Monday, November 3, 2008

Spare The Cold, Spoil The Child

I found this picture in a book titled Community Civics, published in 1921. So where was the open air school room in Jamaica Plain? Judging by the hoods and cloaks, it was a brisk day when the picture was taken. Children who were deemed susceptible to tuberculosis infection were sent to schools in tents and on roof-tops. In the belief that recirculated hot air was bad for pre-tubercular patients, the children were kept in an environment of clean outdoor air - including throughout the winter. There was an open-air classroom movement in Europe and the United States, joining many other reforming and improving movements of the time. In the contemporary literature, the children are described as perfectly happy in their unheated classrooms, with windows only closed for snowstorms. Hmmm.... I suspect that if the children had the opportunity to write the books, we might have a different picture of the "treatment."

Boston's first open air classroom seems to have been on Parker hill. The picture above shows us that by 1920, Jamaica Plain had joined the movement. But where was this picture taken? The structure almost looks like the bandstand at Jamaica Pond. A little refined Internet searching came up with this listing:

Open Air Class, Hillside School, Jamaica Plain.
Capacity for open air classes: One room, 30 children.
Medical Director: Dr. William H. Devine.
Supported by Department of Public Schools.

Hillside school, 1924. (Bromley).

The Hillside School was a brick building that sat at the corner of Everett and Elm streets. The location is now a parking lot opposite the Central Congregational church. This picture doesn't seem to match what we'd expect from a brick school house. So we have a location for an open air classroom in Jamaica Plain, but it doesn't seem to be the pictured one. Another little mystery keeps its secrets.

***  Secret revealed!

Years after this original post, I've stumbled into the solution of this minor mystery. The schoolroom in the photo above was on the roof of the Refectory at Franklin Park.

Originally a restaurant, with private rooms available, the Refectory also served as a branch library before being torn down in 1971. I will add that while the Refectory was not in Jamaica Plain, it was on the property of Franklin Park, which was part of the old town of West Roxbury. So if J.P. had not been annexed to Boston, this location  probably would be considered Jamaica Plain now.

Source: A Tuberculosis Directory: v. 2, 1916.
Information on location of schoolroom:

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