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History of Baldwin School

As early as 1630, the plot of land on which the Baldwin School now sits, and the entire surrounding area, was used for agriculture. The earliest residents laid out planting fields, and by 1640, the fields were owned by some of the most prominent Cambridge citizens of the era, whose homes were built along the road to Concord (now Massachusetts Avenue).

As the population began to grow and the city became more densely populated, the City purchased two vacant lots at the southwest corner of Sacramento and Oxford Streets in May of 1874, to build a school. The school was named on November 24th, 1874 and a two-story brick building completed in 1875.

The school was originally named for Professor Louis Agassiz, a Swiss-American naturalist. Agassiz came to Cambridge to assume the professorship of natural history in the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University.

The first structure was brick with granite trimmings, housing eight rooms which held 42 students each. It cost approximately $25,000 to build. The first principal was Miss Charlotte Ewell, who later taught at the Peabody Grammar School.

The first Agassiz building was two stories tall, with primary grades classrooms on its first floor, and a "Training School" and offices on its second. By its second year, the building was already beginning to outgrow the city's needs.

On the evening of May 21, 2002 the School Committee voted unanimously to accept the recommendation to change the name of our school to the Maria L. Baldwin School. Maria L. Baldwin, an African-American Cantabridgian, who served as principal and later master of the school from 1889, until her death in 1922. Under Baldwin's leadership, the school's student body grew until in 1915, the decision was made, with Baldwin's prompting, to build a new school. Upon its completion in 1916, Baldwin was appointed Master.

The school that Baldwin shaped and led continued with her spirit, and in 1989/90, the Committee on Agassiz in the 21st Century was formed. This consortium of parents, staff and public officials first conceived the notion of building a new school. This committee developed the building program and were advisers to the City on the selection of our architect. The School Committee approved demolition and construction of the new school building was started during the 1992-93 school year.

The current new building is a tribute to a unique and expansive process that included a great deal of school-wide, city and neighborhood input. The new school is a unique blend of the new and the old, and will proudly carry the Baldwin / Agassiz tradition on into the next century.

Photographs in the photo archive come from the Agassiz/Baldwin library.