Friday, March 30, 2012

Old High School

The former Portsmouth High School is located at 20 Islington Street, near the southwest corner of Middle and Islington Streets. It is the next west of The Academy Building and across the street from the Buckminster House.

During summer vacation of 1905, Portsmouth High School moved from the overcrowded building on Daniel Street (Old High School and City Hall) to their new facility on Islington Street.  Because of the extra space, eighth grade students also attended classes there.

A report by the Superintendent of Schools in Receipts and Expenditures of the City of Portsmouth for the 1905 school year states that “The High School shows a slight increase in membership. The total registration for the fall term just passed is the largest in the school's history. I suspect that the novelty and attractiveness of the new building have been in part the cause of this, but the principal cause is probably the growing interest manifest everywhere in higher education. It is now generally recognized that high school training not only gives information and culture but has a practical value in cash returns in the school of life.”

The building opened for the first day of school on September 11, 1905, and was initially heated by coal. There were approximately three hundred high school students registered for the 1905 school year, and the estimated cost of education per student was $45-$51. The eighth grade class consisted of ninety-six pupils, giving a total of slightly over four hundred students and thirteen teachers during the first school year.

By 1953, the number of high school students in Portsmouth had risen to seven hundred, and the cost per pupil was more than $200. Overcrowding forced the city to begin planning a new high school on Andrew Jarvis Drive.

The vintage photograph above from the Library of Congress was taken about two years after the school opened (c1907). Today, the Old High School has been beautifully restored as the Keefe House, offering housing for low-income elderly residents.

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