Dorchester Academy

No. 2098 Dorchester Academy, photograph from early 20th century.

The building used for the Dorchester Academy was moved to its present location at 18 Lyndhurst Street sometime prior to 1910. The building appears in place on Lyndhurst Street in the 1910 Bromley atlas but not in the 1904 atlas. The building originally faced Washington Street but was turned to allow the construction of apartment buildings on the corner of Lyndhurst and Washington Streets.

The 1831 Baker map of Dorchester shows the Dorchester Academy building on Washington Street north of Second Church. The Second Church is labeled Codman. The Clap house is the Clap Kendall House that was located at the northeast corner of what is now the intersection of Washington Street and Kenwood Street. The Bull House was located where the Court House is now.

[from Good Old Dorchester by William Dana Orcutt. Cambridge, 1893.

The Dorchester Academy was established in 1831, with a board of trustees composed of Rev. John Codman, D.D., president; James Penniman, treasurer; Joseph Leeds, secretary; James Leach, and Thomas Tremlett. The first principal was the Rev. Dr. Riggs, the now venerable missionary at Constantinople. The school was begun in the house of James Penniman, on Washington Street, the present Walter Baker Mansion, until suitable quarters could be obtained.

It proved very popular, and in 1832 it had 103 pupils enrolled. In the catalogue for that year are the names of many of Dorchester?s most respected men and women during the last half-century; and there are many living today whose thoughts go back to the old academy days with affectionate remembrances. The trustees spared no pains to make the academy a model in every way, their attention being equally divided upon the branches of study and deportment. ?The principles of government,? the early catalogue states, ?are not tyrannical and arbitrary. No principle is developed before there is occasion for its immediate use. Then the pupil understands that is one which his own highest interest, and the highest interest of the whole, actually requires,–one which springs immediately from the relations which he sustains. Consequently the motive to obedience becomes strong and powerful. It is the same that will urge him to a faithful performance of duty in future life. It is that which will add to such a performance of duty the richest of earthly enjoyments, a consciousness of having done right. In case of disobedience, this happiness will be set in striking contrast with the misery consequent upon a neglect of duty, and a violation of moral obligation. If the pupil?s own mind is made to dwell suitably on this contrast in the hour of private retirement and meditation, he will generally be sufficiently corrected, –not indeed by the rod of his teacher, but by that which is still more intolerable, the lashes of his own conscience.?

In spite of the tolerance of the above statement, extreme measures were occasionally employed. It is related that while the school sessions were still held in the Penniman House, the principal had a long attack of illness. The vacancy was filled by John Codman (who has since become so well known as the ?Captain?) who was at that at home on a vacation from Amherst College. The new principal celebrated his election to the honored position by administering a whipping to every boy in the school, with one exception. This exception, it is said, was made owing to the probability that the boy would reverse the order of exercises if an attempt had been made to apply the ferule. Never were more fervent prayers uttered than those for the recovery of the principal, Dr. Riggs; but Mr. Codman was never accused of not preserving order in his school.

At the end of some six or eight months the building for the Dorchester Academy was ready for occupancy; and the school was removed from the Penniman House, which had been given up so generously for its use. The new building was located on Washington Street, near the Second Church, and it still remains standing, after passing through the changes necessary to make it into a dwelling-house.


See also Sherman Apartments Historic District


Posted on

June 1, 2020