Monday, April 27, 2009

School Street

The first portion of School Street in Middleborough developed was the stretch between Center and Peirce Streets beginning in mid-1851. On June 1, 1850, School District No. 18 acquired a landlocked parcel from Thatcher and Waterman behind Center Street for the construction of a new schoolhouse (the original School Street School). To provide access to the site, a 12 foot wide strip was included in the conveyance between the lot and Center Street. The deed stipulated that this “strip of land on the South Easterly side of the above mentioned premises twelve feet wide across said lot from the highway to the land of Elisha Tucker is to be forever kept open for public use as a Highway”. The following year, on May 14, 1851, Elisha Tucker himself extended the street northwards across his property to Peirce Street by conveying a 40 foot wide strip to the School District “to be forever kept open as a public highway”. Probably Tucker was concerned about controlling access across his remaining property and knew that in the absence of a roadway, people would be likely to create their own route across his land.

In September, 1852, the owners of the land to the north of Peirce Street – Tucker, Sylvanus Barrows, Thomas Barrows, William H. Vaughan and Elnathan W. Wilbur – agreed in essence to extend School Street by constructing a street 40 feet wide across their property to North Street. The construction of the street opened considerable development property, though Tucker appears to have been the sole partner to have availed himself of the opportunity presented, selling lots on the new street shortly after it was built. "School street leads from the Academy Green to the North, by the school house, Academy Grove &c. This street has lately been opened clear through parallel with Oak and Main streets and is midway between them, and opens another avenue to Namasket Village [Muttock]” announced the Gazette to those who might be unfamiliar with the newly developing neighborhood.

The property of Sylvanus Barrows along the new street appears not to have been developed until after his death in 1855. The administrator of Barrows’ estate, Attorney Everett Robinson of Middleborough, seems to have drafted a subdivision plan for Barrows’ School Street property at that time, as lots sold by Robinson from the Barrows estate in June, 1856, to Jonathan K. Peckham are referred to by Robinson as “no. 9 and 10 of the lots laid out on said street by me as administrator”.

School Street was rapidly developed in the period between 1855 and 1870. Upon the purchase by Marcus Thompson of a house lot on School Street in 1876, the Middleboro Gazette noted: “Several new houses are to be built on School street soon. School street seems to be getting a little ahead”. Two months later, the newspaper wrote again: “Five years ago School street was considered out of the way and lots could not have been sold, hardly, at any price, but today this street is fully built up, not a house lot for sale. It is one of the best streets in town.”

The street was named for the schoolhouse built by District No. 18 on the southern end of the street and which was the first building erected there, and the name was used as early as October, 1853.
Top: "School Street Looking North, Middleboro, Mass." Leighton & Valentine, lithochrome postcard, c. 1900.
The view depicts the residential growth which occured on School Street in the course of the fifty years following 1850.
Bottom: Detail, Map of Plymouth County, Massachusetts, c. 1856.
This close-up view shows School Street before development had touched its northern end.


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