. 

The evidence of one historic doorway only is visible in the cellar today. This is the Smith 
Court doorway in the north elevation that may be seen in the north closet. The doorway is clearly 
defined by the concrete blocks that enclose the opening. 

Two other historic doorways existed previously in the west wall: one in the center of the wall 
in 1835, and another wider doorway that replaced the center doorway circa 1849. This later 
doorway was in the south side of the west wall and itself replaced what was probably an original 
window opening. No evidence of these doorways is visible from inside today due to the presence 
of the later pine paneling. 



Windows 

Four windows, now boarded over, are in the upper north wall of the cellar. These are 
original openings that date to the 1834-35 construction of the building. Provision was made for the 
windows when the wall paneling was installed in the circa 1950s by constructing deep window 
surrounds. It is not known if any historic woodwork survives at these windows due to their present 
inaccessibility. 



109 



One historic window, in the east wall of the toilet room, was paneled over when the cellar 
was remodeled. This is therefore the most likely window to have intact historic woodwork. 

Two historic window openings are missing from the west wall. One, in the south side of the 
wall, was enlarged to a doorway circa 1849. The other, in the north side of the wall, was enlarged 
to the present doorway sometime in the 20th century. No physical evidence survives of the 
windows. 



Counter 

A counter at the west end of the meeting room is constructed of the same pine boards that 
panel the walls; it is therefore probably contemporary with the remodeling of the cellar. It is likely 
that the counter area functioned as a bar where alcoholic beverages were served judging from the 
"Budweiser" beer clock that hangs on the wall behind it. The counter itself is a low partition with 
a wide flat top surface. Immediately behind the counter is a stainless steel sink with running water. 
The wall behind the counter has a mirror and shelves. 



Stairway 

Interior access to the upper stories of the schoolhouse is possible by means of a stairway in 
the southeast corner of the cellar. The structure of this stairway dates to the 1849 remodeling of the 
building. Most of the stairway finishes, however, are later including the beige-color linoleum on 
the treads, metal strips on the front edge of the treads, and the same pine paneling on the walls that 
exists in the cellar. Other modern additions include the metal pipe railing at the east and south walls, 
the wall light and electrical receptacle at the east wall, and the emergency light at the east wall. 

Features of the stairway that are historic include the structure of the stairway itself (1849), 
the sloped ceiling that may retain its early plaster finish (1849), and the floorboards in the niche in 
the upper stairway (1835 and 1849). 



Finishes 

Except for remnants of an early whitewash finish on the original foundation walls, all of the 
finishes in the cellar date to the 20th century. These are summarized below: 

- the poured concrete floor is either unfinished, covered with linoleum tiles, or painted a 
"battleship gray" color; 

- a resinous finish such as a varnish, a shellac, or a polyurethane covers the knotty pine 
paneling; 

- white latex paint covers the concrete block partition walls and the cement plaster ceiling; 
and 

- pink latex paint covers the doors and door trim in the east partition wall. 

110 



Utility Systems 

Heating System 

The cellar is heated by the steam pipes that convey steam from the boiler in the mechanical 
room up to the radiators on the first and second stories. These pipes are suspended from the ceiling 
at the north and south walls. Heating pipes are also concealed behind the paneling at the north and 
south walls. The mechanical room itself is a source of heat if the door is left open. 

The "Burnham America" steam boiler for the central heating system is on a raised concrete 
platform in the mechanical room. It is fueled by natural gas. The owner's manual for the boiler is 
in an envelope in the mechanical room and provides the following information. The boiler was 
installed on December 28, 1984, at the same time as the gas meter at the east wall. It was installed 
by "C & F Plbg. & Htg. Co. Inc." of 18 Melrose Street in Boston. It is boiler model number 
"U412 Steam," and was manufactured by the Burnham Corporation of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. 

Several problems exist with the boiler. First, it is difficult to control the heat within the 
building, resulting in overheating in the winter. Second, the park staff needs to periodically drain 
the system of accumulated water. Third and most alarming, the boiler has been a source of gas 
leaks. One recent visit by the Boston Gas Company in response to a call from the staff confirmed 
that there was not one but several leaks in the vicinity of the boiler. These were repaired by the 
Boston Gas representative. 

Plumbing System 

Plumbing fixtures abound in the cellar. They are located in the mechanical room, the 
meeting room, and in the toilet room and anteroom. In addition, a soil pipe is behind the paneling 
on the north wall. 

The hot- water heater for the building is in the mechanical room. This is a "Smith 
Permaglas" 50-gallon tank manufactured by the A. O. Smith Corporation. It is also fueled by natural 
gas. The owner's manual is in a pocket on the tank, although the date of installation is not recorded. 

A stainless-steel sink with three sets of active faucets is behind the counter in the meeting 
room. The maintenance staff reports that the drain in the sink has a tendency to clog. 

The toilet room is outfitted with a toilet and a shower that are both in working order. The 
toilet has a white porcelain finish, and is dated "Jul 16, 1952" on the underside of the tank cover. 
The shower is a modern fiberglass insert that was probably installed in 1988 as part of the interior 
renovation of the building. 

The anteroom of the toilet room has a sink and a urinal. Both are cast iron with a white 
porcelain finish. Their date of manufacture is not known, but they are believed to have been moved 
to this location from the toilet room circa 1977. 

A floor drain and sump pump are in the large closet in the south wall of the meeting room. 
This is a modern pump that was probably installed sometime within the last 10 years. 



Ill 



Electrical System 

The electrical fixtures in the cellar date from several periods, the earliest being the 
remodeling of the cellar sometime in the 1950s. The electrical wiring in the building was updated 
in 1975. 

The circuit-breaker box for the building is in the mechanical room, on the south wall. It is 
a modern unit that probably replaced an earlier fixture in 1975. Other electrical equipment in the 
mechanical room includes three bare-bulb ceiling fixtures, a light switch on the west partition wall, 
and one two-plug receptacle above the light switch. Fire- and intrusion-protection equipment is 
discussed in a separate section. 

The large meeting room is well-equipped with 18 separate lighting fixtures and five electrical 
receptacles. The electrical wiring is concealed behind the wood paneling on the exterior walls, and 
elsewhere within rigid conduits. The lighting fixtures include four fluorescent lights in the ceiling, 
two fluorescent lights above a mirror at the west wall behind the counter, two incandescent lights 
with glass globe shades in the ceiling, eight incandescent lights with glass globe shades at the north 
and south walls, and two incandescent lights with glass cylinder shades on either side of the mirror 
at the west wall. The ceiling lights are operated by one switch mounted to the concrete block 
partition wall; the wall lights are operated individually by switches at the fixtures. One additional 
bare-bulb light fixture is in the large closet at the north wall. The five receptacles are equipped to 
receive two plugs each. Three receptacles are mounted on the west wall, one on the north wall, and 
one on the south wall. A functioning clock that features the "Budweiser" beer logo is plugged into 
one receptacle at the west wall. 

The toilet room and the anteroom of the toilet room are each equipped with a fluorescent 
ceiling light and an incandescent wall light. The incandescent wall light in the anteroom is operated 
by a switch at the fixture itself. The other three lights are operated by a light switch in the 
anteroom. There are no electrical receptacles in either room. 



Protection Systems 

Fire-detection and alarm system was installed in 1975 and updated in 1987. The control 
panels for this system are in the mechanical room on the south wall. One is a red metal box that 
is labeled "Fire Control Panel." The panel is divided into four zones including the basement, the 
first story, the second story, and the attic. A second box is colored blue and labeled, "Pyrotronics 
Monitor Systems, Model MX-203." Emergency lighting is part of the fire safety equipment and 
includes an "Emergi-Lite" in the upper southwest corner of the mechanical room. 

Fire-detection and alarm equipment is also located elsewhere in the cellar. Manually operated 
fire extinguishers are placed in strategic locations. Heat detectors are in the ceiling of both the 
meeting room and the anteroom of the toilet room. Emergency lights are in the meeting room, the 
toilet room, and in the stairway. A fire alarm pull-station box is mounted to the north wall of the 
meeting room. An electrified "EXIT" sign is on the east wall next to the stairway. An emergency 
siren is in the meeting room. Finally, the exterior doorway in the west wall is fitted with outward- 
opening fire doors, panic bars, and an emergency alarm that is activated when the doors are opened. 



112 




Figure 36. Smith School House: Cellar plan (1990). 



543210 



113 




Figure 37. Smith School House: Cellar, meeting room, looking northwest (1990). 




Figure 38. Smith School House: Cellar, meeting room, area behind west 

counter (1990). 



114 




Figure 39. Smith School House: Cellar, meeting room hall, looking east (1990). 




Figure 40. Smith School House: Cellar, 
section of original wall, as seen in the 
later north closet of the meeting room 
(1990). 



115 




Figure 41. Smith School House: Cellar, mechanical room, looking west (1990). 




Figure 42. Smith School House: Cellar, 
mechanical room, looking southeast (1990). 



116 




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120 



First Story 



General Information 



The general configuration of the first story (fig. 49) is unchanged from its appearance in 1849 
when the existing partition walls and stairway were installed. Based on the physical investigation, 
original features that survive from 1834-35 include the floor, the exterior walls, some portions of 
the ceiling, the window openings, and the wainscot in the former classroom at the north, west, and 
south walls. The first story is used today as the administrative office of the Museum of Afro 
American History. 



Entry and Stairway 

The layout of the first-story entry (figs. 50-52) is unchanged from its appearance in 1849. 
It functions today, as it did in 1849, as the main entry into the building. It also serves as an 
information center for posting notices, and as an area for the temporary storage of materials such 
as shovels, sand, and office supplies. 

Floor 

The floor is covered with gray wall-to-wall carpet in good condition that was installed in 
1988. The carpet covers green linoleum tiles that in turn cover wood floorboards. The wood 
floorboards are presumed to date to the original construction in 1834-35. Their condition is not 
known. 

Walls 

The exterior east wall of the entry dates to the original construction of 1834-35, while the 
north, west, and south partition walls date to the remodeling of 1849. The walls are plastered, and 
are now covered with a modern textured finish. It is not known if the plaster beneath the texturing 
is historic or of later date. This could be determined by removing samples of plaster for analysis. 

The lower walls are finished with baseboards that are modern plain boards 4 inches high. 
It is not known when they were installed or what earlier materials they replaced. 

A modern cork bulletin board is attached to the north wall near the west corner. 

Ceiling 

The ceiling is plastered with a modern textured finish similar to the walls. A small portion 
of the ceiling at the east wall was removed and replastered in 1975 when an anchor was inserted 
through the exterior wall to stabilize the second floor. The remaining textured plaster may have 
original plaster beneath it, or plaster from a later period. This could be determined by removing 
samples of plaster for analysis. The stairwell for the present stairway, which was built in 1849, 
occupies the southeast corner of the entry ceiling. 



121 



Doorways 

There are three doorways in the entry: one exterior doorway in the east wall, one interior 
doorway in the west partition wall, and one interior doorway in the south partition wall. 

The exterior doorway replaced an original window in this location in 1849. It includes 
elements that were reused from the original doorway at that time, elements that were newly installed 
in 1849, and elements that were installed sometime in the 20th century. This was determined based 
on information obtained from the paint analysis and stylistic characteristics. Features that date to 
1834-35 are the architrave on the north side, the architrave lintel, and the transom window sash. 
Newly installed in 1849 was the wide architrave on the south side. The wood threshold may also 
date from this time. Modern features of the doorway are the door itself, which is glazed with two 
panes of glass, and the wood panels on either side of the doorway, which replaced long, narrow 
sidelights. The date of installation for the door and wood panels is not known, but was probably 
sometime in the 20th century. 

The west interior doorway gives access to the large room that functioned historically as a 
classroom. The doorway opening is presumed to be original to 1849 when the partition wall was 
built. All other elements are later and were installed during the renovation of 1988. These include 
the jambs, the architrave, the hollow-core door, and the door hardware. The threshold is covered 
with carpet. 

The south interior doorway leads to the cellar stairway. The doorway opening is believed 
to date to 1849. All historic woodwork associated with the doorway was replaced at a later date. 
This includes the jambs, the architrave, and the hollow-core door. Only the two door hinges are old, 
and may have been reused from the original door. Each hinge leaf is attached with four screws. 

Windows 

Several windows provided natural light in the entry in 1849. Some remain today. 

The upper portion of a large window exists in the east wall of the stairway to the second 
story. This window was installed in 1849 in place of the original front doorway. It is an unusual 
arrangement, in that the stairway (which was also installed in 1849) covers a portion of the window. 
All that remains today of the 1849 window is the opening itself. Modern window elements installed 
sometime between 1970 and 1975 include the jambs, the architrave, and the sashes. Also later are 
the Venetian blind and two horizontal boards installed across the opening to prevent people from 
falling through the window. 

An interior window in the west partition wall, to the south of the doorway, was described 
in the report of 1970 The report noted that the window had been covered over with a later finish 
on the opposite side of the wall. Today the window is also covered over on the entry side of the 
wall. It is not known if the window was a feature of the 1849 wall, or if it was a later addition. 
More information might be obtained by opening the wall. 



122 



Stairway 

The present stairway to the second story (figs. 53-54) dates to the remodeling of 1849. This 
is based both on the 1849 specifications and information obtained by the paint analysis. This 
stairway replaced the original stairway that was in this same approximate location, but of a different 
configuration. It is U-shaped, with 18 risers and two interim iandings. Other historic (1849) 
elements include the wood newels, the handrail, and the balusters; a wood shelf at the south wall that 
is 5 inches wide; and the wainscot. The wainscot of 1849 closely replicated the original wainscot 
of 1834-35 on the lower walls of the classrooms. The stairway wainscot is about 2 to 3 feet high, 
and is composed of boards that range from 4 to 6 inches wide. These boards are installed 
horizontally and at an angle so as to follow the rise of the stairway. 

The east and south walls of the stairway are plastered with the same modern textured finish 
as the walls in the entry. It is not known if any historic plaster survives beneath the textured skim 
coat. The treads and risers of the stairway are covered with a gray carpet that was installed in 1988. 

Finishes 

Most of the finishes in the entry and stairway date to the 1988 renovation of the interior. 
The finishes are summarized below: 

- gray carpet covers the floor; 

- white latex paint covers the textured plaster walls, the ceiling, and the stairway wainscot; 

- pink latex paint covers the baseboards, the trim of the east and south doorways, the trim 
and sashes of the east window, the upper molding of the stairway wainscot, and the east 
shelf at the stairway; 

- glossy black paint covers all elements of the stairway, including the treads, risers, newels, 
handrail, and balusters; 

- a dark varnish covers the door and the wood side panels of the exterior doorway; and 

- a clear resinous finish such as shellac or polyurethane covers the trim and door of the west 
doorway, and the door only of the south doorway. 

Utility Systems 

Heating System 

The entry and stairway are heated by one steam radiator at the north wall. This radiator has 
20 fins and measures 3 feet tall by 4 feet long. It has a decorative casting, no manufacturer's 
identification, and is painted a metallic silver color. An obsolete switch that was probably for an oil 
burner in the cellar is on the upper south partition wall. No physical evidence was found for historic 
heating equipment. This area may have been unheated in 1849. 

Plumbing System 

There is no plumbing equipment in the entry or the stairway. 



123 



Electrical System 

The electrical equipment in the entry includes one light, three light switches, and one 
automatic doorbell. The light is a ceiling fixture suspended by a chain and fitted with one 
incandescent bulb. It is operated by a switch on the west wall to the left of the doorway. A second 
light switch is on the east wall to the right of the exterior doorway; it controls a light fixture in the 
upper stair hall. A third light switch is on the south wall to the left of the doorway; it controls the 
light in the cellar stairway. The bell for the automatic doorbell is on the north wall near the east 
corner. 

Protection Systems 

Fire-protection equipment in the entry is mounted to the north wall, and includes a pull- 
station alarm box and an illuminated "EXIT" sign. The control panel for the intrusion-alarm system 
is attached to the north wall. It is wired to the front door. 



Museum Office 

The museum office (figs. 55-58) is the largest room on the first story. It was used as a 
classroom for the Smith Grammar School from 1835 to 1855. The configuration of the room today 
is unchanged from its appearance in 1849, when the north entry vestibule was removed and the 
existing east partition wall was installed. Earlier features also survive in this room, such as the 
original 1834-35 window openings and the wainscot on the exterior north, west, and south walls. 
The room is now used as the administrative office of the Museum of Afro American History, and 
as a book and gift shop for the Black Heritage Trail. 

Floor 

The floor is covered with gray wall-to-wall carpet that was installed in 1988. Beneath the 
carpet are black linoleum tiles, and beneath the tiles are wood floorboards. The floorboards may 
date to the original construction in 1834-35. 

Removal of the later floor materials should uncover a patch in the floor at the middle of the 
north wall. Such a patch would have been necessary to close up the original vestibule stairwell that 
was removed in 1849. 

Walls 

The room is enclosed by three exterior walls on the north, west, and south sides, and by one 
interior partition wa'l on the east side. The exterior walls date to the original construction of the 
building in 1834-35; the partition wall dates to the remodeling of the building in 1849. Missing are 
partition walls for the original side-entry vestibule that projected from the north wall. The vestibule 
was removed in 1849. 

Wainscot covers the lower portions of all four walls. It is composed of horizontal boards 
of various widths and is finished at its top edge by a cap molding. The height of the wainscot is 
approximately 2 feet 7 inches. The wainscot is of a similar style on all four walls of the room, as 



124 



if it had been installed at one time. The paint analysis, however, indicates that the wainscot on the 
north, west, and south walls dates to 1834-35, while the wainscot on the east wall dates to 1849. 
Also installed in 1849 was a patch in the wainscot at the north wall, in the location of the former 
entry vestibule. 

The walls above the wainscot are finished with plaster. The plaster is applied directly to the 
brick of the original north, west, and south walls, and to wood lath on the 1849 east partition wall. 
It is not known if any of the original 1834-35 plaster survives on the brick walls. The east partition 
wall, on the other hand, was observed to retain 1849 plaster beneath a later application of cement 
plaster. A plaster sample removed from this wall (M002) was found to contain calcium carbonate, 
sand, and a hair binder. The sand component of the 1849 plaster is a fine-grain white quartz with 
some orange-color grains. 

Ceiling 

The ceiling is a modern suspended type with a metal grid and removable panels. Light 
fixtures are incorporated into the ceiling panels. The ceiling was installed in 1975 to replace the 
original lath-and-plaster ceiling that had been removed to facilitate the structural stabilization of the 
second floor. New ceiling panels and additional light fixtures were installed by the National Park 
Service in 1988. 

Some remnants of the original 1834-35 ceiling survive on the joists above the suspended 
ceiling. These include scraps of lath, lath nails, and plaster keys. In addition, white plaster stains 
are evident on the undersides of most of the joists. 

Doorways 

Two doorways are in the room in the east partition wall. One doorway, in the center of the 
wall, is the only exit from the room to the front entry. The second doorway, to the north of the 
center doorway, enters a small office. Both doorway openings are believed to date to 1849. All 
associated woodwork, on the other hand, was installed in 1988. This includes the jambs, the 
architraves, the hollow-core doors, and the door hardware. 

An original doorway dating to 1834-35 had existed previously at an entry vestibule that was 
removed in 1849. Evidence of the doorway may survive en the floorboards in the form of markings, 
or "ghosts," outlining the locations of the former threshold and architrave. Removal of the later 
floor carpet and linoleum tiles is necessary to determine if this evidence exists. 

Windows 

There are seven large windows in the room: four in the north wall and three in the west wall. 
All seven window openings date to the original construction of the schoolhouse in 1834-35. All 
associated window woodwork is later, having been installed sometime between 1970 and 1975. This 
includes the window jambs, stools, architraves, aprons, and 12-over-12 sashes. 

A window existed at one time in the east partition wall, to the south of the center doorway. 
This window was described in the report of 1970 as being covered over by a later finish. No 



125 



evidence of the window is visible today. It is not known if the window was a feature of the 1849 
wall, or if it was installed at a later date. More information might be obtained by opening the wall. 

Blackboards 

No physical evidence for the blackboards was found during the architectural investigation. 
If blackboards existed in the first-story classroom during the Smith School era (1835-55), they were 
probably on the windowless south wall. 

Closet 

A closet was constructed in the Smith School House in 1837 to hold teaching equipment 
known as "Philosophical Apparatus." It is thought likely that the closet was on the first story, as 
explained in detail in the "Historical Background" section of this report. It is not known if the closet 
was removed during the remodeling of 1849. No physical evidence of the closet was found on the 
first story during the architectural investigation. 

Finishes 

The finishes in the room date to the remodeling of 1988 and include the following: 

- gray carpet on the floor; 

- a suspended ceiling over the ceiling; 

- white latex paint on the wainscot boards and the plaster walls; 

- pink latex paint on the wainscot cap molding, the window trim, and the window sashes; 
and 

- a clear resinous finish such as varnish or polyurethane on the woodwork of the two 
doorways at the east wall. 

Utility Systems 

Heating System 

Heating equipment includes steam radiators, a thermostat, and exposed pipes. Four radiators 
are in the far corners of the room: two at the north wall, and two at the south wall. The radiators 
are cast iron. Each is composed of 17 fins and finished with a silver metallic paint that is flaking. 
The thermostat is on the east partition wall, to the south of the center doorway. It is does not work, 
according to the maintenance staff. Four insulated pipes convey the steam up to the radiators on the 
second story; two are at the north wall, and two at the south wall. 

No physical evidence of the earlier heating system except the brick flues was found during 
the architectural investigation. 

Ventilation System 

The room is cooled during the hot months by two modern air-conditioning units mounted in 
the lower portions of two windows: one in a north window, the other in a west window. These units 
remain in the windows year-round. 



126 



Ventilation was obtained in the room historically by opening the windows. In addition, a 
vent box was built into the west wall between the south and center windows (see fig. 57). It 
exhausted stale air through a wooden flue built into the west chimney. The vent box survives today, 
although it was modified in 1975 to serve as a cabinet for a fire extinguisher. 

Plumbing System 

No plumbing equipment exists in the room today, nor was there any plumbing equipment in 
the room historically. 

Electrical System 

The electrical equipment includes light fixtures and electrical receptacles. The room is 
lighted artificially by 26 light fixtures. Of these, eight are incandescent lights that are mounted to 
the walls. Each wall fixture is fitted with one bulb, a glass shade, and a switch that operates the 
light. A total of 18 fluorescent light fixtures are in the ceiling. Some were installed in 1975 and 
others in 1988. They are operated by two switches on the east wall, south of the center doorway. 

Electrical receptacles number 12 and are on all the walls. Two of the receptacles are more 
modern than the others, and were installed for the exclusive use of the air conditioners. The number 
of receptacles is extremely inadequate for the needs of the museum, whose equipment includes 
personal computers, electric typewriters, a refrigerator, and a microwave oven. Many of the 
receptacles have been equipped for larger capacity by means of adapters. 

Protection Systems 

The room is well-equipped with fire-protection equipment, most of which was installed in 
1975 and updated in 1987. This equipment includes ceiling smoke detectors, an emergency siren 
on the east wall, emergency lighting on the west wall, an illuminated "EXIT" sign above the center 
doorway in the east wall, and two fire extinguishers in cabinets— one at the west wall and the other 
at the east wall. 



Northeast Office 

A small office (fig. 59) is in the northeast corner of the first story. The general configuration 
of the room is unchanged from its appearance in 1849 when the existing west and south partition 
walls were installed. The historic use of the room is not known. It may have functioned as the 
office of the master of the Smith School or as the school library. Few historic features remain, due 
to several changes that were made in the 20th century. The room was being used as a kitchen in 
1970; it was most recently remodeled for use as an office, in 1988. It now serves as the office for 
the director of the Museum of Afro American History. 

Floor 

The floor is covered by gray wall-to-wall carpet that was installed in 1988. It is not known 
what material exists beneath the carpet. 



127 



Walls 

The north and east exterior walls are original and date to 1849, while the south and west 
partition walls date to 1849. The walls are now finished with plasterboard and a modern baseboard 
that was installed in 1988. The old wainscot and most of the plaster was removed at this time. 

Ceiling 

The ceiling is a modern suspended ceiling composed of a metal grid, drop-in panels, and 
built-in lights. It was installed in 1988 at the same time as the plasterboard walls. The condition 
of the ceiling above the suspended ceiling is not known. 

Doorways 

There is one doorway in the room, in the west partition wall. This doorway is presumed to 
be contemporary with the wall that was built in 1849. Only the opening itself dates from 1849. 
Installed in 1988 were the doorway jambs, the architrave, the hollow-core door, and the door 
hardware. 

Windows 

There are two large windows in the office: one in the north wall and one in the east wall. 
Both are original window openings that date to the construction of the building in 1834-35. All of 
the woodwork associated with the windows is new, having been replaced sometime between 1970 
and 1975. The new woodwork includes the window jambs, stools, architraves, and 12-over-12 
sashes. 

Finishes 

The finishes in the office date to the remodeling of 1988. They include the following: 

- gray carpet on the floor; 

- a drop ceiling on the ceiling; 

- white latex paint on the plasterboard walls; 

- pink latex paint on the woodwork trim, including the baseboards, the window trim, and 
the window sashes; and 

- a clear resinous finish such as varnish or polyurethane on the doorway woodwork. 

Utility Systems 

Heating System 

The room is heated by one steam radiator at the north wall beneath the window. This 
radiator has 10 fins and measures 2 feet 1 inch long by 3 feet 9 1/2 inches high. It is finished with 
a silver metallic paint that is chipped. 



128 



The flue for the stove that heated the original classroom in 1835 is believed to be in the east 
wall in the southeast corner of the office. Physical evidence of the flue may survive beneath the 
modern plasterboard. 

Plumbing System 

There is no plumbing equipment in the office. 

Electrical Equipment 

Electrical equipment includes two fluorescent ceiling light fixtures, one light switch on the 
west wall, and two-plug receptacles on the south and east walls. 

Protection Systems 

The office is equipped with a smoke detector in the ceiling and an emergency light mounted 
to the upper south wall. 



129 





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Figure 49. Smith School House: First-floor plan (1990). 



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Figure 52. Smith School House: First story, entry, 
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Figure 55. Smith School House: First story, museum office, looking east 

(1990). 




Figure 56. Smith School House: First story, museum office, looking south 

(1990). 



134 




Figure 57. Smith School House: First story, museum office, looking west 

(1990). 




Figure 58. Smith School House: museum office, looking north (1990). 



135 




Figure 59. Smith School House: First story, 
northeast office, looking northwest (1990). 



136 



Second Story 



General Information 



The general configuration of the second story (fig. 60) is mostly unchanged from its 
appearance in 1849, when the existing southeast stairway and hall were built, and the southwest 
corner of the story was partitioned off as a small schoolroom (see fig. 20). However, today the 
south half of the small schoolroom is subdivided into two toilet room; the north half is used as a 
storage room. Features that survive from the original construction in 1834-35 include the floor, the 
exterior walls, the ceiling structure, (he window openings, and some of the wainscot. The second 
story is used today as the administrative office of the Boston African National Historic Site of the 
National Park Service. Modern toilet rooms for the offices are also on this story. 



Hall 

The hall in the second story (fig. 61) is at the top of the stairway in the southeast corner of 
the building. Its general configuration today matches that following the remodeling of 1849, when 
the present stairway and the hall's north and east partition walls were installed. The hall functions 
today, as it did in 1849, as a thoroughfare between the stairway and the large second-story room to 
the west. It also provides access to two modern toilet rooms on the north side of the hall. For a 
period of time prior to 1977, the east half of the hall was partitioned off as a closet (see fig. 11), but 
this closet was removed circa 1977. 

Floor 

The floor is covered by gray wall-to-wall carpet that was installed in 1988. The condition 
of the floor beneath the carpet is not known. 

Walls 

The hall is enclosed by one original exterior wall to the east, 1849 partition walls to the north 
and west, and the 1849 stairway and balustrade to the south. 

Alterations have been made to the walls in the 20th century. A modern textured plaster has 
been applied to all the walls. It is not known if earlier plaster exists beneath the textured skim coat. 
Also, modern baseboards consisting of plain boards 4 1/2 inches high have been installed on the 
north and east walls. 

Ceiling 

The ceiling is pitched at two angles and encompasses both the hall and the stairway. The 
south side of the ceiling curves gently, similar to the ceiling in the large room to the west. The 
north side of the ceiling is not curved, but pitched in a flat plane and at a steep angle down to the 
north partition wall. The entire ceiling is covered with the same modern textured plaster as the 
walls. 



137 



There is some question as to how much this ceiling has been altered. It is likely that the 
curved south portion of the ceiling is original to the 1834-35 construction, and that the textured 
plaster was applied sometime in the 20th century. Less certain is the unusual configuration of the 
north side of the ceiling; it may date to the remodeling of 1849, or may be a 20th-century alteration. 
More information could be obtained by opening a small portion of the ceiling to examine its framing 
and the condition of the upper north partition wall. 

Doorways 

Three doorways open off the hall. One is in the west partition wall and two are in the north 
partition wall. 

The west doorway opens to the large second-story room. The doorway opening is believed 
to be contemporary with the partition wall, which was installed in 1849. No original 1849 
woodwork survives at this doorway, with the possible exception of the wood threshold. All of the 
other woodwork was installed in 1988. This includes the door jambs, the architrave, the solid wood 
six-panel door, and the door hardware. 

The two doorways in the north partition wall are nonhistone. The doorway at the west end 
of the wall was installed sometime before 1970 to access a single toilet room with a large closet that 
jutted out into the hall (see fig. 11). The doorway at the east end of the wall was created circa 1977, 
when the closet was removed, and the single toilet room was subdivided to create a second toilet 
room (see fig. 58). The circa-1977 doorway was farther east than the closet doorway had been. 

Both doorways have identical components, which indicates that the older, west-end doorway 
was modernized when the east-end doorway was created circa 1977. These components include a 
marble threshold, a plain-board architrave, a hollow-core door, and modern door hardware. 

Windows 

There is one window in the east wall of the upper stairwell, which lights the second-story 
hall. This is an original window opening that dates to the construction of the schoolhouse in 1834- 
35. All woodwork associated with the window is later, having been installed sometime between 
1970 and 1975. This includes the window jambs, the stool, the apron, the architrave, and the 12- 
over-12 sashes. 

Stairway Balustrade 

A balustrade in good condition runs along the east half of the south side of the hall. It 
functions as a barrier between the hall and the stairwell. The balustrade is contemporary with the 
existing stairway, which was installed in 1849. It is composed of one turned newel, 13 balusters of 
plain tapered design, and a handrail. 



138 



Finishes 

The finishes in the hall date to the renovation of the interior in 1988. They include the 
following: 

- gray carpet on the floor; 

- white latex paint on the plastered walls and ceiling; 

- pink latex paint on the baseboards and the woodwork of the two north doorways; 

- a clear resinous finish such as varnish or polyurethane on the woodwork of the west 
doorway; and 

- glossy black paint on the stair railing. 

Utility Systems 

Heating System 

There is no heating equipment in the hall. 

Plumbing System 

There is no plumbing equipment in the hall. 

Electrical System 

One electric light fixture is suspended from the ceiling by a chain. This fixture is fitted with 
one incandescent bulb and a modern white glass globe. It is operated by a switch in the first-story 
front entry. A light switch on the north partition wall between the two doorways operates the two 
light fixtures in the adjacent toilet rooms. 

Protection Systems 

The hall is well-equipped with fire-protection equipment. This includes one smoke detector 
in the ceiling, emergency lights in the southeast corner of the stairwell ceiling, and a fire extinguisher 
and case on the west wall, south of the doorway. 

Toilet Rooms 

General Information 

Two toilet rooms (fig. 62) are off the second-story hall. These were created circa 1977, by 
subdividing one large toilet room; the large toilet room itself had been created prior to 1970 by 
subdividing the small schoolroom constructed in 1849 (see fig. 11). Prior to 1849, this area was the 
east end of the large second-story classroom. Little historic material remains in the modern toilet 
rooms. 



139 



Floor 

The floors of both toilet rooms are covered with small ceramic tiles. The tiles were probably 
installed in the 1970s. It is not known if the original wood floorboards survive beneath the tiles. 

Walls 

The walls enclosing the toilet rooms date to various periods. The east wall of the east toilet 
room is original (1834-35). The south wall of both rooms dates to 1849, as does the west wall of 
the west toilet room. The north wall of both rooms was built sometime before 1970, when the first, 
large toilet room was created here. Finally, the wall that separates the two toilet rooms was installed 
circa 1977. 

The lower walls of both rooms are covered with ceramic tiles, and the upper walls are 
covered with wallpaper. 

Ceiling 

The ceiling in both toilet rooms is a modern suspended ceiling with a metal grid and 
removable panels. The original 1834-35 plaster ceiling exists above the suspended ceiling. 

Doorways 

Each toilet room has a separate doorway in its south wall leading to the hall. The west 
doorway was installed sometime before 1970 for the first, large toilet room here (fig. 11). The east 
doorway is near but not at the former location of the doorway from the large toilet room to the 
closet. (The doorway was closed up and the present doorway created when the large toilet room was 
subdivided circa 1977.) All components of the two doorways are modern, including their marble 
thresholds, plain board architraves, hollow core doors, and door hardware. 

Windows 

There is one window in the east wall of the east toilet room. The window opening dates to 
the 1834-35 construction of the schoolhouse. No original woodwork survives at the window. The 
existing woodwork appears to have been installed sometime between 1970 and 1975. This includes 
the window jambs, stool, apron, architrave, and 12-over-12 sashes. 

Miscellaneous Features 

Each room is equipped with a toilet-paper dispenser on the north wall, a paper-towel 
dispenser next to the sink, and a large mirror above the sink. 



140 



Finishes 

Most of the finishes in the two toilet rooms date to circa 1977 and later. They include the 
following: 

- small beige and brown ceramic tiles on the floor; 

- larger ceramic tiles with a green design on a white background on the lower walls; 

- wallpaper with a textured mat-like finish on the upper walls; and 

- pink latex paint on the woodwork of the two doorways. 

Utility Systems 

Heating System 

There is no heating equipment in either toilet room. 

Plumbing System 

The plumbing fixtures in both toilet rooms are believed to have been installed circa 1977. 
All fixtures are on the center wall that separates the rooms from each other. The west room is 
outfitted with a sink and a toilet that have a white porcelain finish. The toilet is made by Eljer, and 
is dated "MAR 10, 1977" on the underside of its toilet-tank cover. The east room is outfitted with 
a sink, a urinal, and a toilet. All three have a white porcelain finish. The toilet is made by Eljer, 
and is dated "MAR 22, 1977" on the underside of its toilet-tank cover. 

Electrical System 

Each toilet room is equipped with one fluorescent light fixture on the upper wall above the 
sink. Both fixtures are operated by one switch in the adjacent hall. 

Protection Systems 

There is no fire-protection equipment in either room. 

Park Office 

General Information 

Most of the second story is occupied by a large office (figs. 63-71). Its general configuration 
is unchanged from its appearance following the remodeling of 1849, when the east end was 
partitioned off for the new stairway and a small schoolroom (see fig. 58). Original features dating 
to 1834-35 include the floor, the exterior walls and their wainscot, the curved ceiling, and the 
window openings. The raised platform at the west end of the room was built in 1846. Features 
from the later veterans' era (1887-1984) include the flag cases and the pressed-metal ceiling. 



141 



This room functioned historically as a classroom for the Smith Grammar School. It is used 
today as the administrative office for the Boston African American National Historic Site of the 
National Park Service. 

Floor 

The floor is covered with gray wall-to-wall carpet that was installed in 1988. Beneath the 
carpet are wood floorboards that were observed in 1970 to overlay the original wood floorboards. 
The floor was assessed as having "serious wear problems" before it was carpeted in 1988. 

The raised platform at the west end of the room was built in 1846, according to the records 
of the Boston School Committee. Its purpose was to raise the students who were reciting above the 
heads of the students who were doing other lessons. This platform extends across the entire width 
of the room; it is 5 feet 7 inches deep, and raised two steps above the level of the floor. It also is 
covered with gray wall-to-wall carpet. 

Walls 

The north, west, and south walls of the large office are original exterior walls that date to 
the construction of the schoolhouse in 1834-35. The east wall dates to the remodeling of 1849. 

The lower walls in the room are finished with wainscot. The wainscot dates from two 
periods, according to the findings of the paint analysis, although all the wainscot is of a similar style. 
It is approximately 2 feet 3 inches high and composed of random-width horizontal boards with a cap 
molding. The wainscot on the north, west, and south walls is original and dates to 1834-35. The 
wainscot on the 1849 east partition wall is contemporary with that wall. Also installed in 1849 was 
a wide concave molding that was attached to the upper edge of the existing wainscot at the south 
wall, and to the new wainscot at the south end of the east wall. The probable function of this 
molding was to hold the chalk and erasers that were used on the blackboards. 

The walls above the wainscot are finished with plaster. The plaster of the original north, 
west, and south walls is applied directly to the brick. The plaster at the 1849 east partition wall is 
applied to wood lath. It is not known if any plaster from 1834-35 or 1849 survives on the walls. 
An application of a textured plaster that is obviously modern exists in the center of the west wall 
between the flag cases. Some water damage has occurred to the plaster in the southwest corner of 
the room. This is believed to have been caused by water that backs up from the south exterior gutter 
in the winter. 

Ceiling 

The ceiling is an original feature that dates to the construction of the building in 1834-35. 
Its arched configuration was described in 1970 as "one of the more interesting architectural features 
of the building." 3 Framing for the arch is provided by the four original trusses whose lower chords 
are a scissors configuration. 



3 Architectural Heritage, Stahl Association, "Architectural, Historical, And Engineering Assessment and 
Report of: Old State House, Faneuil Hall, Dillaway House, Parkman House, 46 School Street, For The Public 
Facilities Department, City Of Boston" (Boston: June 1970, unpublished), p. E25. 

142 



Another noteworthy feature of the ceiling is the decorative pressed metal that covers it. This 
metal sheathing was probably installed sometime between 1887 and 1915, based on the documented 
availability of this type of material and the fact that a veterans' group began to lease the building in 
1887. The metal was applied over an original plaster ceiling. The plaster was applied to wood lath, 
as seen through an opening in the ceiling at the west end of the office. A plaster sample (M001) 
removed from this location found the plaster to be a lime type with a hair binder and poorly sorted 
sand that contained large pebbles. 

Two openings exist in the office ceiling. One is the attic hatch that is in the west end of the 
ceiling. The opening is square, framed with wood, and fitted with a door composed of tongue-and- 
groove boards. The second opening is a ventilator in the center of the room. The opening is round 
and leads to ventilation equipment in the attic and on the roof. This equipment is believed to have 
been installed in 1847, based on the historical documentation. 

Doorways 

Two doorways open off the office. Both are in the 1849 east partition wall and are believed 
to be contemporary with the wall. 

The south doorway in the east wall is the only exit from the room to the hall. The only 
features that survive from 1849 are the doorway opening itself and possibly the wood threshold. All 
other woodwork dates to 1988, including the jambs, the architrave, the solid wood six-panel door, 
and the door hardware. 

The north doorway in the east wall opens to a small storage room in the northeast corner of 
the building. This doorway is significant for being the only interior doorway in the building that 
retains historic material from both 1834-35 and 1849. The age of the doorway elements was 
determined based on stylistic design, construction techniques, and the information obtained by the 
paint analysis. Doorway elements that date to 1834-35 are the door and the door hinges that were 
reused here during the remodeling of 1849. The door is of mortised construction with six recessed 
panels. It is hung by two four-knuckle hinges, each leaf of which is attached with four screws. 
Doorway elements that date to 1849 are the doorway opening, the jamb, the architrave, and possibly 
the threshold. The architrave is characterized by its Grecian-style ogee molding that ornaments its 
perimeter. 

The doorway described above is in only fair-to-poor condition. The door itself has suffered 
from the removal of its original doorknob and the installation of later hardware, including a 
Victorian-style mineral doorknob, a Yale-type lock, and a padlock latch. A later hole 2 3/4 inches 
in diameter is in the upper portion of the middle stile; its original function is unknown. The finish 
on the door is mottled and alligatored beneath its most recent layer of pink latex paint. The 
architrave is in better condition than the door, but it, too, has suffered loss of wood due to the 
installation of the door hardware previously described. 

Windows 

There are seven windows in the office: four in the north wall and three in the west wall. All 
seven window openings are original and date to the construction of the building in 1834-35. All 



143 



associated window woodwork is later, having replaced the original woodwork sometime between 
1970 and 1975. This includes the window jambs, stools, aprons, architraves, and 12-over-12 sashes. 

Blackboards 

Blackboards existed in the classrooms of the Smith Grammar School, according to the 
historical documentation. No blackboards survive in the room today, nor is there any physical 
evidence of their attachment on the walls. All that remains to suggest that blackboards existed here 
is the wide concave molding along the top of the wainscot that probably held the blackboard chalk 
and erasers. This molding is on the south wall and the south end of the east wall. It appears to have 
been installed in 1849, based on the paint analysis. 

Picture Molding 

A picture molding encircles the room on all four walls. Its date of installation has not been 
determined. 



Finishes 

Most of the finishes in the office date to the renovation of the interior in 1988. They include 
the following: 

- gray carpet on the floor; 

- white latex paint on the wainscot boards, the plaster walls, and the pressed-metal ceiling; 

- pink latex paint on the wainscot cap moldings, the window woodwork, and the woodwork 
of the north doorway in the east wall; and 

- a clear varnish or polyurethane on the woodwork of the south doorway in the east wall. 

Utility Systems 

Heating System 

The room is heated by four steam radiators in the four corners of the room at the north and 
south walls. The radiators are of various lengths ranging from 16 to 19 fins. All are of cast-iron 
construction, have decorative designs, and are finished with a metallic silver paint. A thermostat is 
on the east wall to the south of the doorway to the storage room. It controls the heat in the entire 
building. 

No evidence of any earlier heating system was found in the room. 

Ventilation System 

Two modern air-conditioner units are in the windows: one at the north wall, the other at the 
west wall. These units are left in the windows year-round. 

Ventilation in the room was provided historically by opening the windows, and by opening 
a flue in the center of the ceiling (fig. 68). The flue is believed to have been installed in 1847, based 



144 



on the historical documentation. The ventilation equipment survives on the roof (fig. 33) and in the 
attic (fig. 74). 

Plumbing System 

There is no plumbing equipment in the office. 

Electrical System 

The office is equipped with 11 light fixtures and 12 electrical receptacles. 

Of the 11 light fixtures, five are suspended from the ceiling and six are mounted to the walls. 
The ceiling lights are suspended by chains and fitted with incandescent bulbs and white glass shades. 
They are operated by switches mounted on the east wall. It is not known when these lights were 
installed, although they are an old-style fixture similar to those seen in older public buildings. The 
six wall fixtures are more modern, having been installed by the National Park Service in 1988. 
Three fixtures each are mounted to the north and south walls. They are fitted with fluorescent bulbs 
and are operated by switches on the east wall. 

There are 12 electrical receptacles in the room. Of these, two are more modern than the 
others and were installed for the exclusive use of the air conditioners at the north and west walls. 
The other 10 receptacles are distributed as follows: three on the north wall, two on the west wall, 
three on the south wall, and two on the east wall. Each is equipped to receive two electrical plugs. 
The receptacles in this office are used less than those in the museum office downstairs. This appears 
to be due to the smaller number of staff members, less computer equipment, and the absence of 
kitchen-type appliances. 

Protection Systems 

The office is well-equipped with fire-protection equipment. This includes three smoke 
detectors in the ceiling, emergency lighting at the upper west wall, an illuminated "EXIT" sign above 
the east- wall doorway to the hall, an alarm horn above the same doorway, and a case-mounted fire 
extinguisher south of the doorway. 

Storage Room 

General Information 

The storage room (figs. 72-73) is a small room in the northeast corner of the building. It 
was part of the area partitioned off from the large classroom in 1849 to make a smaller room. The 
role of the smaller room in 1849 is not known, although it probably functioned as a smaller 
classroom— perhaps for reciting lessons. This room was itself subdivided in the 20th century to 
create the present storage room and a large toilet area (see fig. 11). Today, the storage room is used 
by the Boston African National Historic Site for storing office supplies, bottled water, brochures, 
and uniforms. 



145 



Floor 

The floor is covered with gray wall-to-wall carpet installed in 1988. The condition of the 
floor beneath the carpet is not known. 

Walls 

The walls of the storage room date to three separate periods. Both the east and north exterior 
walls are original and date to the construction of the building in 1834-35. The small projection at 
the south end of the east wall contains the flues for the building's original heating stoves. The west 
partition wall was installed in 1849. The south partition wall was installed sometime before 1970 
for the new toilet room. This wall does not reach all the way to the ceiling, due to the fact that the 
large toilet room had a suspended ceiling. 

Original wainscot dating from 1834-35 exists on the north and east walls. It is composed of 
horizontal boards and a simple cap molding, similar to the original wainscot in the adjacent office. 
The wainscot exists behind the 1849 partition wall at the north wall, which is further proof that the 
partition was installed at a later date. 

The walls above the wainscot are plastered. They are now finished with a modern textured 
plaster that was applied at an unknown date. It is not known if historic plaster from 1834-35 and 
1849 survives on the walls beneath the textured finish. 

Ceiling 

The ceiling is arched similar to the ceiling in the adjacent office. This is an original 
configuration that dates to 1834-35. The ceiling is finished with of an unknown date plaster. A 
square hole is visible in the ceiling above what is now the west toilet room. Further investigation 
is required to determine if this is an original opening or a later alteration. 

Doorways 

The storage room's one doorway is in the 1849 west partition wall; it is contemporary with 
that wall. The door itself is an original door from 1834-35 that was reused here, according to the 
information obtained from the paint analysis. It has been described in connection with the large 
classroom. 

Windows 

There are two large windows in the room: one in the north wall, the other in the east wall. 
Both are original window openings that date to the construction of the building in 1834-35. All 
woodwork associated with the windows was replaced with new woodwork sometime between 1970 
and 1975. This includes the window jambs, stools, aprons, architraves, and 12-over-12 sashes. 

The room as it existed in 1849 had three windows. The third window survives today in the 
east wall of the east toilet room. 



146 



Closet 

A closet sits along the west wall north of the doorway to the office. It is a wide and shallow 
closet with two separate compartments. The walls of the closet are narrow matched boards. The 
paint analysis suggests that the closet was constructed in the late 19th century, perhaps as early as 
1887 when the GAR began to lease the building. Each compartment of the closet is fitted with a 
full-length door. The north door is composed of the same matched boards as the body of the closet. 
The south door has four panels and appears to have been reused from a location other than the 
schoolhouse, based on the paint evidence. 

Finishes 

Most of the finishes in the storage room date to the interior renovation of 1988, and include 
the following: 

- gray carpet on the floor; 

- white latex paint on the wainscot, the plaster walls, and the plaster ceiling; and 

- pink latex paint on the doorway woodwork and the closet (exterior and interior) at the 
west wall. 

Utility Systems 

Heating System 

One steam radiator is on the east wall in front of the window. It is composed of 13 fins and 
finished with pink latex paint. 

Plumbing System 

There is no plumbing equipment in the storage room. 

Electrical System 

One modern fluorescent light fixture is suspended from the ceiling; it is operated by a switch 
on the south partition wall near the west corner. It was not possible to determine if there are 
electrical receptacles in the room due to the presence of boxes and other materials piled against the 
walls. 

Protection Systems 

The storage room is equipped with one smoke detector on the ceiling. 



147 




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Figure 60. Smith School House: Second-floor plan (1990). 



148 




Figure 61. Smith School House: Second-story hall, looking northwest 
from first-story entry (1990). 




Figure 62. Smith School House: Second 
story, women's toilet off hall (1990). 



149 




Figure 63. Smith School House: Second story, NPS office, 
looking east (1990). 




Figure 64. Smith School House: Second story, NPS office, 
looking south (1990). 



150 




Figure 65. Smith School House: Second story, NPS office, 
looking west (1990). 




Figure 66. Smith School House: Second story, NPS office, 
looking north (1990). 



151 




Figure 67. Smith School House: Second story, NPS office, northwest corner, 
showing recitation platform (1990). 



152 






Figure 68. Smith School House: Second story, NPS office, 
ceiling looking west (1990). 





Figure 69. Smith School House: Second story, NPS office, ceiling 
and attic hatch at west wall (1990). 



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155 



Attic 



General Information 

The attic in the schoolhouse (figs. 74-77) is the space created by the four king-post trusses 
and other structural framing members that support the roof above and the second-story ceiling below. 
The attic does not appear to have been used for storage due to the difficulty in reaching it. Entrance 
is gained in one of two ways: through a hatch in the ceiling of the second-story office, or through 
a hatch in the roof. The first option requires a ladder more than 10 feet long to reach the hatch; the 
second option requires an even taller ladder or scaffolding to reach the roof. Either way, the attic 
is not accessible easily today, nor does it appear to have been any easier to reach historically. When 
used at all, it was probably as a means to reach the roof. 



Floor 

Most of the attic floor is the underside of the lath and plaster ceiling for the second story. 
Floorboards exist at the far west end of the attic only. These are tongue-and-groove boards that 
provide a safe walking surface between the ceiling hatch and the roof hatch. The entire floor, 
including the wood floorboards, is covered with batts of pink fiberglass insulation. The insulation 
was probably installed sometime within the last 20 years. 



Structural Framing 

The framing of the attic is described in detail in Chapter IV, "Structure." The four original 
king-post scissors trusses are the most significant feature of the attic structure. 



Hatches 

Two hatches provide access to the attic. Both are at the west end of the building, and both 
are assumed to be original features that date to the 1834-35 construction. The roof hatch frame and 
cap were rebuilt in 1975. Few changes appear to have been made to the ceiling hatch. 



Utility Systems 

Heating System 

Flues are in the east and west gable ends of the attic. They are enclosed with brickwork, and 
were probably used by the heating stoves. 



156 



Ventilation System 

Another flue is on the south side of the west wall. It is made of wood, and was an air vent. 
Another piece of ventilation equipment in the attic is a vertical metal shaft of large diameter in the 
center of the attic. Its function was to draw stale air from the large room on the second story and 
expel it through the roof. The flow of air could be controlled by a baffle, the external controls for 
which are visible on the north side of the shaft. This ventilation device is believed to have been 
installed in 1847, based on the historical documentation. 



Protection Systems 

It is assumed that the attic is outfitted with one or more smoke detectors, based on the fact 
that the central control panel in the cellar includes a zone for the "attic." No detectors were seen 
during the inspection of the attic, but the entire attic was not explored due to the dangerous footing 
(floorboards exist on the west end only, and the entire attic floor is covered with fiberglass insulation 
which obscures the framing). 



157 




Figure 74. Smith School House: Attic, looking east at king-post scissors trusses (1990). 




Figure 75. Smith School House: Attic, looking northeast at rafters and purlins (1990). 



158 




Figure 76. Smith School House: Attic, looking up at the ridge board (1990). 




Figure 77. Smith School House: Attic, looking southeast at roof hatch (1990). 



159 



UTILITY SYSTEMS 



Heating System 



Existing Elements 

The schoolhouse has a steam heating system that is fueled by natural gas. The system 
includes a steam boiler in the cellar, five cast-iron radiators on the first story, and five cast-iron 
radiators on the second story. The heat is controlled by a thermostat in the large office on the 
second story; other thermostats in the building are nonfunctional. 

It is not known exactly when the steam heating system was installed in the building, although 
it is assumed to have been sometime in the late 19th or the early 20th century. The radiators on the 
first and second stories are a type that were popular between about 1890 and 1910. 4 The present 
boiler, a "Burnham America," was installed in 1984 at the same time that the natural-gas line was 
introduced. 

The building occupants have experienced several problems with this heating system including 
gas leaks at the boiler, water accumulation within the boiler, and an inability to control the heat. 



Historical Remnants 

The schoolhouse is believed to have been heated in 1835 by three cast-iron stoves: one in the 
cellar classroom, one in the first-story classroom, and one in the second-story classroom. Little is 
known about the heating system after the remodeling of 1849, except that one "Clark's Stove" is 
known to have been in the building. All that remains of the early heating systems that utilized stoves 
are the flues at the east and west walls and two brick chimneys. The stovepipe holes could probably 
be found by removing selected areas of plaster from the walls in the vicinities of the flues. 



Ventilation System 



Existing Elements 

The first and second stories are now cooled by window-mounted air-conditioning units. Two 
units are on the first story and two units are on the second story. They are retained in the windows 
of the north and west elevations year-round. 



4 "Radiators," The Old-House Journal, September-October 1988, p. 28. 

160 



Historical Remnants 

The classrooms of the Smith School House were cooled and ventilated historically by opening 
the windows. Removal of stale air was also facilitated by flues: one in the west wall vented the first- 
story classroom, while one in the ceiling of the second-story classroom vented that space. Physical 
remnants of both flues are preserved today in the attic. 



Plumbing System 

Existing Elements 

The existing plumbing system consists of the following elements in the cellar: 

- a sewer pipe at the north wall; 

- a 50-gallon "Smith Permaglas" 50-gallon hot-water tank; 

- a toilet room outfitted with a sink, a urinal, a toilet (dated "JUL 16, 1952"), and a 
shower; 

- a stainless-steel sink with three faucets behind the counter; and 

- a sump pump at the south wall of the cellar. 

The second story contains two toilet rooms, together containing two sinks, one urinal, and 
two toilets (one dated "MAR 10, 1977," the other dated "MAR 22, 1977"). 

In addition, the attic and roof have two vent pipes, one on the north slope of the roof for the 
cellar toilet room, and one on the south slope of the roof for the second-story toilet rooms. 

Historical Remnants 

Originally the schoolhouse's only facilities were a water pump and "out houses" that were 
behind the building. New privies were constructed during the remodeling of 1849, according to the 
specifications for that work, and two sinks with running water and waste pipes were installed inside 
the building, one each in the first and second stories. The recent archeological investigations found 
the following: 

- what may be the former location of the pump, at the south end of the west passageway; 

- what may be part of the foundation of the pre- 1849 privy block, in the yard; 

- the cess pits of the 1849 privy block, in the yard; and 

- what may be the drains for the two interior sinks, in the yard. 



161 



Electrical System 



Existing Elements 

The present electrical system was upgraded in 1975. It has a capacity of 100 amperage, 
120/240 volts. Components of the system include the following elements: 

- a main circuit breaker box in the cellar; 

- wall and ceiling fixtures in the cellar, the first story, and the second story; and 

- electrical receptacles in the cellar, the first story, and the second story. 



Historical Remnants 

The schoolhouse did not have electrical service during the years 1835-55. Electrical service 
was probably installed sometime in the late 19th or early 20th century. 



Protection Systems 

Existing Elements 

Fire-Protection System 

The existing fire-protection equipment dates to 1987. It includes centralized smoke and heat 
detectors, emergency pull boxes, horn alarms, lighted exit signs, emergency lighting, and 
strategically placed fire extinguishers. The control panel for the system is in the mechanical room 
in the cellar. 

Intrusion-Detection System 

The existing intrusion-alarm system also dates to 1987. It includes a control panel is on the 
north wall of the front entry, which monitors unlawful entrance through the doorway here. 

Historical Remnants 

Fire-Protection System 

The danger of fire must have been a concern during the historic period of 1835-55 when 
stoves were used to heat the building. Fire-protection equipment used at that time may have been 
pails of sand or water that were kept close at hand. There is no written record or physical evidence 
to suggest that the schoolhouse has ever had a fire. 



162 



Intrusion-Detection System 

The schoolhouse was probably protected from unauthorized intruders by locks on the exterior 
doors and windows. No historic locks survive today, due to the replacement of all historic exterior 
doors and the window sashes in the 20th century. 



Energy Conservation 



Steps were taken in the 1970s to conserve energy in the old schoolhouse by installing new 
window sashes throughout the building, and by installing fiberglass insulation on the floor of the 
attic. Other energy-saving features are the automatic door closer on the front door and insulation 
on the steam pipes in the cellar. 



163 



VI. RECOMMENDATIONS 



165 



GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS 



Recommended Treatment 

It is the recommendation of the 1984 General Management Plan that the exterior of the Smith 
School House be preserved, and that the interior be modified as needed for adaptive use. Suggested 
adaptive uses include office space, exhibit space, visitor orientation, and meeting space for small 
groups. The 1989 Interpretive Prospectus recommends that the building receive preservation or 
restoration treatment for interpretive purposes while continuing to serve other functions. 

This historic structure report concurs with preserving the exterior of the schoolhouse and 
adaptively using the interior. It is also suggested that a limited amount of restoration work be 
undertaken on the exterior. This is explained in more detail in the sections that follow. 

Editor's note: As explained previously, a team led by Stull and Lee, Coordinating 
Architects, investigated the Smith School House and produced a four-volume report 
Restoration and Adaptive Re-use of the Smith School House and African Meeting 
House in May 1994. A Preliminary Design was developed and presented in volume 
IV of the report; the design was approved and used for the preparation of final plans 
and specifications for a major restoration project, which was begun by the NPS in 
April 1998. Throughout the design process, the draft historic structure report was 
available to the design- team; its findings and recommendations were considered, 
although not always followed. 



The Name "Abiel Smith School" 

Current usage of the name "Abiel Smith School" is inaccurate. Documentary historical 
research has determined that: (a) the African School was renamed the "Smith School" by the city 
of Boston on February 10, 1835; and (b) the building was generally referred to during the historic 
period of 1835-55 as the "Smith School House." It is therefore recommended that the building be 
called by its historical name. 



Compliance 

The Smith School House is a historic building that is listed in the National Register of 
Historic Places as part of the Beacon Hill Historic District. As such, any changes that are proposed 
for the exterior of the building must be reviewed by the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission 
before a building permit is issued. 

Compliance with Section 106 of the Historic Preservation Act is required if federal funds are 
used on the schoolhouse. This is a review process that determines whether or not a proposed 
treatment will have an adverse effect on the historic character of the building. Work must also be 
in compliance with state and local building codes, because the schoolhouse is owned by the City of 
Boston. 



167 



EXTERIOR ELEMENTS 

Introduction 



Preservation and a limited amount of restoration is recommended for the exterior of the Smith 
School House. "Preservation" is defined in the National Park Service document NPS-28 as an 
undertaking that "shall maintain the existing form, integrity, and materials of a structure. Substantial 
reconstruction, restoration of lost features, or removal of accretions are not included in a 
preservation undertaking." "Restoration" is defined as "the act or process of accurately recovering 
the form and details of a structure and its setting as it appeared at a particular period of time by 
means of the removal of later work or by the replacement of missing earlier work." 

The exterior of the Smith School House as it exists today is little changed from its historic 
appearance in 1849 when the building was remodeled. This date falls within the historic period of 
1835-55 when the building was used as a school for colored children exclusively. The most 
significant alterations have been made to the cellar story of the west elevation and to the yard wall. 
Lesser alterations include changes to the front doorway, closure of the cellar entrance off Smith 
Court, and the installation of modern equipment and signs. Another factor is the general 
deterioration of the building materials due to settlement, weather, and age. 

It is therefore recommended that the existing exterior of the schoolhouse, including the site, 
be preserved. Selected features that have been altered since 1849 should be restored to their 1849 
appearance, based on the physical evidence. Deteriorated historic building materials should be 
repaired using great care. 

The specific work that is needed to preserve and restore the Smith School House exterior to 
its 1849 appearance is summarized below. 



The Site 



North Sidewalk 



Remove the nonhistone asphalt paving and replace with brick paving similar to the east 
sidewalk paving. 



The Yard Wall 



Remove the doorway from the north yard wall and close the opening with bricks. 

Remove the electrical conduit from the interior side of the north yard wall. 

Remove the steps from the interior side of the north yard wall, but save the steps for reuse 

elsewhere. 

Restore the missing west and south yard walls, based on the physical evidence and the 

architectural plans of 1970. 



168 



The Yard 



• Maintain the historic (1849) grade of the yard, based on the findings of the archaeological 
investigation recommended previously. Some compromises may be necessary to 
accommodate aspects of desired reuses (e.g., handicapped access into the cellar from the 
yard). 



The South Building 



Address the intrusive presence of the 1909 apartment building immediately adjacent to the 
Smith School House through the interpretive program. A house was located close to the 
schoolhouse during the historic 1849 period but did not touch it; the house was later 
replaced by a stable. A precise restoration of the site to the 1849 period would require 
removing the present south building. This is not feasible: the apartment building is 
privately owned, and its removal would be prohibitively expensive. 



The Building 



Foundation 



Walls 



Repoint mortar joints where necessary, using the same mortar mix recommended for the 
exterior restoration of 1975. 

Restore the historic appearance of the west wall of the cellar by restoring the cellar 
doorways there (see "Doorways," below). 



• Repoint mortar joints where necessary, using the same mortar mix recommended for the 
exterior restoration of 1975. 

• Remove the nonhistone signs from the east and north walls. 

• Retain the eight star-shaped tie-rod plates in the east, north, and west walls, even though 
they are not historic. These were installed in 1975 to stabilize the second floor and 
thereby serve an important function. Some consideration might be given to painting the 
stars to match the brick wall, to make them less obvious. (They are now painted black.) 



Doorways 

Repair Front (East) Doorway 

• Remove the nonhistone door and wood side panels. 



169 



• Design and install a front door based on the historic six-panel door on the second story. 

• Design and install sidelights based on the style of the historic transom above the doorway. 

• Design and install cast-iron boot scrapers on either side of the doorway. Their style 
should be based on old boot scrapers that survive on Beacon Hill. Their location should 
be based on the existing iron stubs. 

• Assess the condition of the parged brownstone lintel and repair as necessary. 
Recreate Side (North) Cellar Doorway 

• Remove the asphalt sidewalk paving from the area over the stairwell, and remove the 
concrete blocks from the doorway opening. 

• Install steps if these are found to be missing upon the opening of the historic stairwell. 

• Design and install a door that is based on the historic six-panel door on the second story. 

• Design and install a bulkhead covering for the stairwell. 
Recreate Rear (West) Cellar Doorways 

• Remove the present metal doors from the 1835 doorway at the north end of the west wall, 
and the concrete-block infill from the 1849 doorway at the south end of that wall. 

• Restore the stairwell and steps based on the findings of the archaeological investigation. 
Consideration may also be given to installing a ramp instead of steps to enable 
handicapped access into the cellar. 

• Investigate both doorway openings closely for evidence of their historic frames and doors, 
including possible sidelight configuration. 

• Design and install doorway frames and doors based on the findings of the physical 
evidence. 



Windows 



Nonhistone Elements 

• Remove the boards covering the cellar windows. 

• Remove the four air-conditioning units from the north and west windows. 

• Remove the flagpole from the second-story window in the front (east) elevation, if further 
research proves that no flagpole was present here historically. 



170 



Roof 



Cellar Windows 

• Examine the cellar windows for evidence of the historic 1849 frames and sashes. 

• Restore the cellar frames and sashes based on the information obtained. 

Brownstone Sills and Lintels 

The brownstone window sills and lintels date to the original construction of the 
schoolhouse in 1834-35 and should be preserved if possible. This presents a challenge, 
because some of the brownstone is parged with a pigmented mortar that was applied in 1975, 
and the brownstone that remains exposed is in deteriorated condition. A study needs to be 
done to determine the following: 

• can the nonhistone parge be removed without damaging the brownstone? 

• should the parge be retained even though it is not historic? 

• should parge be applied to the brownstone that is still exposed to arrest its deterioration? 

• does another treatment option exist that would not cover over the brownstone as does the 
parge? 

• is the brownstone so badly deteriorated that replacement should be considered? 

First- and Second-Story Windows 

• Preserve the window frames and sashes on the first and second stories, even though they 
are reconstructions installed in 1975. 

Window Shutters 

• Preserve the window shutters on the east elevation, even though they are reconstructions 
installed in 1975. 



Slate Shingles 

• Preserve the slate shingles on the north side of the roof. 
Asphalt Shingles 



• 



Replace the asphalt shingles on the south roof slope with new shingles. The new shingles 
should match the color of the historic slate shingles on the north roof slope as closely as 
possible. 



171 



Vent Stacks 

• There are two sewer vent stacks on the roof, one on the north side and one on the south 
side. The north stack is highly visible and detracts from the historic 1849 appearance of 
the building. It should be removed entirely or relocated. 



Cornice and Gutters 



Assess the condition of the brickwork cornice; repoint as necessary using the same mortar 
mix that was recommended for the exterior restoration in 1975. 

Maintain the existing gutters, which were installed in 1975. Address the problem of the 
south gutter that freezes and backs up water into the building at the southwest corner. 



Chimneys 

East Chimney 

• Clean the furnace flue if necessary. 

• Assess the condition of the brick mortar; repoint if necessary using the 1975 mortar mix. 
West Chimney 

• Remove the two metal antennae straps. 

• Assess the condition of the brick mortar; repoint if necessary using the 1975 mortar mix. 



Finishes 



• 



Prepare and paint the exterior woodwork, including the doorway frames, doors, transom, 
sidelights, window frames, and window sashes. The paint type should be an alkyd with 
a gloss finish. The paint color should be yellow, similar to the color that was on the 
building in 1849. 

Prepare and paint the exterior window shutters in the east elevation a color that is 
appropriate to the 1849 period. The paint type should be an alkyd with a gloss finish. 
The paint color should be green, similar to the green that was used on the African Meeting 
House. The exact color that was used on the schoolhouse could not be determined 
because the existing shutters are reconstructions installed in 1975. 



172 



Protection Systems 



The existing fire-protection equipment was installed in 1987. It includes emergency 
lights over the front and rear doorways, and an alarm on the upper north wall near the east 
corner. The equipment is intrusive and detracts from the historic 1849 appearance of the 
schoolhouse. Several treatment options exist, as follows: 

• retain the equipment, because the safety of the building and its occupants is more 
important than the historical appearance of the exterior; 

• remove the equipment, because it detracts from the historical appearance of the building; 
or 

• install new equipment that is less intrusive. 



173 



STRUCTURAL ELEMENTS 



The second floor of the schoolhouse was stabilized in 1975. Some consideration should be 
given to stabilizing the first floor today. It is recommended that a structural engineer be consulted 
for this work. Stabilizing the first floor will likely involve removing the nonhistone plaster ceiling 
in the cellar to assess the condition of the floor structure. Several benefits will be derived from this 
work, including the opportunity to examine the historic framing, the removal of four nonhistone 
support posts in the cellar, and the achievement of a safe floor. 



174 



INTERIOR ELEMENTS 

Introduction 



Adaptive use of the Smith School House is recommended, as suggested by the General 
Management Plan. No specific use is recommended by this historic structure report. Instead, the 
several issues that need to be considered when deciding how the building will be used are presented 
here. 

The Smith School House played an important role in the history of the black citizens of the 
City of Boston in the 19th century. It is situated immediately adjacent to the African Meeting House 
and it is on the Black Heritage Trail. A use that is in keeping with the historical significance of the 
schoolhouse would be most appropriate. 

The Smith School House is a small building by modern standards. It consist of three stories 
only— a cellar, a first story, and a second story. Each story has a gross area of approximately 1 ,612 
square feet. 

The schoolhouse today has only one means of egress from each of its three stories. This 
limits the number of people who can be on any one story at any given time, as defined by the State 
Building Code. The code allows approximately 16 people in the cellar, 32 people in the first story, 
and 16 people in the second story (780 CMR Section 436.4.4). 

Neither the historic (1849) or current configuration of the schoolhouse is suitable for 
wheelchair accessibility. The front doorway is three steps above the level of the sidewalk, and the 
rear doorway is four steps below the level of the sidewalk. No elevator or other lift exists in the 
building to provide access between the stories. The introduction of handicapped access will therefore 
necessitate an alteration to the historic appearance of the building. Such an alteration would have 
the least impact if it were incorporated into the cellar story of the west elevation, where it would not 
be visible from Smith Court. Similarly, the introduction of an elevator within the building would 
have the least impact on historic building materials if it were installed in the northeast corner of the 
building. 

Public parking at the Smith School House does not exist. Parking on Beacon Hill is severely 
restricted and is limited primarily to residents with resident stickers. Smith Court is a private way 
that allows limited parking for official business only. 



Historic Building Elements 



General Information 

The layout of the schoolhouse today is little changed from its appearance in 1849. Historic 
elements that should not be changed include the three-story staircase, the configuration of the rooms 
in the first story, and the configuration of the rooms (except the toilet rooms) in the second story. 

175 



Many historic building elements dating to 1834-35 and 1849 survive in the schoolhouse and 
should be preserved. These are itemized below by story. 



Cellar 



stairway (1849) 

exposed granite walls (1834-35) 



First Story 



stairway (1849) 

floorboards (1834-35) 

exterior walls (1834-35) 

partition walls (1849) 

wainscot (1834-35 and 1849) 

doorway openings (1849) 

window openings (1834-35 and 1849) 



Second Story 



stairway (1849) 

floorboards (1834-35) 

exterior walls (1834-35) 

partition walls (1849) 

wainscot (1834-35 and 1849) 

arched plaster ceiling (1834-35) 

ceiling openings (1834-35 and ca. 1847) 

doorway openings (1849) 

trim at one doorway (1849) 

one six-panel door with hinges (1834-35) 

window openings (1834-35) 



Attic 



floorboards (ca. 1834-35) 

four king-post scissors trusses and other structural members (1834-35) 

ventilation equipment (ca. 1847) 

hatches (1834-35) 



176 



UTILITY SYSTEMS 



Heating and Cooling Equipment 

Some thought should be given to installing a new heating and cooling system. Several 
problems exist with the present steam-heating system that are discussed elsewhere in this report. The 
rooms on the first and second stories are cooled with window-mounted air conditioner units that 
detract from the historic appearance of the building's exterior. 



Plumbing Equipment 

None of the plumbing equipment is historic. It may therefore be altered as required. 
Consideration need only be given to minimizing the impact of new plumbing equipment on the 
historic building elements listed previously. 



Electrical Equipment 

There is no historic electrical equipment in the building. The electrical system may therefore 
be altered as required for the building occupants. Special care should be taken to minimize adverse 
impact on the historic building elements listed previously. 



Energy Conservation 

Some steps could be taken towards making the Smith School House more energy efficient. 
These include: 

- schedule a free "Energy Audit" with Boston Gas; 

- install weatherstripping on the interior sides of the windows; 
install a new and efficient heating and cooling system; and 

- install set-back thermostats. 



177 



PROTECTION SYSTEMS 



Fire-Protection Equipment 

The existing fire detection and alarm system was upgraded in 1987. It is an adequate system, 
although the equipment is intrusive on the historic appearance, both exterior and interior, of the 
building. 

It is recommended that the present fire-protection system be evaluated after it is decided how 
the building will be used. This evaluation should determine whether or not the system is in 
compliance with the State Building Code for its intended use. The evaluation should also ascertain 
if it is possible to replace the existing equipment with devices that are more in keeping with the 
historic schoolhouse. 



Intrusion-Detection Equipment 

An evaluation should be made as to the adequacy of the present intrusion-detection 
equipment, and the advisability of installing a more comprehensive system. 



178 



VI. APPENDICES 



179 



APPENDIX A. 

Abiel Smith's Last Will and Testament, 1814 



Abiel Smith died on November 19, 1815. The Boston Patriot reported on November 25, 
1815, that this occurred "on Tuesday night, suddenly, Abiel Smith, Esq., aged 69." 

The transcript that follows of the "Last Will & Testament" of Abiel Smith is copied from 
pages 9 through 12 of Abiel Smith and Lydia Otis by Robert Lewis Weis, 1923. This transcript is 
a printed copy of the original handwritten will, signed by Abiel Smith and dated October 6, 1814. 
The original document is in the collection of the Massachusetts State Archives in Dorchester. It was 
cataloged by the Suffolk County Probate Court as number 24791. 



181 



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APPENDIX B. 

Report on the African School, 1833 



The following is a transcription of two handwritten entries in the Records of the School 
Committee, volume dated 1815-36, in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division of the Boston Public 
Library. These entries are the earliest-known references to erecting a new school building for the 
African School that was later renamed the Smith School. The second entry also provides an early 
history of the African School. The original spelling and punctuation have not been changed. 



185 



Sept. 3, 1833 

Mr. Child offered the following vote and moved that the same be adopted, 
viz: Voted that it is expedient and proper to provide a building at the expense of the 
City, for the use of the African School, and that the Chairman be instructed to apply 
to the City Council, for an appropriation for that object. Read and referred to Mssrs. 
Child, Binney and Fairbanks to consider and report, (p. 396) 



Oct. 11, 1833 

The committee on the subject of the African School House, have attended to 
the subject, and respectfully report.— The African School in Boston, was commenced 
by the people of colour, in the year 1798, a license for that purpose having been first 
obtained from the Selectmen of that town. It was kept in the house of Mr. Primus 
Hall, and was supported by subscription, the prevalence of the yellow fever in that 
year dispersed it. 

The late Rev. Dr. Morse of Charlestown, the Rev. President Kirkland, and 
the Rev. Drs. Charming Howell and the late Rev. Mr. Emerson revived it about three 
years afterwards. For two years, those, and some other gentlemen whose names are 
unknown to the committee provided for the entire support of the same school, and 
the coloured children were instructed therein gratuitously. At the expiration of that 
time the contributors proposed that they would continue to furnish a teacher, if the 
coloured inhabitants would provide a room. They acceded to the proposal and hired 
a carpenter shop, situated contiguous to the present school house and furnished it for 
a school room. Here the school was continued during three years. Meantime the site 
of the present school house and meeting house was purchased. On behalf of the 
School the coloured Inhabitants subscribed a considerable sum, and the late Chief 
Justice Parsons, the late Abiel Smith, Lieut. Gov. Phillips, and seven other gentlemen 
subscribed one hundred dollars each. The African Baptist Church erected the house 
of which the basement story is now occupied in part by the School. There appears 
to have been a verbal agreement that the whole of that story should be appropriated 
for a school room, for the coloured youth of Boston, of all religious denominations, 
and it also appears that Judge Parsons, and other gentlemen made that a condition of 
their donation. Some difficulty appears to have arisen in finally adjusting the 
respective rights of the Church and School, which was terminated by a committee of 
the latter consenting to accept a part of the basement story for a school room. The 
remainder was leased for dwelling houses, and the rent devoted to the support in part 
of the ministry in said Church. 

It remained for the coloured Inhabitants to finish the interior of the school 
room. This they did by subscription; about two hundred dollars appears to have been 
subscribed, but much of it being subscribed by coloured seamen, and the embargo 
coming on, only ninety eight dollars were in effect collected. The whole expense 
was about three hundred dollars, and the deficiency of about two hundred appears to 
have been made up by the committee of the coloured Inhabitants, viz: Mssrs. Primus 
Hall, Fortune Symones [Symmes?] and Cyrus Vassall. Mr. Abel Barbadoes 



187 



generously contributed to the labor of lathing and plastering. In 1808, the room was 
completed and was immediately occupied by the School. The Rev. gentlemen 
aforementioned continued to defray the expenses of instruction, assisted by the 
voluntary contribution of those coloured parents who were able until the year 1812. 
In that year, the town for the first time took notice of the institution. The sum of two 
hundred dollars was then paid from the town treasury, and the same sum continued 
to be paid annually for the same; for a number of years. At the same time the 
coloured people raised the sum of three hundred dollars annually for the same object. 

Upon the death of the late Abiel Smith, Esq. in the year 1815, the City 
assumed the entire care and support of the School. The only expense, which the City 
has paid for the school room has been for repairs, but this has been less than the 
income from Mr. Smith's truly charitable bequest. 

The situation of the room is low and confined. It is hot and stifled in 
Summer and cold in Winter. But this is not the only or greatest objection to it. The 
obvious contrast between the accommodations of the coloured, and other children, 
both as to convenience and healthfulness seems to your committee to be the principal 
cause of this School being so thinly attended. The committee cannot but regard this 
distinction both as insidious and unjust. If it be desirable to educate youth and form 
within them such rules of life as may save the expense and disgrace of prison 
discipline, when they come to be men, then it is peculiarly the duty of the City to 
provide fully for the instruction of the children of colour. If any distinction be made 
between them, and others, it ought to be in their favour, and not against them; for 
their parents are precluded by custom and prejudice from those lucrative 
employments which enable whites to be liberal and public spirited. When it is 
considered that during all the time that the coloured Inhabitants have been paying 
their proportion of taxes towards the education of all the white children and youths 
in the City the wonder will be that they did so much, not that they did not do more 
for themselves. 

The committee are therefore of opinion, that it is just and expedient that a 
suitable building be forthwith provided, at the expense of the City, to be placed in 
a healthy pleasant situation, for the accommodation of the African School, and that 
the Honorable Chairman of the School Committee be instructed to made a request to 
the City Council, to that effect. All which is respectfully submitted. 

D.L. Child 
J. Binney 
S. Fairbanks 

The foregoing report was read and accepted, 
(pp. 401-02) 



188 



APPENDIX C. 
Deed for Purchase of Smith School House Lot, 1834 



Suffolk County Registry of Deeds 
Book 382, Page 128 



The following pages are a copy of the deed that conveyed the lot upon which the Smith 
School House was built to the City of Boston on September 30, 1834. Sellers were the heirs of 
Joseph Powars, and the selling price was $1,935. 



189 



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APPENDIX D. 

Address at the Dedication of the Smith School, 1835 



The following is a published transcript of the address given at the dedication of the Smith 
School by William Minot on March 3, 1835. It is preceded by an "Introduction" of unknown 
authorship. 



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204 



APPENDIX E. 

Specifications for Remodeling the Smith School House, 1849 



Special Collections 
Massachusetts State House 



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APPENDIX F. 

Mortar Analysis 



Definition and Introduction 

Webster defines mortar as "a plastic building material (as a mixture of cement lime, or 
gypsum plaster with sand and water) that hardens and is used in masonry or plastering." 1 Mortar 
was used at the Smith School for both the original construction in 1834-35 and for the remodeling 
in 1849. It was used to lay the exterior granite foundation and brick walls, and to plaster the interior 
rooms. 



Mortar Analysis 

Three samples of mortar were removed for analysis. These were assigned log numbers 
"BOAF 03 M001, M002, and M003." The log numbers are a three-part code that describe the site, 
the building, and the mortar sample number. In this code, "BOAF" is Boston African American 
National Historic Site, "03" is the structure number, and "M001" is the mortar sample number. 

The mortar analysis involved simply separating out the sand components for comparison. 
This was accomplished by pulverizing each sample with a mortar and pestle, dissolving the calcium 
carbonate with a diluted solution of hydrochloric acid (one part 38% hydrochloric acid to five parts 
water), and decanting the resulting solution from the sand. The sand was then washed with water 
and dried under heat lamps. Observations were recorded of the sample hardness, presence of hair 
binder, and sand type. 



1 Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1983, p. 773. 

211 



Mortar Samples 



Sample 

BOAF 03 M001 



BOAF 03 M002 



BOAF 03 M003 



Location Date 

Plaster keys of arched ceiling, 1834-35 

second-story NPS office, now covered 
by a ca. -1880s pressed-metal ceiling. 
Sample obtained from the attic near 
the ceiling hatch 

Plaster keys at east partition wall, 1849 

first-story Museum office, at the 
location of the wainscot's missing 
cap molding 

Brick mortar from the interior of 1834-35 

yard's north wall 



Observations and Conclusions 

All three samples are a lime mortar. Hair binder, most likely from cows, was observed in 
the two plaster samples (M001 and M002), but not in the brick mortar sample (M003). The sand 
types are distinctive. Samples M001 and M003, both dated 1834-35, have a sand that contains grains 
of various sizes including large pebbles. It is interesting to note that the sands of the two samples 
are similar, even though one is an interior plaster (M001), and the other is an exterior brick mortar 
(M003). Sample M002, dated 1849, is a fine-grain sand that is composed primarily of white quartz, 
with lesser amounts of an orange-color mineral, a dark-gray color rock, and mica flakes. 

It was concluded that the difference in mortar sands is a useful dating device for 
distinguishing 1834-35 mortar from 1849 mortar at the Smith School. 



212 



APPENDIX G. 

Paint Analysis 



Objective 

The objective of paint analysis at the Smith School was two-fold. First, it was designed to 
date various architectural elements based on a comparison of the paint evidence. Second, it was 
hoped to reveal how the historic architectural elements had been finished during the period 1835-55. 



Methodology 

Small samples of paint were extracted at the site using an X-Acto knife fitted with a number 
18 blade. A total of 49 samples were taken from the exterior and interior of the building and placed 
in individually labeled envelopes. These samples were then transported to the Building Conservation 
Branch of the Northeast Cultural Resources Center where they were assigned log numbers and 
examined under the microscope. 

The paint-sample log numbers are a three-part code that describes the site, the building, and 
the paint sample number. Sample number one, for example, was assigned log number "BOAF 03 
POOL" In this code, "BOAF" is Boston African American National Historic Site, "03" is the site 
structure number for the Smith School, and "P001" is paint sample number one. 

After labeling, each paint sample was mounted in a wax-filled petri dish and examined under 
the microscope at 10 to 70 times magnification. The microscope used was a binocular Bausch and 
Lomb "Stereozoom 7." Certain characteristics of each paint sample were noted and recorded, such 
as paint-layer colors (chromochronologies) and paint types. Paints containing lead were identified 
by a spot chemical test using a solution of sodium sulfide and water. Paints composed of calcium 
carbonate (CaCO 3 ), such as whitewash and calcimine, were identified by a spot test using diluted 
hydrochloric acid. 

Dating of specific paint layers was accomplished by comparing paint samples from the 
various architectural elements. The stairway to the second story, for example, was installed as part 
of the remodeling of 1849. The paint analysis confirmed that the stairway was missing the earliest 
paint layers found on the wainscot in the schoolrooms on the first and second stories. Therefore, 
the first layer of paint on the wainscot was dated 1835, and the first layer of paint on the stairway 
was dated 1849. 



213 



Paint Sample Locations 



BOAF 03 P001 
BOAF 03 P002 

BOAF 03 P003 

BOAF 03 P004 
BOAF 03 P005 
BOAF 03 P006 
BOAF 03 P007 
BOAF 03 P008 
BOAF 03 P009 
BOAF 03 P010 
BOAF 03 P0 11 
BOAF 03 P012 
BOAF 03 P013 
BOAF 03 P014 
BOAF 03 P015 
BOAF 03 P016 

BOAF 03 P017 

BOAF 03 P018 
BOAF 03 P019 
BOAF 03 P020 
BOAF 03 P021 



Cellar, north brick and granite wall, behind later pine paneling. 

Cellar stairway, floorboards beneath the stairway to the second story at the 
first-story level. 

Cellar stairway, wainscot beneath the stairway to the second story at the first- 
story level. 

First-story museum office, wainscot at the south wall, horizontal boards. 

First-story museum office, wainscot at south wall, top molding. 

First-story entry, east exterior doorway, right side architrave. 

First-story entry, east doorway, architrave lintel. 

First-story entry, east doorway, transom muntins. 

Stairway to the second story, south wall wainscot, horizontal boards. 

Stairway to the second story, south wall wainscot, top molding. 

Stairway to the second story, wide shelf at the south wall. 

Stairway to the second story, upper newel. 

Second-story hall, handrail at stairway railing. 

Second-story hall, balusters at stairway railing. 

Stairway to the second story, fascia board beneath the hall railing. 

Second-story National Park Service (NPS) office, south wall wainscot, 
horizontal boards. 

Second-story NPS office, south wall wainscot, cap molding (below concave 
molding). 

Second-story NPS office, south wall wainscot, top concave molding. 

Second-story NPS office, west plaster wall behind the northwest flag case. 

Second-story NPS office, southwest flag case at the west wall. 

Second-story NPS office, northwest flag case at the west wall. 



214 



BOAF 03 P022 
BOAF 03 P023 
BOAF 03 P024 
BOAF 03 P025 
BOAF 03 P026 
BOAF 03 P027 
BOAF 03 P028 
BOAF 03 P029 
BOAF 03 P030 
BOAF 02 P031 
BOAF 03 P032 
BOAF 03 P033 
BOAF 03 P034 

BOAF 03 P035 

BOAF 03 P036 

BOAF 03 P037 

BOAF 03 P038 

BOAF 03 P039 

BOAF 03 P040 

BOAF 03 P041 



Second-story NPS office, southwest window, architrave. 

Second-story NPS office, southwest window, sash. 

Second-story NPS office, pressed metal ceiling. 

Second-story NPS office, east doorway to the northeast room, six-panel door. 

Second-story NPS office, east doorway to the northeast room, architrave. 

Second-story storage room, west doorway, six-panel door. 

Second-story storage room, west doorway, architrave. 

Second-story storage room, north wall wainscot, horizontal boards. 

Second-story storage room, closet siding at west wall. 

Second-story storage room, closet interior walls. 

Second-story storage room, closet door (four panels), room side. 

Second-story storage room, closet door (four panels), closet side. 

First-story museum office, east wall wainscot— north side of room, horizontal 
boards. 

First-story museum office, east wall wainscot— north side of room, top 
molding. 

First-story museum office, east wall wainscot— south side of room, horizontal 
boards. 

First-story museum office, east wall wainscot— south side of room, top 
molding. 

Second-story NPS office, east wall wainscot— north side of room, horizontal 
boards. 

Second-story NPS office, east wall wainscot— north side of room, cap molding 
(not concave). 

Second-story NPS office, east wall wainscot— south side of room, horizontal 
boards. 

Second-story NPS office, east wall wainscot— south side of room, top concave 
molding. 



215 



BOAF 03 P042 
BOAF 03 P043 

BOAF 03 P044 
BOAF 03 P045 
BOAF 03 P046 
BOAF 03 P047 
BOAF 03 P048 
BOAF 03 P049 

BOAF 03 P050 
BOAF 03 P051 



Second-story NPS office, north wall wainscot, inside closet. 

Second-story NPS office, north wall wainscot, covered by closet woodwork 
at northwest corner. 

First-story entry, east doorway, left side architrave. 

Exterior front doorway, transom window. 

Exterior front doorway, framing. 

Exterior front doorway, side panels. 

First-story museum office, east plaster wall above drop ceiling (1975). 

First-story museum office, north wall wainscot, horizontal boards, patch at 
former doorway. 

Second-story storage room, east wall wainscot, top molding. 

Second-story storage room, east wall wainscot, lower molding. 



216 



Paint Chromochronology: Exterior Front Doorway 

(paint samples P045, P046, and P047) 



Date 


Paint Layers 


1835 


1. 


yellow* 


ca. 1849 


2. 


mustard yellow* 




3. 


dark green 




4. 


dark green 




5. 


dark green 




6. 


dark green 




7. 


moss green 


ca. 1887 


8. 


dark green 




9. 


dark green 




10. 


white 




11. 


light yellow 




12. 


yellow 




13. 


white 




14. 


green 




15. 


black 




16. 


dark green 




17. 


white 




18. 


white 




19. 


white 



denotes lead paint 

denotes dirt and/or poor adhesion between paint layers. 



217 



Paint Chromochronology; Cellar Walls 

(paint sample P001) 



Date Paint Layers 

1835 1. whitewash 

2. whitewash 

3 . whitewash 

4. whitewash 

5. whitewash 

6. whitewash 

7. whitewash 

8. whitewash 

9. whitewash 

10. whitewash 

11. whitewash 

12. whitewash 

13. whitewash 

14. whitewash 

15. whitewash 

16. whitewash 



218 



Paint Chromochronology: Front Entry Woodwork 

(paint samples P006, P007, P008, and P044) 



Date Paint Layers 

1835 1. white* 

2. light gray * 

1849 3. yellow 

varnish 

4. yellow 

5. yellow 
varnish 

6. red 

7. red 

8. red 

9. orange-brown 

10. brown 

1 1 . light blue 

12. brown 

13. brown 

14. white 

15. red 

16. yellow 

17. pink 



* denotes lead paint; 

denotes dirt and/or poor adhesion between paint layers. 



219 



Paint Chromochronology: First-Story Museum Office Woodwork 

(paint samples P004, 5, 34, 35, 36, 37, 48, and 49) 



Date Paint Layers 

1835 1. white * 

2. light gray * 

3. white * 

1849 4. yellow 

varnish 

5. yellow 

6. yellow* 

7. red* 

8. brown (varnish?) 

9. red 

10. yellow 

11. brown 

12. light blue 

13. white 
light green 

14. green 

15. blue 

16. white and pink 



* denotes lead paint 

denotes dirt and/or poor adhesion between paint layers 



220 



Paint Chromochronologv: Stairway to the Second Story 

(paint samples P009-015) 



Date 


Paint Lavers 




Wainscot 


1849 


1 . white* 
yellow* 
varnish 



Newel and Handrail 



varnish 



Balusters 

varnish 



2. yellow 



3. 


yellow 
varnish 


orange-brown 




4. 


red 






5. 


red 


red 


red 


6. 


red 






7. 


orange 






8. 


brown 


brown 


brown 


9. 


white 


blue and white 


white 


10. 


brown 


brown 


brown 


11. 


brown 


orange-brown 




12. 


dark brown 


dark brown 




13. 


red 


orange-brown 




14. 


light blue 


black 


black 


15. 


yellow 


black 




16. 


white and pink 







denotes lead paint 



221 



Paint Chromochronologv: Second-Story NPS Office, Woodwork 

(paint samples PO 16-022, P024-026, and P038-041) 



Date 


Paint Lavers 


1835 


1. 


cream* 
light grav* 




2. 


light gray* 


1849 


3. 


white* 

yellow* 

varnish 



ca. 1887 



1975 



yellow 



5. 


yellow 
varnish 


6. 


red 
varnish 


7. 


red 
varnish 


9. 


orange-brown 


10. 


brown 


11. 


green 


12. 


brown 


13. 


green 


14. 


light green 


15. 


light blue 


16. 


blue 


17. 


white 


18. 


pink 



denotes lead paint; 

denotes dirt and/or poor adhesion between paint layers. 



222 



Paint Chromochronology: Second-Story Storage Room, Woodwork 

(paint samples P027-033 and P042-043) 



Date 


Paint Layers 


1835 


1. 


cream* 
light gray* 




2. 


light gray* 


1849 


3. 


white 

yellow 

varnish 



4. yellow 

5. yellow 
varnish 

ca. 1887 6. red 

red 



varnish 

7. brown 

8. white 

9. blue 

10. light green 

11. green 

12. light blue and blue 

13. white and pink 



denotes lead paint; 

denotes dirt and/or poor adhesion between paint layers. 



223 



APPENDIX H. 

Wallpaper Analysis 



No wallpapers finish the walls today in the Smith School. Remnants of one wallpaper only 
were found in the large room on the second story, behind one of the two flag cases mounted to the 
west wall. The paper has a light red floral pattern on a background of rust red. The paper stock 
is a mechanical wood pulp and the pattern is machine-printed, suggesting that the paper was 
manufactured sometime after 1855. The pattern itself is typical of late 19th-century wallpapers, circa 
1880-1 900. 2 The wallpaper was therefore probably hung by the veterans, group "G.A.R. Post 
134," which leased the building from 1887 through the 1930s. 



2 Catherine Lynn, Wallpaper in America: From The Seventeenth Century to World War I (NY: W.W. 
Norton & Co , Inc., 1980). 

225 



APPENDIX I. 

Moldings Analysis 



Molding profiles were obtained at the Smith School House by using a woodworking profile 
gauge ("Vitrex" model number 1030). Profiles were first roughly traced at the site and later 
transferred to the pages that follow. Molding profiles are by Jana Gross, Architectural Technician, 
National Park Service. 



227 



MOLDING PROFILES « 1835 & 1849 



FIRST FLOOR -LARGE ROOM 



oo 



m 
ro 
oo 




WAINSCOT- SOUTH WALL 




WAINSCOT- EAST WALL 



229 



FULL SCALE 



MOLDING PROFILES « 1835 81 1849 



SECOND FLOOR - LARGE ROOM 



0) 




<J- 




00 




10 




ro 




00 


1 




<J> 

CD 




WAINSCOT- SOUTH WALL 



WAINSCOT- EAST WALL 



230 



FULL SCALE 



MOLDING PROFILES » 1835 a 1849 

SECOND FLOOR - NORTHEAST ROOM 



849 



ARCHITRAVE -WEST DOORWAY 




835 




DOOR PANEL-WEST DOOR 



0> 
GO 




if) 
03 






WAINSCOT- EAST WALL 



FULL SCALE 



231 



MOLDING PROFILES^ 1975 

SECOND FLOOR -LARGE ROOM 



975 



V/////A 





ARCHITRAVE-NORTH WINDOW 







975 



— — — — , 




MUNTIN-NORTH WINDOW 



STOOL 8 APRON -NORTH WINDOW 

232 



FULL SCALE 



IV. BIBLIOGRAPHY 



233 



Architectural Heritage, Stahl Association. "Architectural, Historical, And Engineering Assessment 
and Report of: Old State House, Faneuil Hall, Dillaway House, Parkman House, 46 School 
Street, For The Public Facilities Department, City Of Boston." Boston: June 1970 
(unpublished). 

"Argument of Charles Sumner, Esq, Against the Constitutionality of Separate Colored Schools, in 
the Case of Sarah C. Roberts vs. The City of Boston, Before the Supreme Court of Mass., 
Dec 4, 1849." Boston: B.F. Roberts, 1849. Pamphlet, bound in a volume entitled Negroes 
in the Boston Schools, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. 

Atlas of the City of Boston. 1873 corrected to 1875, 1876, 1878, 1879, 1880, 1881, and 1882. 

Atlas of the County of Suffolk, Massachusetts. Philadelphia: G.M. Hopkins & Co., 1874. 

Atlas of the City of Boston. Philadelphia: G,W. Bromley & Co., 1890. 

. Philadelphia: G.W. Bromley & Co., 1898. 

. Philadelphia: G.W. Bromley & Co., 1908. 

. [ ], 1938. 

Baer, Helene G. The Heart is Like Heaven: The Life ofLydia Maria Child. Philadelphia: University 
of Pennsylvania Press, 1'964. 

Boston Patriot. Saturday, November 25, 1815 (microfilm copy). 

Bowen's Picture of Boston. Boston: Otis, Broaders and Co., 1838. 

Brayley, Arthur Wellington. Schools and Schoolboys of Old Boston. Boston: 1894. 

Chamberlain, Allen. Beacon Hill: Its Ancient Pastures and Early Mansions. Boston: Houghton 
Mifflin Co., 1925. 

Damrell, Charles S. A Half Century of Boston's Building. Boston: 1895. 

Darling, Arthur Burr. "Prior to Little Rock in American Education: The Roberts Case of 1849- 
1850." Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings , 1957-60, 72:126-142. 

Detwiller, Frederic C. "African Meeting House: An Architectural/Historical Analysis." Boston: 
Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, July 1975 (typescript). 

Dickinson, S.N. Boston 1849 Almanac. Boston: 1849. 

Dierickx, Mary. "Metal Ceilings in the U.S." Bulletin of the Association for Preservation 
Technology, 1975, Vol. VII, No. 2. 

Directories, City of Boston. 1798-1856. Bostonian Society. 

235 



Drake, Samuel Adams. Old Landmarks and Historic Personages of Old Boston. Boston: 1875. 

Duffy, Mark J. State of the City's Records: A Report on the Status and Condition of the Public 

Archives and Records of the City of Boston. Boston: Municipal Archives and Records, Public 
Facilities Department, 198 . 

"The Earlier Days of Boston." Undated newspaper article in Scrapbook U, p. 29, Bostonian Society 
Library. 

"A Glance Back at Tin Ceiling." The Old-House Journal. March 1979. 

Hale, Edward E. Memories of a Hundred Years, Vol. II. NY: The Macmillan Co., 1902. 

Holmes, Pauline. A Tercentenary History of The Boston Public Latin School, 1635-1935, including 
Appendix XV, "History of the Smith School for Colored Children," pp. 441-42. 
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1935. 

Huxtable, Ada Louise. "Commercial Buildings— c. 1850-1870, Boston, Massachusetts, Gridley 
James Fox Bryant, Architect," and "Granite Wharf Warehouse, Office Buildings— c. 1823- 
1872, Boston Massachusetts, Alexander Parris, G.J.F. Bryant, and others, Architects." 
Progressive Architecture in America, n.d. Excerpted pages in a folder labeled "G.J.F. 
Bryant" in the Prints and Photographs Department of the Boston Athenaeum. 

Jameson, Franklin J. Dictionary of United States History, 1492-1895. Boston: Puritan Publishing 
Co., 1894. 

Levesque, George A. "Inherent Reformers-Inherited Orthodoxy: Black Baptists in Boston, 1800- 
1873." Journal of Negro History 4( 1 975) , pp . 49 1 -50 1 . 

The Liberator. Issues, September 1834 through October 1835 and November 19, 1858 (microfilm 
copies). 

Lukas, J. Anthony. Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families. 
NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985. 

Lynn, Catherine. Wallpaper in America: From The Seventeenth Century to World War 1. NY: 
W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1980. 

Mabee, Carleton. "A Negro Boycott to Integrate Boston Schools." New England Quarterly, 1968, 
41(3):341-61. 

Mackay, Robert B. "Bryant, Gridley J.F." Excerpted pages included in a folder labeled "G.J.F. 
Bryant," in the Prints and Photographs Department of the Boston Athenaeum. 

Minot, William. Address at the Dedication of the Smith School. Boston: March 3, 1835. 



236 



National Park Service. Boston African National Historic Site: Draft General Management Plan and 
Environmental Assessment. Boston: North Atlantic Region, National Park Service, U.S. 
Department of the Interior, November 1984. 

. "Interpretive Prospectus, Boston African American National Historic Site, Boston, 

Massachusetts." Typescript, n.d. [February 1989]. 

. "Rehabilitation of the Abiel Smith School, 46 Joy St., Boston, Boston African American 

National Historic Site," with attached memorandum concerning Section- 106 Compliance 
dated July 1, 1988. 

Pearson, Barbara E. "African Meeting House Historic Structure Report." Boston: National Park 
Service, North Atlantic Historic Preservation Center, June 1982. 

"Radiators." The Old-House Journal. September-October, 1988. 

"Reminiscences of Boston, No. V." Undated newspaper article in Scrapbook U, p. 29, Bostonian 
Society Library. 

Rosebrock, Ellen Fletcher. "A Historical Account of the Joy Street block between Myrtle and 
Cambridge streets." Typescript, December 22, 1978. 

Schrock, Nancy Carlson. Architectural Records in Boston: A Guide to Architectural Research in 
Boston, Cambridge & Vicinity. NY: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1983. 

Shadows. Untitled news article about Abiel and Lydia Smith published in the Boston Transcript as 
note " 1688;" no date, but adjacent articles are dated 1896 in Scrapbook T, p. 206, Bostonian 
Society Library. 

Shaw, Charles. Topographical and Historical Description of Boston. Boston: Oliver Spear, 1817. 

Smith, Abiel. "Last Will and Testament." Signed and dated by Abiel Smith on October 6, 1814. 
Suffolk County Probate Court number 24791, Massachusetts State Archives. 

Stahl/Bennett, Inc., Architects. "Renovations to Smith School"; specifications and drawings for 
Boston Public Facilities Department Project No. 365-SD-2-74, dated October 1975. 

Stull and Lee, et al. Restoration and Adaptive Re-use of the Smith School and African Meeting 
House. Final report, 4 vols, May 1994. Volume I, Historical Research, contains "Historical 
Memorandum" by Anthony Cromwell Hill, consulting historian; volumes II-III contain 
various technical reports and studies; and volume IV, Preliminary Design, contains the 
recommended design for the rehabilitation of the Smith School. 



237 



Suffolk County Registry of Deeds: 

Augustine Raillion to Nancy Collins, June 16, 1810. Book 233, p. 113. 

Phelps et al. to City of Boston, September 30, 1834. Book 382, pp. 128-129. 

African Baptist Church to The Infant School Association for the Education of Colored Youth 

in the City of Boston, August 4, 1837. Book 423, p. 102. 
Infant School Association to the Deacons of the First Independent Baptist Church Society, 

March 1, 1855. Book 676, p. 302. 

"Triumph of Equal School Rights in Boston: Proceedings of the Presentation Meeting Held in 

Boston, Dec. 17, 1855, Including Addresses by John T. Hilton, Wm. C. Nell, Charles W. 
Slack, Wendell Phillips, Wm. Lloyd Garrison, Charles Lenox Remond." Boston: R.F. 
Wallcut, 1856. Pamphlet, bound in a volume entitled Negroes in the Boston Schools, Rare 
Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. 

A Volume of Records Relating to the Early History of Boston Containing Boston Town Records, 1796 
to 1813. Boston: Municipal Printing Office, 1905. 

A Volume of Records Relating to the Early History of Boston Containing Minutes of the Selectmen 's 
Meetings, 1811 to 1817, and Part of 1818. Boston: Municipal Printing Office, 1908. 

A Volume of Records Relating to the Early History of Boston Containing Minutes of the Selectmen's 
Meetings From September I, 1818, to April 24, 1822. Boston: Municipal Printing Office, 
1909. 

Weis, Robert Lewis. Abiel Smith and Lydia Otis. Privately printed, October 15, 1923. 

Wellington, Ambrose. Letter to G.B. Emerson dated September 23, 1847. Letters of Teachers to 
George B. Emerson - 1847. Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. 

Weston, C. Letter to D. Weston dated March 3, 1837. Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public 
Library. 

Whipple, Charles K. "Boston in Slavery Times: Mr. Charles K. Whipple's Local Recollections of 
the Struggle of Sixty Years Since." Boston Evening Transcript, July 17, 1893. Scrapbook 
MS. A. 9. 2. 16.49-50, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. 



238 



Records, City of Boston 



"Annual Report of the Public Schools," for the year 1841 (City Document No. 21). 

"Annual Report of the Receipts and Expenditures of the City of Boston," fiscal year May 1- 
April 30: 



1834-35, City Document No. 

17 for 1835; 
1835-36, No. 11; 

No. 25; 

No. 36; 

No. 31; 

No. 19; 

No. 20; 

No. 15; 

No. 17; 

No. 22; 

No. 20 1/2; 

No. 34; 

No. 29; 

No. 35; 

No. 21; 

No. 49; 

No. 36; 

No. 45; 

No. 59; 

No. 49 1/2; 



1836-37 
1837-38 
1838-39 
1839-40 
1840-41 
1841-42 
1843-44 
1844-45 
1845-46 
1846-47 
1847-48 
1848-49 
1849-50 
1850-51 
1851-52 
1852-53 
1853-54 
1854-55 
1855-56 



1856-57, No. 54 
1857-58, No. 29 
1858-59, No. 41 
1859-60, No. 56 
1861-62, No. 58 
1862-63, No. 78 
1863-64, No. 65 
1864-65, No. 60 
1869-70, No. 60 
1873-74, No. 56 
1874-75, No. 72 
1875-76, No. 56 
1879-80, No. 86 
1884-85, No. 76 
1889-90, No. 100; 
1894-95, No. 4; 
1899-1900, No. 4; 
1909-10, No. 4; 
1919-20; 
1929-30; and 
1936-37. 



No. 48; 



"Annual Report of the School Committee of the City of Boston": 



1856, City Document No. 72 for 1857; 

1857, No. 11 for 1858; 

1858, No. 23 for 1859; 

1859, No. 9 for 1860; 

1860, No. 74 for 1861; 



1862, No. 54 for 1863; 
1873, No. 81 for 1874; 
1875, No. 104 for 1876; 
and 1879, No. 148 for 1880. 



"Annual Report of the School Committee, Together With the Annual Report of the Superintendent 
of Public Schools." November 1855, City Document No. 61. 

"Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Schools of the City of Boston." 1852, City 
Document No. 73, and 1853, No. 91. 

"Auditor's Report of Leases." May 1856, City Document No. 40. 

"Auditor's Report on School Houses." June 1850, City Document No. 17. 



239 



Index to the City Documents, 1834 to 1897. Boston: 1897. 

Inspectional Services Department. Information on 46 Joy Street; includes "Building Department- 
Egress Report, Document No. 395" (one page) dated May 31, 1916, and correspondence 
dated August 20, 1923; September 10, 1927; and November 4, 1937. 

"Municipal Register": 

1858, City Document No. 2; 

1859, No. 2; 

1860, No. 2; 

1861, No. 3; and 

1862, No. 2. 

"Philosophical Apparatus." 1847, City Document No. 25. 

"Public Schools": 

1838, City Document No. 23; 
1842, No. 12; 
and 1844, No. 18. 

Records of the Boston City Surveyor's Office, Volume I. 

Records of the Boston School Committee, six manuscript volumes dated 1815-36, 1837-41 , 1842-45, 
1845-49, 1850-54, and 1855-58. Rare Books and Manuscripts Department, Boston Public 
Library. 

"Report of a Special Committee of the Grammar School Board, Presented August 29, 1849, 

on the Petition of Sundry Colored Persons, Praying for the Abolition of the Smith School." 

1849, City Document No. 42. 

"Report of the Committee on Public Instruction on Plans of Primary School Houses," 1861. 
City Document No. 13. 

"Report of the Committee on Vacant Seats in the School Houses." December 15, 1851, City 
Document No. 69. 

"Report of the Inspector of Buildings on the Condition of Public Buildings in Boston as Regards the 
Means of Egress in Case of Fire." 1875, City Document No. 112. 

"Report of the Superintendent of Public Buildings" for the years ending December 31": 

1850, City Document No. 21 for 1851; 1855, No. 6 for 1856; 

1851, No. 8 for 1852; 1856, No. 11 for 1857; 

1852, No. 53 for 1853; 1857, No. 6 for 1858; 

1853, No. 8 for 1854; 1858, No. 7 for 1859; 

1854, No. 15 for 1855; 1859, No. 10 for 1860; 



240 



1860, No. 10 for 1861; 

1861, No. 8 for 1862; 

1862, No. 9 for 1863; 

1863, No. 13 for 1864; 

1864, No. 12 for 1865; 
1869, No. 6 for 1870; 
1873, No. 5 for 1874; 
1875, No. 15 for 1876; 



1879, No. 18 for 1880 

1881, No.. 12 for 1882 

1882, No. 14 for 1883 

1883, No. 13 for 1884 

1884, No. 24 for 1885 

1885, No. 10 for 1886 

1886, No. 20 for 1887 
1889, No. 16 for 1890 



and 



"Report of the Superintendent of Public Buildings on Expenses of Warming and Ventilating School 
Houses." June 4, 1851, City Document No. 39. 

"Report on Naming Primary Schoolhouses." 1865, City Document No. 101. 

"Report to the Primary School Committee." June 15, 1846, City Document No. 23. 

"Reports and Other Documents Relating to the Ventilation of the School Houses of the City of 
Boston." 1847, City Document No. 46; and 1848. 

"Reports of the Annual Visiting Committees of the Public Schools of the City of Boston": 

1845, City Document No. 26; 

1846, No. 28; and 

1847, No. 40. 

"Rules of the School Committee and Regulations of the Public Schools": 



1841, City Document No. 22; 
1844, No. 27; 
1851, No. 4; 



1852, No. 16; 

1855, No. 8; and 

1856, No. 37. 



"Semi-Annual Report of the Condition of the Primary Schools in the City of Boston." October 
1837, City Document No. 22. 

"The Report of the Annual Examination of the Public Schools of the City of Boston": 



1848, City Document No. 31; 

1849, No. 39; 

1850, No. 38 

1851, No. 52 



1852, No. 50; 

1853, No. 65; and 

1854, No. 74. 



'Valuation of the City Property as taken by Assessors May 1, 1859." 1859, City Document No. 
77. 



241