Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The High School That Never Was

Like my earlier M.I.T. entry, this one tells the story of what didn't happen in Jamaica Plain. I had seen a mention of plans to build a Catholic high school in the Moss Hill area, but I needed an end to the story. With the second article below, I learned the details of what was the obvious outcome.

For those who don't know, Don Bosco high school started in East Boston, and, after the detour described below, ended up in downtown Boston. I've found three addresses, including the one given below, but I suspect that Washington street is correct - a Doubletree Hotel claims to be in the old school building. Which raises the question, what happened to the Warrenton street Brandeis school the Salesian Brothers were promised? It's not a Jamaica Plain issue, so I'll leave it unanswered.

A more interesting question is how the Brothers were able to buy the land, hire an architect and contractor, and not get the neighbors into full battle stations sooner. They could not have picked a more connected neighborhood to mess with south of Beacon Hill, and I'm sure the project was doomed from the start. The story told in the second article stinks to high heaven - it's hard to imagine that the Brothers wanted to trade a 23 acre tree-lined campus with brand new buildings for an old Boston public school in downtown Boston. Granted the public transportation was better in town, but Catholic Memorial got by without the Orange Line just fine.

I had some friends who went to Don Bosco in the late 1960s, and they never mentioned the bid to build in Jamaica Plain - I'm sure they didn't know about it. Regarding Councillor McLaughlin's assertions below, I'm sure the Catholic families of Jamaica Plain would have loved to have a Catholic boy's high school in walking distance of their homes. He was taking care of the interests of Moss Hill, not Jamaica Plain. Follow the money.

The site is the current home of Our Lady of the Cedars of Lebanon church. Their web site tells us that the Archdiocese owned the property and kept it until donating it to Boston's Maronite church in the 1960s. So did Cardinal Cushing pull the plug on Don Bosco? There was definitely some dealing going on that didn't make the newspaper.

Jamaica Plain Citizen January 14, 1954

New School To Be Built On Rockwood St.

Don Bosco Technical School Will Offer Facilities For 1,000 Students

Construction of a new Don Bosco Technical School with facilities for more than 1000 students will be started on Rockwood street, Jamaica Plain, sometime in March, it was disclosed this week.

The New School, a $1,000,000 three-building project, will replace the present school which was founded on Byron street, East Boston in 1946 to provide technical as well as academic training.

Present school facilities are inadequate to take care of the number of students who have requested to enroll in the past few years, officials said.

The new school will contain facilities for technical, academic, recreational and religious instruction of its students.

To Occupy 23 Acres

The plant will occupy more than 23 acres. Two buildings, facing each other, will border on Rockwood street.The third will set behind these two structures and face the street.

One of the front builds will house the teaching staff. Directly opposite will be a building containing a chapel, gymnasium and cafeteria.

The rear building will house classrooms, a library, science laboratories and the woodworking, printing, auto mechanics and radio-television shops.

The new gymnasium and chapel will be connected by a sliding door which when opened will increase the gym when large crowds are expected for service.

The school operated by the Salesian Fathers and Brothers of Saint John Bosco, started in East Boston with 16 seventh grade students. The school now has an enrollment of 200 pupils and grammar school classes have been discussed.

The first building of the proposed project is expected to be ready for students in February or next year.

August 19, 19

Don Bosco Trade To Be Located On Site Of Brandeis School

Seen In Best Interests Of Local Area Residents

The abandonment of the Jamaica Plain site for the Don Bosco Trade School in favor of the former Brandeis High School on Warrenton street, South End, was announced today by Councilman Edward F. McLaughlin, Jr. The announcement followed a series of protests by Jamaica Plain residents of the Moss Hill and Jamaica Hills section against construction of the school in a residential area.

McLaughlin was the first public official to suggest a delay in construction and recommended the Brandeis school as a site. The school had been declared surplus and was considered on of the best equipped and centrally located high schools for a trade institution.

The fathers who operate the present Don Bosco school in East Boston immediately concurred with McLaughlin's plan and asked the School Committee for permission to purchase the Brandeis structure.

McLaughlin arranged for a series of meetings between the interested parties and the sale was concluded last week when the Board of Sale for School Buildings approved a price of about $100,000. The vote was four to two in favor, with Mayor Hynes dissenting to the sale. The Mayor said he wanted the bids opened to all and wanted a higher price.

McLaughlin said the change of sites would prove beneficial to all concerned.

"There is no doubt," McLaughlin added, "that construction of a high school in the best residential are of Jamaica Plain was not to the best interests of either Jamaica Plain residents or the Fathers of the Don Bosco School."


  1. Could it simply be possible that the $1,000,000.00 price tag and unrest amongst the neighbors in J.P. made the Salesians' decision easy? When a religious order (Salesians, Christian Brothers, Jesuits, Xaverian Brothers) wanted to build their respect school in the Archdiocese of Boston they were responsible for the majority of the financing. These schools were separately incorporated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and are not directly or indirectly the property of the Archdiocese.

    That is why, I believe, the former Don Bosco Technical High School now houses a YMCA. The building and property did not have to revert to the Archdiocese for other use.

    With this being announced in 1954 you also have a much stronger sense of obedience to your superiors, and to the local Bishop/Cardinal. Since the Salesians' superiors are located in New York, they may have had no idea about the major difference in the two properties and just simply said: "What ever is easiest, and less disruptive to the local Catholic community."

    When you add that CM has existed without the orange line you are correct, but CM does have local bus service and a commuter rail stop in its back yard. CM, which I am a graduate of, was very fortunate and had good stewards in the late 90's and early 2000's to ensure it would still exist. There was much financial uncertainty in the late 80's and early 90's one of the major reasons for creating the Middle School in 1993.

    1. Any knowledge of Rockwood School in Jamaica Plain 1942-43, perhaps girls college prep school? Any info appreciated. Thanks.

  2. The address of Don Bosco was 300 Tremont Street Boston. I was in the class of 1980. I heard about the East Boston Start but never the other 2 locations you mentioned. The Chinatown YMCA uses the DBT's old Gym and swimming pool.