HISTORY OF OUR SCHOOL
Contributor: Ellen F. O'Connor
Former Instructor of Art
JAMAICA PLAIN HIGH SCHOOL was formerly the West Roxbury High School. Its origin dates back more than one hundred years before the Declaration of Independence.
March 23, 1676, Hugh Thomas gave to the town of Roxbury his house, lot and night pasture to be used for a school. October 1676, John Ruggles gave a triangular piece of land at the junction of South Centre and Eliot Streets, Jamaica Plain, for the use of a school only and here was erected the first school house.
July 10, 1689, John Eliot, Apostle to the Indians, conveyed to trustees seventy-five acres of land to and for the maintenance, support and encouragement of a school and School Master at that part of Roxbury, commonly called Jamaica or Pond Plain, for the teaching and instruction of the children together with African Americans and Indians. In this gift, Eliot sounded the keynote of democracy by establishing a free school opened to all races and classes.
In 1731, this school was replaced by a new building. In 1787, a third building was erected on Eliot Street. In 1855, the town of West Roxbury assumed control of the Eliot School. Under Principal Daniel B. Hagar, it became one of the best in the country. Within the same year, the girls were transferred to a separate building, Village Hall, Thomas Street. Three years later, the boys were removed to the same building. Since that time, the school became co-educational. Later, a new building was erected on Elm Street, on the site of the Loring Greenough Garden. In 1873, West Roxbury was annexed to Boston and the name of the school was changed to West Roxbury High School; the old name of "Eliot High' was dropped.
Up to 1879, very few young people had been given a high school education, for it wasconsidered a luxury rather than a necessity. However, with the appointment of Mr. George C. Mann as Headmaster in 1878, new life was infused into the school, and rapid strides made in all branches. In 1901, a new building was dedicated. Mr. Mann retired in 1914, was succeeded by Oscar C. Gallagher and in 1919, by Maurice J. Lacey. Mr. John B. Casey was appointed Headmaster in 1939.
In 1925, an Annex replacing the old part of the school was built, a modern, fireproof structure. This provided a new office for the Headmaster, a school library, a new art room (the largest and brightest in the city), new science laboratories, lecture hall, classrooms and shops for the Agricultural department, lunch room and lockers.
Further improvements, included a much needed new auditorium and a larger gymnasium, as promised by the Boston School Committee.
Due to structural issues, in 1978, JPHS students were moved from Elm Street into a building on McBride Street in Jamaica Plain. The Elm Street building officially closed its doors in 1979. In 1989, English High School students were moved into the McBride Street building, whereby both groups shared the building until 1990, whereby the JPHS name was officially no more and the McBride Street building officially was renamed English High School. The Elm Street building was later renovated and now are condominiums.