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Mary Hemenway School
Mary Hemenway School
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 The Mary Hemenway School was located at the corner of Adams Street between Rozella and King Streets. The site is now a playground.

From American National Biography

Mary Porter Tileston Hemenway (Dec 20.1820. -Mar 6 1894) was born in New York of old New England ancestry, the daughter of a shipping merchant, Thomas Tileson and Mary (Porter) Tileson. She went to a private school in New York and at home "was reared" as she said principally on household duties, the Bible and Shakespeare.

On June 2, 1840, she married Augustus Hemenway a successful merchant, and thereafter she was identified with Boston, Mass. Her husband died in 1876, but she survived him eighteen years devoting her wealth and her energies to the development of numerous educational and philanthropical projects. She read carefully, loved pictures, and knew well leading writers and citizens. She was a member of James Freeman Clarke's Church of the Disciples. A queenly woman without affectation or condescension she combined in her philanthropic work enthusiasm with effectiveness. She sought helpers and her benefactions were generally the able result of careful thought.

After the Civil War she helped the establishment of schools on the southern seaboard for both whites and blacks. Later she made gifts to Armstrong at Hampton and Booker Washington at Tuskeegee for the further education of the freed men. In the course of her welfare work for soldier's families during the war she had discovered that many of the soldier's wives did not now how to sew, accordingly, in 1865, she provided a teacher and materials for systematic instruction in sewing in a Boston public school. The experiment brought good results and the instruction was taken over by the city. In 1883 she started an industrial-vocation school in Boston and two years later in 1885 she opened a kitchen in a pubic school, the first venture of its kind in the United States. After three years the city assumed the cost of the kitchen, and cooking, as well as sewing became part of the program of education. Meanwhile, in 1887, Mrs Hemenway had started the Boston Normal School of Cooking, which after her death became the Mary H Hemenway Department of Household Arts in the State Normal School of Framingham. Next for a year, she provided a hundred Boston school teachers free instruction in gymnastics using the Swedish system as best adapted to schoolrooms. In order to interest the public, she promoted in 1889 a conference on physical training, held in Boston which led to the introduction of gymnastics in the city's public schools by action of the School Committees, and was influential in stimulating nation wide interest in the cause of physical education.

In 1889 also she established the Boston Normal School of Gymnastics which twenty years later became the Department of Hygiene and Physical Education of Wellesley College. She promoted at much personal effort the Boston Teachers Mutual Benefit Association. In 1876 in order to save from destruction the Old South Meeting House, famous for meetings in the old revolution days she gave $100,000-, a quarter of the sum required- her hope being to make the church a center for the cultivation of patriotic idealism through education in history. Prizes were offered for essays by high school pupils, historical lectures were given, the Old South leaflets as a series of reprints of "historical sources" edited by Edwin D. Mead, were issued, and the young persons who had competed for prizes were organised into a historical society. At a time when the history of the United States had no place in the School curriculum the "Old South work" was almost unique. Such scholars as John Fiske and James K Hosmer furthered Mrs Hemenway's plans and were helped by her to publish lectures and biographies. Her history and her interest in American history was further evidenced by her promotion of the Hemenway South Western Archeological Expedition begun in 1866 under Frank M Cushing of the United States Bureau of Ethnology, and continued in 1900 under J.W. Fewkes of the Bureau.

The collections made by the expedition are kept in the Hemenway Room at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University the result of its investigations are set forth in five volumes in the Journal of American Ethnology and Archeology (1891-1908) edited by Fewkes and published at Mrs Hemenway's expense. Her will provided for the support of her various enterprises for fifteen years during which time her trustees were able to put them in a permanent basis. A Memorial of the Life and Benefactions of Mary Hemenway 1829-1894 was privately printed and a preface signed by Mary Wilder Tileston.

Readers' Comments
 I grew up about 1/2 mile form Mary Hemenway School on No. Monroe Terrace. It was a huge old Victorian. My brother Jimmie and I both attended MH Grammar school. I remember the concrete stairs you had to climb from the King St and Adams St entrances. I remember giving a talk to the entire school on flag day in the 5th grade in the schoolyard.

I transferred to parochial school for the 6th grade because the 6th grade teacher at MH had a scary reputation. (My brother had a miserable time that grade with him.) My best memories are of my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Bradley. He was important in my life and made me feel very special. Because of him, I loved learning and went on to eventually getting my Masters degree.

I recall the auditorium as huge and when one had to use the restroom having to ask to go to "the basement" (where the lavatory existed)

I was a stairway monitor and wore a bright strap identifying myself as such. It was a big deal then.

My best friend lived across the street from the school and her name was Rita Kerins (sp?)

Fun memories, thanks for asking.
Alice Holmes Pandolfi
Tampa, FL


Mary Hemenway was considered Boston's wealthiest woman in the late 19th century. She was married to Augustus Hemenway (b. 1805), a Salem mariner who opened trade with Chile in South America, and ran a fleet of ships between Boston and South America. They had multiple houses, including a large brownstone mansion on Beacon Hill.

After Augustus died, Mary used her family fortune to support many
progressive causes--mostly education and preservation-related. She took a lead role in saving the Old South Meeting House in Boston in 1876. She also gave money to Wellesley College and other school systems, and established one of the first major archaeological expedititions to the U.S. Southwest. The Hemenway name is now known across the U.S. largely because of the kind character and civic leadership displayed by Mary Hemenway.

She was a major figure in the historic preservation movement, and many projects were inspired by her work saving the Old South Meeting House in Boston.

John Goff


From: Thom Marchillo, March 2009

Comments I was stunned to see this photo. I attended this school from, 1947-1950. Grades 4 thru 6. My teachers were, Miss Macdonald and Mr Icardi. I lived only 2 blocks away and easily would walk to School each day. Thank you for bringing back wonderful memories of over 60 years ago.

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Mary Hemenway SchoolMary Hemenway SchoolMary Hemenway SchoolMap Detail Mary Hemenway School
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Created: February 20, 2005   Modified: May 8, 2011