Westfield High School, Past and Present
Left: The old high school with Academy Building in the rear
Within four years, one thousand dollars additional had been secured by subscriptions from the inhabitants of the town, and the money was expended in erecting they wooden structure that was known as the east wing of the present High School building, and that was burned in November, 1890.
The State Legislature had given to the trustees the half od a township in the province of Maine, and the proceeds of the sale of this land was invested as a permanent fund, the beginning of that fund that to-day makes it possible, with the co-operation of the town, to maintain a High School of the first rank.
The First Academy building was dedicated in 1800, and the Rev. Joseph Lathrop, one of the trustees, and the pastor of the First Church in West Springfield, preached the dedicatory sermon from the text: "That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace."
Mr. Peter Starr was the first preceptor. For fifty years this school was the pride of the town, and held no second place among the academies of Massachusetts. Then, from the lack of endowment and from an increasing interest in public schools, it began to decline. But through endeavors of leading men who thought that the Old Academy must not be given up, ten thousand dollars was raised to repair, remodel, and enlarge the building. THe original house was moved back to make room for a new front of brick. July 31, 1857, the corner stone of the new building was laid with appropriate exercises. The building itself was dedicated August 25, 1858, with an address by professor Tatlock of Williams College.
Above: High School at the Present Day
The establishment of the town High School diverted interest in a measure from the Academy, and gradually the old institution yielded to the fate that has overtaken so many of the ancient New England academies. In 1855, the town High School was opened on the second floor of the town building, "sandwiched," as someone said, "between the town hall and the lock-up." Its first principal was Mr. Wm. A. Smith, who received a salary of $350, and his assistant was Miss M. A. Thurston, who received $150. During the first term there were seventy-four pupils.