, Salem, MA

August 26, 2013

Letter: Salem's storied School Street

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

There are certain streets in Salem whose names have been recycled, and School Street is a good example.

Washington Street in Town House Square was at one time called School Street for the town’s early schoolhouse at that location. After it was renamed “Washington Street,” School Street was given a new home in another neighborhood.

According to historian Sidney Perley, School Street in North Salem is very old. At one time, it was known as the road to Trask’s Mill. In 1842, however, it was listed in the directory by its current name, running “from 99 North to Danvers.”

The name is derived from the North English School, a small wooden grammar school built by the town in 1807 and located on what would become School Street. The first teacher was William B. Dodge, a firm abolitionist. He resigned in 1834 and was replaced by Albert Lackey, whose class consisted of about 28 boys.

In 1835 with the school committee’s approval, 17 North Salem girls were transferred in from the West Female School — with equal rights — and the total quickly grew to an estimated 60 students, or scholars as they were called.

At first, the only subjects taught in grammar schools were reading, writing and arithmetic (the three R’s). Grammar and geography were added in 1816.

Students who came from families of lesser means did not attend college. For many, the English (grammar) school was their only education, and these students afterward became prosperous mariners or merchants.

Caleb Foote attended Salem’s North School but had to leave school at the age of 10 because his parents had died, and he had to work and support himself. He became editor and senior proprietor of the Salem Gazette and owner/proprietor of the Salem Mercury. In May of 1841, he was appointed postmaster of Salem. During his long and busy career, he served a term as member of the House of Representatives and another term as member of the executive council.

It can be said that School Street earned its name. The North School later became the Pickering School. From 1866 to 1894, it stood on School Street in a new building at the site of the former North School.

Afterward, this building became the home of Cogswell School, a primary school well remembered by some of our senior citizens.

According to directory listings, the Pickman School stood on School Street from 1897 to 1961.

By the way, the brick building on School Street that once housed the Pickering and the Cogswell schools is still standing today — as condominiums.

Jeanne Stella