Bridgewater Academy

58 Central Sq

1868

Architectural Style

Colonial Revival, Italianate

Significance

Architecture, Education

Use Type

Other Governmental or Civic, Police Station, Public School

Neighborhood

Bridgewater Town Center

Massachusetts Historical Commission Report

Architectural Significance

This handsome, frame school structure, with its pedimented, central pavilion and florid Corinthian columns and pilasters, is a strong focal point for the Bridgewater Common's southern edge. It is composed of two segments: a long, rectangular 1897 Georgian Revival wing abuts the front of an 1868 Italianate school building. The late 1860s window treatment is still evident in the fully enframed, cornice- and segmental-headed windows. Long banks of windows flank the central, pedimented pavilion of the main facade. Corinthian pilasters and a modillion block cornice appear on both the early and later sections of the academy. Particularly noteworthy is the front porch with its paired Corinthian columns.

Historical Significance

Since the early 18th century, Bridgewater's citizens have demonstrated a commitment to quality education. From 1731 to 1791, the Greek and Latin School of Bridgewater's Reverend John Shaw prepared students for Harvard College. The establishment of Bridgewater Academy in 1799 confirmed Bridgewater's status as a respected educational center. The academy's excellent academic reputation was a decisive factor in the decision to locate Plymouth County's first Normal school, Teacher's Training School, in the town in 1840. This later became Bridgewater State College. From 1875 to 1952, the Bridgewater Academy building housed the town's only high school.

Bridgewater Academy was created by an Act of Incorporation of the legislature on February 26, 1799. The academy was originally located on the site of the old Bridgewater Hotel, now the Arco gas station. Major Isaac Lazell donated the land. Its progressive reputation stemmed in part from its policy of coeducation. Until the 1830s, however, girls followed a separate scholastic program under the direction of Miss Dillaway, "The Preceptress of the Female Department." The school's first director was Reverend Dr. Zedekiah Sanger. The early curriculum was divided into two branches. The first branch, known as the Classics Department, included reading, writing, grammar, and rhetoric, as well as Latin and Greek studies. The English-Scientific Department included arithmetic, geography, drawing, needlepoint, and embroidery. On February 28, 1822, the academy was razed by fire, and a new building was erected on the present site at the southern end of the common. It flourished during the mid 19th century under the leadership of John A. Shaw. As early as 1838, 131 of the alumni had graduated from Harvard, Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, and Princeton.