Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Whipple School

The Whipple School is located at 609 State Street, on the northeast corner of State and Summer Streets.

Towards the end of the 19th Century, Portsmouth appropriated approximately $75,600 for the construction of two new modern school facilities. The city built them in 1889-1890, and they opened in 1890 as the Whipple School and the Farragut School. That year, Portsmouth abandoned five old school buildings: the Bartlett, Cabot Street, Jones, Peabody, and Walker. All of the faculty and students from these old facilities were transferred to the new Whipple and Farragut Schools. Both of the new buildings held 14 classrooms for Primary students. 

The following excerpt, written by the Superintendent of Schools, C. H. Morss, is taken from Receipts and Expenditures of the Town of Portsmouth for 1890, the year the two schools opened:

“One of the greatest evils of the graded system is the tendency to place too large a number of pupils in charge of one teacher. This is a great mistake, as it prevents individual instruction. The teaching of a class as a whole can never produce the best results. It is only when the teacher knows the needs of each and every pupil, and can base her instruction upon these, that we look for the true school work. A class of fifty is so large as to compel the teacher to handle them as a whole, and prevent her giving that particular attention to the requirements of each so necessary to their advancement. Forty pupils properly taught will furnish all the work one teacher can possibly do. Add more to the number, and more class teaching and less individual work must result. As the time spent by the average child in school is very short, our endeavor should be to train him as thoroughly as possible, to strengthen his weak places, and to give him as much instruction as he can receive. If we take forty as the number of pupils to a teacher of a one-grade room, a two-grade room should not have above thirty-five, and a school having more than two grades ought not to have over twenty-five or thirty pupils. The tendency everywhere at present seems to be to decrease the number of pupils to a teacher, and no mistaken notion of economy should allow us to retard a child's progress by placing him in a crowded room.”

The Whipple School is named after Portsmouth resident and signer of the Declaration of Independence, General William Whipple, who resided in the Moffatt-Ladd House.

This area of State Street is known as Mason Hill and was named for Jeremiah Mason, a prominent lawyer and politician, who lived across the street in the Mason House.

The photograph below appeared in C. S. Gurney's invaluable 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque. My 2012 picture shows the difficulty of photographing this building due to the foliage surrounding it.

The building is now an 11-unit housing complex known as the Whipple School Condominium.

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