Last week’s photo of Boccanfuso’s gas station next to Mansion Clam House (later Parker Mansion) brought plenty of comments, and many memories.
Plus 3 photos, from Patricia Driscoll.
She writes that before it was a beloved seafood restaurant, the Mansion building was …
… a mattress factory.
Her great-aunt Elizabeth Ball worked there. Other relatives may have too.
Patricia says Elizabeth was born in 1894. She was quite young when she started at the factory. This photo is from around 1910:
Patricia also sent a photo of her great-aunt and grandmother at a Westport school. They were between 6 and 8 years old, she says; she does not know exactly when it was taken, or where.
There appear to be 29 students in one class — and clearly all were not in the same grade.
Patricia’s third photo is of another relative, Thomas Ball, in his Post Road jewelry store:
“06880” readers: If you know anything about the mattress factory, school or jewelry store in these photos, click “Comments” below.
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Could it be Adams Academy on North Morningside Drive? My uncle went there and he was born in 1907 or 1908.
Fred Bedford, the donor of Greens Farms School, the YMCA, and his eponymous schools also went there.
I once posted the Board of Ed should replace the boring W in their logo with a drawing of this school.
That said, did Westport hav other wooden schools then?
Well, there is an entry in the 1917 Westport Town Directory (phone book) under the Mattress Manufacturers heading for:
“Wakeman R & Son, Riverside av nr Bridge S”
That would be this building. I’ve also seen reference to a mattress manufacturer in Saugatuck somewhere, perhaps in my 1910 Sanborn Fire Map of Westport.
Regarding the photo of Thomas Ball, Jeweler, I see a Thomas Ball and his wife Elizabeth living at 20 Gorham Ave, with an ad for “Watches, Jewelry and Silverware” shop at 9 State Street East in the 1925 Westport Town Directory
In the picture of the wooden school, on the left side, look at the trees in the background. Does this give us any clue?
Do the shoes or the clothes give us any clue to a time period? My guess is before 1920!
Ahem, well….time for some schooling on schools:
Connecticut, like the other Puritan founded colonies, were early adopters of public education. The first school law in Connecticut was enacted in 1652. It required all settlements of 50 or more families to hire a headmaster and provide a suitable building for instruction. The building often chosen was the church, as it would have a capacity to hold such a gather. These early students were required to pay a tuition, but the law specified assistance was to be given to those students of meager means who might not be able to afford even this small amount. One of the primary motivations for this law was the belief that be able to read the scriptures for yourself was one of the best defenses against the devil.
Fast forward two and half centuries or so and into the new town of Westport. Schools were provided for all young people. But this method of schooling was different than we are used to now. The schools were small, usually only servicing a few dozen children at a time. Of course, these were also “one room” school houses where children of all ages were taught at the same time. Usually the older children help tutor and guide the younger children. While almost all of the children would learn the basics, reading, writing, and math, the diversity of course we see today was absent. A “good, solid, basic” education as it were. It was also very common for the young men especially to leave school by 8th grade. They would have acquired all the skills they would need for the life of a farmer or craftsman.
There were several schools around town. One was the “West Long Lots” school that was housed in the former Adam’s Academy. (My grandfather and his siblings went there). There was also the East Saugatuck School on North Compo where my other great-grandfather went as a boy. In total there were about 6 to 8 of these schools around town. There is a complete list in the town reports of the period which were held in the library. The school in the picture is clearly one of these schools, and though which one I couldn’t say, those pictures all kind look alike.
The modern era of schools in Westport would have begun in the early 1920s as the town was growing and new ideas about schooling would come to the fore. This is when the original Greens Farms Elementary was build, with my grandmother (the daughter of the fellow who went to school on North Compo) went to school.
As far as “Adam’s Academy” went, it should not be thought of in the same vein as primary school. It was meant more as a “prep” school, one for students who had designs on going to college. Therefore it is more of a precursor to Staples than an elementary school.
Great info, Jacques!
A bit more: Staples High School was built in 1884 by Horace Staples, Westport’s wealthiest man (lumber, hardware, merchant, shipping, silk factory, ax factory, bank owner). 80 years old at the time, he got tired of seeing Westport youngsters head off to Norwalk and Bridgeport for school.
The original Staples High on Riverside Avenue (now the site of Saugatuck Elementary School) included seventh through 12th graders. The first graduating class, in 1886, consisted fo 6 girls (all the boys had already gone to work on farms and in factories).
The town took over management of the school in 1903. (Horace Staples had died just a few years earlier, at 95). In 1926, Bedford Junior High School opened just west of Staples (today, Kings Highway Elementary School), for 7th and 8th graders.
There’s much more in my book “Staples High School: 120 Years of A+ Education.” Enjoy!
And furthermore, Charles Mills who did attend the actual Adam’s Academy, was the Master builder for the original Staples.
Just a guess, but school in photo could have been the Adams Academy on North Morningside Drive.
Richard, That was my guess because I can’t think of another school that was a wooden structure where the grades were mixed. Also, if you look at the shoes of the students in the picture, it seems pre-1920. There are no knickers being worn.
It is clearly not the West Long Lots schoolhouse. For that building the door was in the center, where as this one is off to the side. I have a picture of the West LL school from circa 1915. For those of you with your copy of “Westport, A Very Special Place” my grandmother had submitted it for that book. For those who do not have a copy, I could send it to Dan if he wants to publish it. I also have a picture of the East Saugatuck school house from the 1890s.
Your picture of the railroad tracks showed that Lionel was being realistic in their tight curves. Still want to know why they have bridges over the outside track–are they planning on making it three tracks or is it just a temporary thing for track or catanery renewal.
Thanks for all of the comments and info. I believe I read, maybe in Dan’s book, that there was a Bridge St. School. This school, if it fits the timeline might be the one in the picture. Much closer to where the girls lived than North Morningside Dr.
Patricia, I believe you are correct. I too recall a Bridge St School as being among the small one room school houses scattered around town.
I’m going to go out on a limb here. I believe the picture was taken between 1890 and 1905! Many of the students seem to be eastern European, which would fit their 1880-1920 arrival to the US. My grandfather came to Westport in 1903 from Poland. This may be a stretch, but those are my thoughts!
Dan, You do realize that picture is going to drive me crazy. Remember the picture with the men on horseback wearing masks to protect against the Spanish flu? I pegged that one as 1919. There has to be something in this picture that’ll give us a clue.