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The History Of Gardner Public Schools

Most of the text and pictures below appeared in The Gardner Museum’s 1988 calendar, which has graciously given permission to the Gardner Public Schools to use and update it appropriately.

Early History

The early history of Gardner’s schools started with a small building on South Main Street built by Westminster when Gardner was not yet formed.  This school, and private homes served the four districts until 1796 when monies were appropriated for four new schools.  The four district system was replaced in 1818 by a six district system.  These districts were No. 5 the north on Stone Street, No. 4 Northwest on Clark Street, No. 3 Southwest on West Broadway, No. 2 Southeast on East Broadway, No. 6 East on Chapel Street and No. 1 the Centre on Green Street.  Of these buildings only one still exists, the East School, and that is now 11 Carter Road.  This system, and buildings, served until the mid 19th century when the increase in population demanded new ”modern” schools be built.

The first of these was the Centre School [see Figure 1] on Green Street. 

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Figure 1

 Centre School. This school was built about 1845 and served the children in the Gardner Centre area.  The building was located near 55-57 Green Street.  This continued as a grammar school until 1857 when the new Centre, or School Street, School was built.  For several years the building was used for purposes other than a school.  In 1866, with the introduction of a High School in Gardner the building was again used for school purposes.  The school was finally abandoned by the town after the “new” High School was built on Chestnut Street.  In 1875 the building was moved to Union Depot and used by Howe Brothers as a Grain Store.  In 1914 it was again moved, for the final time, to Elm Street where it stands today at number 362.

The next school was the Bell School House [see Figure 2] on East Broadway in the South village.

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Figure 2

Bell School House.  No photograph is known to exist of the entire building.  This photograph shows one of the classes outside the building.  This building was built about the same time as the Centre School, 1845.  It was located on East Broadway one to two hundred feet east of number 159.  This served as a school until1887.  The school was then moved to Chestnut Street, across from numbers 407 and 441 where it served as a fire station and did some duty as a school.  The building burned down in 1916.

In 1858 the School Street School was built [see Figure 3].

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Figure 3

School Street School.  The original School Street School, or Centre School, was built in 1857 to replace an earlier structure on Green Street, near 55-57 Green Street.  This wooden structure, School Street School, was used until 1903 when it was determined a new structure, the current brick School Street School building, was needed.  To allow rapid building of the new school, and to make sure the children did not lose any class time, the old building was raised up on stilts, moved forward and the children met in the raised school.  At first it was thought someone might save the building by moving it.  But this was rejected and the building was torn down.

In 1858 the West Broadway school was built [see Figure 4].

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Figure 4

Broadway School.  This building was built in 1858 on what is today West Broadway.  In 1912 the building was raised and a basement added.  It served until 1953 when it was abandoned.  It was then torn down to make way for the National Guard armory.

Middle History

In 1866 a High School was established and the old Centre School on Green Street became the first High School.  With the increase in students a new High School was built on Chestnut Street in 1874 [see Figure 5].

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Figure 5

High School Chestnut Street.  This brick building was built in 1874 and was located on Chestnut Street near the corner of Logan and Chestnut Streets.  It server as a High School until 1898 when it was converted into a grammar school.  It served in this capacity until 1927 when it was abandoned.  The building was subsequently torn down. 

The next twenty-five years saw a number of new schools built in Gardner, 1878 West Street School [see Figure 6] was built.

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Figure 6

West Street School.  This school was built in 1878.  It was located on West Street where the Parking lot is today.  The building was enlarged in 1894 and was finally abandoned in 1953.  This photograph shows the enlarged school.

1881 Pleasant Street School [see Figure 7] opened.

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Figure 7

Pleasant Street School.  This building was located next to the P. A. C. C. building on Pleasant Street.  The School was opened in 1881.  In 1914 the School was remodeled.  The building was finally abandoned in 1953.

1887 Prospect Street School [see Figure 8] was built.

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Figure 8

Prospect Street School.  This school was located behind the Fire Station on the corner of East Broadway and Prospect Street.  The building was built in 1887.  It was remodeled and enlarged in 1904.  When Prospect School was built across the street the building housed a first grade for a number years.  The building was demolished in 1946.

1888 Little Canada or Stuart Street School [see Figure 9] was built.

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Figure 9

Stuart Street School.  The Stuart Street School was erected in 1888 and served as a neighborhood school until it was closed in 1926.

1893 Knowlton Street School [see Figure 10] opened.

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Figure 10

Knowlton Street School.  This school was opened in 1893.  It served as a school until 1929 when it was abandoned.  It was subsequently torn down.

In 1898 a new High School [see Figure 11] was built on Elm Street.

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Figure 11

Helen Mae Sauter School.  This building was built in 1898.  In 1902 the Armory, located on lower Elm Street, was moved to behind the High School to afford additional space.  The building served as a High School until 1927 when the “new” High School was built next door.  The building was used as a middle school from 1927 until 1953 when the building was closed by the city.  In 1965 the State rehabilitated the building and Mount Wachusett Community College used the building for classrooms.  The College then left the building and the building was used by the Monachusett Employment Training Program and the Monachusett Region Private Industry Council until 1986.  In 1987 the city started using the building again as an Elementary school and is now called Helen Mae Sauter School. In 2015 the building was re-purposed again and is now a tutor center, meeting center, and is the home of Gardner Public School's Special Education Department.

This time span also saw the opening of the Holy Rosary School [see Figure 12] in 1886.  This School lasted until 1896 when it was suspended for seven years.  In 1903 it was reopened and with one change.  The building continues to serve as a school. 

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Figure 12

Holy Rosary School.  The Holy Rosary School began in 1886 and used the wooden church building as a meeting place.  The School continued until 1896 when it was suspended until 1903.  The wooden church building, which had been moved to make way for the new brick church building, again served as the school.  This building continued as the school until the brick building was completed in 1925.

Recent History

The first quarter of the 20th century saw the building of Connors Street School [see Figure 13].  In 1903 School Street School was built.  The school closed during the 1980 and 1981 school year and the city now leases the building to CAPS, a special education collaborative.  The Coleman Street School, built in 1918, was closed in 1978 when a lease was signed between the City and MOC (Montachusett Opportunity Council) for MOC to use the Coleman Street School for a Head Start program.   

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Figure 13

Connors Street School.  This school was built in 1901 across the street from the Knowlton Street School.  The building was closed in 1953.  It was then used as a branch of the Levi Heywood Memorial Library.  When this closed it became the Mary A. Kane building. 

In 1923 the Sacred Heart School [see Figure 14] was begun.  This school continues but the original building was torn down in 1980. 

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Figure 14

Sacred Heart School.  The Scared Heart School began in 1923 with grades on to four.  In four years this was expanded to cover eight grades.  This building was torn down in 1980, with the newer building on Lynde Street serving as the school.

The most recent schools: Prospect Street School opened in 1923 and was closed in 2002 when the city starting leasing the building to CAPS. In 2009 Propect Street School was renamed Gardner Academy of Learning and Technology and currently serves as an alternative high school. The second Elm Street High School, which was built in 1927 now serves as an elementary school and is called Elm Street School.  Waterford Street School, built in 1953, served as the Junior High, until 1997 when it became an elementary school.  The current High School, on Catherine Street, was built in 1976 [see Figure 15].  Finally, in 1997 the new Gardner Middle School was built at 297 Catherine Street next to the High School. 

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Figure 15

Gardner High School.  This picture originally appeared in The Gardner News, on Saturday, September 25, 1976 to celebrate the opening of the school.  Used with permission.

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