Between 1800 and 1975, no fewer than 20 schools called Boston’s West End home. Following urban renewal, the last school in the community—the Peter Faneuil School—closed, and there has not been another public school in the West End or Beacon Hill since. Still, the neighborhood boasts a robust history of education, with several scholastic firsts. School Days in the West End recounted that exceptional past through graphic story panels, artifacts, photographs, report cards, textbooks and more.
In 1821, one of the first public high schools in America, English High School, opened in The West End. The Abiel Smith School was the first building in the country raised to be a public school for African Americans. The Phillips School became one of the first integrated schools in Boston in 1855. And the kindergarten program started in 1870 at the Somerset School predates the claim of Susan Blow’s St. Louis kindergarten as the first in the US in 1873.
Notable West End students and teachers include:
- -Leonard Nimoy, who graduated the Mayhew School and went on to become a famous actor
- -Martin Lomasney, who dropped out of the Mayhew School to become a legendary Boston politician
- -William Cooper Nell, an Abiel School graduate who fought for racial integration and became a prominent abolitionist and historian
- -Lowell Mason, a music teacher at the Bowdoin School who wrote more than 1000 songs and hymns, including “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Joy to the World”
Exhibit and Design copyright Duane Lucia.