By 1922, Burlington was in dire need of a new Junior High school building. The Health Board had deemed their current accommodations, which were erected in 1871 on College Street, unsuitable for educational purposes due to overcrowding and the building’s light deficiency, lack of ventilation, and insufficient plumbing system.1 The annex, which had been open for a mere three years, was condemned and its 90 students were transferred to the Lawrence Barnes School.2 The school board was granted a yearlong, temporary extension of use of the main building, provided they adequately maintain it.3
By October 1922, the school board and board of aldermen accepted submissions for the Junior High school building from A.I. Lawrence of Burlington, an affiliate of MacNaughton & Robinson of Boston; Frank L. Austin of Burlington; and Coffin & Coffin of New York.4 A site on Main Street, directly to the east of the Burlington High School building on the Edmunds lot, was touted as the ideal location for the new building, noting that it is situated on the trolley line and merely one and a half miles from the outskirts of town.5 The site would come under much scrutiny over the course of the following year, beginning in January 1923 when Mayor Jackson vetoed the allocation of six thousand dollars for the acquisition of the land east of the high school due to his belief that it interfered with the will of the Edmunds family, who deeded the property for the construction of Burlington High school in 1904. 6 A month later the Board of Alderman sustained Mayor Jackson’s veto but argued that their decision was not based on the legality of constructing the school but rather the lack of transparency in the process thus far. 7 They offered to reconsider if Mayor Jackson’s concerns were settled. Jackson’s concerns would be invalidated when, in March 1923, Miss Mary M. Edmunds, the daughter of the late benefactor of the lot, deemed this use of the land appropriate.8 Superintendent Lyman C. Hunt immediately noted, “No obstacle now appears to the adoption by the board of alderman of the school board’s proposal for an appropriation to provide Junior High school and athletic facilities”.9
In April 1923, the Board of School Commissioners and Frank Lyman presented their plan before the Board of Aldermen. They calculated the cost of the building at $334,625 for construction of a new building and auditorium connected to the high school building on the Edmund’s lot.10 The Board of Aldermen argued that remodeling was more economically viable, however, after testimony from the Board of School Commissioners that claimed otherwise, they offered to reconsider and subsequently announced that they would present formal approval of the plan on May 7, 1923.11 Five days after the meeting on April 24, 1923, the beginnings of dissent occurred. Mayor Jackson wrote an op-ed for the Burlington Free Press that stated,
It is proposed:
1- To abandon the perfectly good and substantial Junior High School building on a valuable site. (It is school property and by terms of deed cannot be sold.)
2- To demolish the old Edmunds’ home.
3- To destroy the architectural beauty of the Edmunds High School Building.
4-To attach to the present High School building an odd shaped and queer looking addition resulting in a long, poorly shaped edifice, extending far back against the grade bank, with no basement under the new structure but with three distinct floor levels on the ground floor. The light obtained for the center part (or Assembly Hall) is by means of a “skylight” in a flat rood. There will be no windows in the east side of the old building or the west side of the new building below the top floor.
5- To house under one roof and confine in one small play yard from 1100 to 1600 pupils, ranging in age from the youngest pupils in the Junior High grade to the oldest pupils in the Edmunds High grade.12
The Board of School Commissioners alleged that these were unsubstantiated or incorrect arguments that did not affect the viability of construction. The Board of Alderman agreed and gave their approval for the plan on May 7, 1923 as planned.13
The celebration would not last, however. On June 5, 1923, Jackson declared yet another veto, maintaining that not enough progress has been made, the public has not been informed, no real, broken down budget had been submitted, the site was unsuitable since further expansion would no longer be possible and it was inconvenient for many students, the aesthetic qualities of the high school building would be diminished, and that their plan was excessive and therefore in violation of the city charter.14 Alderman J. Crockett labeled these reservations as, “…straw man arguments that [are] not pertinent to the actual construction.”15 On June 12, 1923, the Board of School Commissioners published an op-ed that argued for the value of the Junior High building and noted that Mayor Jackson was incorrect about the overcrowding issue.16 Despite Crockett’s objections, the Board of Alderman once again chose to sustain Mayor Jackson’s veto.17
By January 1924, stonewalling on Jackson’s part impeded further progress. Mayor Jackson and Alderman L.P. Wood were advocates of a “Two-Building-Project”, which proposed rehabilitation of the current Junior High school building and the erection of a two additional Junior High buildings, one north of Pearl Street and the other south of Maple Street.18 These buildings were to be devoid of any “excessive” features, including an auditorium, cafeteria, print shop, and home economics classrooms, but were allegedly more suitable for Burlington’s growing population.19 Additionally, he argued that it could be constructed in phases and would therefore be less burdensome on the city.20 School Commissioner C.H Dempsey and former Junior High school Principal Earle E. Tracey vehemently opposed this plan and noted that it would require the duplication of faculty and facilities and promote inequity and rivalry between the two schools.21 They furthered their argument by pointing out the costliness of the program; while one building would cost twenty-five percent more than two, the running costs of two schools would be five to eight thousand dollars annually.22 In March, The Board of Aldermen voted 8-4 over Mayor Jackson’s veto to issue a $350,000 bond for the construction of a school on the Edmunds site.23 Mayor Jackson would not sign the bond, enraging both the general populace and those involved in the planning process.
Both sides were dealt a blow when Dean J. W. Votey, the state sanitary engineer, denied the city use of the Junior High school on College Street for educational purposes after the conclusion of the 1923-1924 school year.24 He noted that a provision of keeping the school open was that they actively work towards finding suitable, alternative education facilities for the Junior High student body. Votey’s closure of the school was a direct attack against Mayor Jackson’s obstructionist attitude and most believed that it would finally force Jackson to sign the bond issue.
Those who believed it was over when Votey closed the school did not understand the severity of Mayor Jackson’s firm stance on the matter. The bond was still not signed in September 1924, even though Burlington High School was handling the capacity of both the Junior and Senior High School.25 By October, the School Board had reached its breaking point and issued a writ of mandamus aimed at forcing Mayor Jackson to sign the bond.26 Opinions against Jackson became vitriolic. A reporter for the Burlington Free Press wrote in an opinion piece:
That the Board of School Commissioners of the largest city in the state of Vermont has found it necessary to go for a writ of mandamus to compel the Mayor to sign school bonds duly authorized by the Board of Aldermen to erect a new Junior High school building is not only decidedly bad advertising for the city, but it also indicates a condition of affairs which Burlingtonians who are jealous for the civic progress of their city may well feel shame for. 27
It was brought before the Vermont Supreme Court in January 1925, where Mayor Jackson reiterated his position on the plan while the School Board of Commissioners argued that it was Mayor Jackson’s duty to uphold the wishes of the Board of Aldermen and issue the bond.28 The court sided with the School Board of Commissioners and Mayor Jackson, fighting until the end, was forced to sign the bond issue.29
By late June of 1925, the first of two hurdles in the construction process would occur. The Board of School Commissioners was ready to move forward with construction, however, they realized that Mayor Jackson was correct on one point: the fact that the school would cost well above what they initially estimated. On June 24, 1925, the Board of School Commissioners went before the Board of Aldermen and requested an additional $100,000, which was granted a week later.30The construction process was unremarkable and they anticipated that the school would be open before the commencement of the 1926-1927 school year. Unfortunately, that was not feasible and the school did not formally open until September 14, 1926, two and a half weeks after the school year had formally begun.31
When it did open, they knew they had a magnificent building and they knew it. The School Board of Commissioners took out a full-page article in the Burlington Free Press “Announcing Burlington’s New Junior High school” and touting the facilities as amenities that will “harve[st] a thorough education”. What was constructed is a 175 foot long, three story Frank Lyman-designed building with neoclassical and art deco influences (Fig 1). Attached on the west side was a 1500 seat gymnasium that not only accommodated both the Junior High and Senior High, but acted as a literal bridge between the two, strengthening the community and showing the Junior High students what the future may hold for them(Fig 2.). The interior was clean and modern, with nine bays of windows on the east and west side allowing in ample light, a feature that was unfathomable in the old school. Also included were a printing room, a home economics area, and ample classroom space. It was built at the height of fashion and was extraordinarily well received in the Burlington community. Those who had contributed materials or labor to the project took out full-page advertisements in the Burlington Free Press taking credit for the work and praising the quality of construction. After years of dissent and quarreling, the School Board of Commissioners was finally able to appease everyone.
When Burlington constructed its high school on the Edmunds lot in 1904, it was unfathomable that enrollment would ever exceed the building’s six hundred seat capacity.32 However, child labor reform in the first decades of the twentieth century greatly affected enrollment in the Burlington Public School System. In 1911, the minimum age for mill work was increased to fourteen for mills employing more than ten employees and twelve for the smaller mills33 The following year the Vermont branch of the National Child Labor Committee, which would ultimately expose the true working conditions of the Winooski mills, was formed.34 The following years would bring forth federal child labor legislation like Hammer v. Dagenhart (1917) and a nearly identical law (1918) that would be found unconstitutional but nonetheless contributed to decision to the decrease of child labor in Vermont. By 1923, Burlington High School had exceeded capacity by one hundred and forty three students.35 To combat this overcrowding, the new Burlington Junior High school would implement the popular 6-3-3 plan, where ninth grade would be relegated to the junior high, thereby moving two hundred and fifty pupils of the high school to the new junior High school building.36 The Junior High building would take this steadily increasing enrollment into account by allowing for a capacity of somewhere between nine hundred and fifty to nine hundred and seventy five pupils, a three hundred pupil growth allotment.37
This decline in industry forced the Burlington school system into a quandary; do they maintain the current curriculum that successfully trained much of their student body for work in local industry or amend it in such a way that it is tailored to those who foresee furthering their education at the high school then collegiate level?
In a “magazine” written by eighth graders in 1922, one student addresses this issue by noting that one of the aims of the junior high curriculum “…is to try and interest the boys and girls in their work to the extent that they will be very anxious to go on and complete their course in the senior high…” but then goes on to state that the curriculum offers “those who find it impossible to go on, a practical common school education…” and “…a diploma which shows that they have completed the junior high work”. 38 The class listings from this time do nothing but reaffirm this point. By offering a selection of electives as disparate as Latin and Manual Training, the school board implemented a curriculum that could adequately suit the needs of both parties, even in a time where eighty to ninety percent of junior high graduates would continue their studies in high school.39
One of the school’s more innovative programs was their printing program. Beginning in 1916, it initially ran up against a series of obstacles from those who believed that a junior high education should focus on pure academics, rather than on professional training.40 However, what these opponents neglected to recognize was the fact that the purpose of this course was threefold, to make a more apt apprentice if he were to follow the trade, to teach all those, regardless of socioeconomic standing or future endeavors, a tangible skill, and to enhance the grammar abilities of those who chose to participate in the program. By 1922, opinions had changed so drastically that the school district employed W. H. Deshaw, the assistant foreman of the mechanical department of the Burlington Free Press, solely for the purpose of directing the program.41
In his seminal work Democracy and Education (1916), Burlington native John Dewey stresses the importance of uniting hands-on training outside constraints of industry by noting,
To charge that the various activities of gardening, weaving, construction in wood, manipulation of metals, cooking, etc., which carry over these fundamental human concerns into school resources, have a merely bread and butter value is to miss their point. If the mass of mankind has usually found in its industrial occupations nothing but evils which had to be endured for the sake of maintaining existence, the fault is not in the occupations, but in the conditions under which they are carried on. The continually increasing importance of economic factors in contemporary life makes it the more needed that education should reveal their scientific content and their social value. For in schools, occupations are not carried on for pecuniary gain but for their own content. Freed from extraneous associations and from the pressure of wage-earning, they supply modes of experience which are intrinsically valuable; they are truly liberalizing in quality.42
As early as 1922, the school board, drawing off of Dewey’s thoughts, decided to place a greater emphasis on the printing curriculum by expanding the two forty-minute periods into a distinct afternoon block.43 The work done by students at Burlington Junior High school rivaled that of professional printers, and the school became renowned for their commitment to school service through their students’ printing of monthly reports, entertainment programs, tickets, and graduating programs.44
Between the years of 1916 and 1923, one-hundred-and-eighty-five boys had successfully completed the printing program, and, out of this number, three had gone on to become professional printers while seventy-five had “pursued it seriously and found it valuable” in a nonprofessional manner.45 In 1923, enrollment in the program would total forty-two students, equivalent to twenty-two percent of the total graduates thus far, and officials hypothesized that this number, along with those pursuing printing as a career, would continue to rise at a substantial rate.46
In addition to teaching young men a valuable skill, the printing program at Burlington Junior High school maintained an academic mission. The prevailing school of thought was that printing students would unknowingly acquire a greater knowledge of spelling, punctuation, and grammar through the production of printed materials. This proved successful at Burlington Junior High and administrators noted that it is ‘“proven” that the student who passes through the school of printing is better scholar in English”.47
Although seemingly paradoxical, the school’s unwavering commitment to academic pursuits was only strengthened by the implementation of technical programs. When designing the Junior High school building, every plan put forth included not only ample space for a printing studio but also outlined how the space would be laid out, whereas many of the other technical programs were relegated to nothing more than a mere mention in the proceedings.
Although the elective system acted as an equalizer, offering courses to all, regardless of socioeconomic status, the school system’s curriculum ensured that those privileged enough to further their studies at the collegiate level were both adequately prepared and competitive for college admissions process. While satisfactorily meeting academic standards was the standard for admission to elite institutions like Harvard and Yale prior to the 1920s, there was a newfound focus on the student as a whole in the application process, a byproduct of rampant anti-Semitism that was prevalent in the Northeast. 48 Those pursuing higher education would have always understood that enrolling in Latin, a standard on elite colleges admissions exams, would be more beneficial than completing a printing class. However, they were now required to be mindful of the fact that enriching their resume with extracurricular activities equally as essential. To facilitate both academic learning and artistic extracurricular activities, the new Junior High school building was equipped with eighteen classrooms, double that of the previous school, a library, with reading room and stack room, a science shop, an art department, with a special room for those enrolled in drawing, and a highly advanced stage for theater productions in the auditorium.49 The new building offered adequate facilities to ensure that those who are most capable are given every opportunity to succeed and subsequently advance the school’s reputation. While the printing program is evidence that administrators understood the need of the average Burlingtonian, the new building’s impressive facilities showed the world that their commitment to college preparedness was a core tenet of Burlington’s education system, even at the junior high level.
The construction of the Junior High school building was not all about work; the creation of play and athletic spaces was of great concern to the school board and the board of alderman when selecting a plan. The 1920s was a pivotal moment in the evolution of the play and athletics. Prior to the turn of the century, playgrounds and public recreational space were virtually nonexistent, even in major metropolitan areas. Earlier playgrounds were devoid of the amenities we are accustomed to today and relied solely on planned programming, however, by the 1920s, recreational equipment, like slides and swings, gave more independence to children utilizing these public spaces.50
In Democracy and Education, John Dewey notes, “It is the business of the school to set up an environment in which play and work shall be conducted with reference to facilitating desirable mental and moral growth”.51 This idea permeated into the debate over whether or not to approve funding for the construction of a building on the Edmunds lot and the creation of recreational spaces arguably became the most contentious point, with each actively trying to undermine the opposing side’s plan by revealing flaws with the proposed recreational spaces. Proponents of the plan argued that no other plan allowed for the construction of both a playground and athletic fields on site and relegated these facilities to inconvenient areas, especially for those who live north of North Street. Even after the Edmunds site had been confirmed, opposition forces argued in an op-ed that confining students ranging from ages twelve to eighteen in one play yard not only undermined the growth process for those in junior high but also was inherently unsafe.52 Provisions were eventually made and Burlington High School, which previously shared the over-utilized Centennial Field with the University of Vermont, was given its own athletic fields when the school board agreed to convert school gardens on the Allen property on Shelburne Road into top-tier athletic fields, which afforded the junior high students their own, on-site athletic fields and playground.53
Getting a public building built is never an easy feat and the Burlington Junior High school building was no exception. Although riddled with controversy and opposition on the part of Mayor Jackson, the Burlington community showed their commitment to their city’s youth by banding together and ensuring that the Junior High school building was not only constructed but built to meet the future needs of the city. Burlington continued to grow at an unprecedented rate, and in 1963 the city was forced to move Burlington High School to larger accommodations. The Edmunds High school building was subsequently transformed into a middle school and the Lyman designed Junior High school building was altered to suit the needs of an elementary school. It is currently named Edmunds Elementary school and sits at 299 Main Street Burlington, Vermont.
1. "State Board of Health Has issued ultimatum on Use of Junior High Building,” Burlington Free Press, January 5, 1924.
4. "Finding Place for Junior High School,” September 2, 1922.
5. "Site of Proposed Junior High School," Burlington Free Press, March 23, 1923.
6. "Alderman Sustain Mayor Jackson," Burlington Free Press, February 10, 1923.
8. "Site of Proposed Junior High School," March 23, 1923.
10. "Board of School Commissioners Presents New Plans for Junior High School Building," Burlington Free Press, April 19, 1923.
11. "Board of School Commissioners Presents New Plans For Junior High School Building," April 19, 1923.
12. “Is $400,000 Too Much To Pay For An Assembly Hall and the ‘3-3’ Plan?” Burlington Free Press, April 24, 1923.
13. "Mayor Jackson Holding Up Junior High School," Burlington Free Press, January 19, 1924.
14. “Mayor Jackson Vetoes Resolution for New Junior High School,” Burlington Free Press, June 5, 1923.
16. Burlington, Vermont Board of School Commissioners, “The Need for a New Junior High,” Burlington Free Press, June 12, 1923.
18. “Mandamus Action Taken Against Mayor Jackson Argued,” Burlington Free Press, January 9, 1925.
21. “Cost of One Junior High Building About 75 Percent that of Two Buildings,” Burlington Free Press, January 31, 1924.
23. “Aldermen Pass Resolution For New Junior High School Over Mayor Jackson’s Veto,” Burlington Free Press, March 4, 1924
24. “State Board of Health Has issued ultimatum on Use of Junior High Building,” Burlington Free Press, January 5, 1924
25. The Junior High School would use the High School in the morning while the Senior High School used the space in the afternoons and evenings.
“Mayor Jackson Holds Up Construction of New Junior High School,” Burlington Free Press, September 6, 1924
26. “Law Invoked To Make Mayor Sign Bonds,” Burlington Free Press, October 11, 1924
27. “The Mayor and the Junior High School,” Burlington Free Press, October 15, 1924
28. “Mandamus Action Taken Against Mayor Jackson Argued," January 9, 1925.
30. “Want More Money: School Commissioners to Ask Aldermen for Additional $100,000,” Burlington Free Press, June 24, 1925.
31. “Opening of Two Schools Postponed,” Burlington Free Press, August 25, 1926.
32. In 1905, there were 400 students enrolled in the High School. As late as 1920, the building was still under capacity, with 583 students.
“Site Selected for New Junior High School Building,” Burlington Free Press, October 25, 1922.
33. Paul Gilles, “Regulating Child Labor in Vermont.” In The Mills at Winooski (Onion River Press, 2000), 159.
34. Gillies, The Mills at Winooski, 159.
35. “Site Selected for New Junior High School Building,” October 25, 1922.
36. “Junior High School” A Question a Day Answered by Superintendent Lyman C. Hunt,” Burlington Free Press, June 16, 1923.
38. Pupils of the Second Year English Classes, Burlington Junior High (1920-1921). Burlington, Vermont: A Brief Sketch of Its History, Educational Facilities, and Industrial Life. (Self Published, 1921), 36.
39. “Board of School Commissioners Presents New Plans For Junior High School Building,” Burlington Free Press, April 19, 1923.
40. “Print Shop at Junior High School," Burlington Free Press, December 19, 1922.
42. John Dewey, Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education (New York: Free Press, 1997).
43. “Print Shop at Junior High School," December 19, 1922.
48. Jerome Karabel, The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005), 17.
49. “Opening of Two Schools Postponed,” August 25, 1926.
50. “Reinventing Play: The 1920s, The Beginning.” Burke: Play That Moves You. https://www.bciburke.com/connect/blog/posts/postid/20/reinventing-play-the-1920s.
51. John Dewey, Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education (New York: Free Press, 1997).
52 “Is $400,000 Too Much To Pay For An Assembly Hall and the ‘3-3’ Plan?” Burlington Free Press, April 24, 1923.
53. “Site Selected for New Junior High School Building," October 25, 1922.
“Aldermen Pass Resolution for New Junior High School Over Mayor Jackson’s Veto.” Burlington Free Press, March 4, 1924.
"Alderman Sustain Mayor Jackson." Burlington Free Press, February 10, 1923.
"Board of School Commissioners Presents New Plans For Junior High School Building." Burlington Free Press, April 19, 1923.
Burlington, Vermont Board of School Commissioners, “The Need for a New Junior High.”, Burlington Free Press, June 12, 1923.
“Cost of One Junior High Building About 75 Percent that of Two Buildings.” Burlington Free Press, January 31, 1924.
Dewey, John. Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. New York: Free Press, 1997.
"Finding Place for Junior High School." Burlington Free Press, September 2, 1922.
Gillies, Paul. “Regulating Child Labor in Vermont.” In The Mills at Winooski, edited by Laura Krawitt, 153-70. Winooski, VT: Onion River Press, 2000.
“Is $400,000 Too Much To Pay For An Assembly Hall and the ‘3-3’ Plan?” Burlington Free Press, April 24, 1923.
“Junior High School” A Question a Day Answered by Superintendent Lyman C. Hunt.” Burlington Free Press, June 16, 1923.
Karabel, Jerome. The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.
“Law Invoked To Make Mayor Sign Bonds.” Burlington Free Press, October 11, 1924.
“Mandamus Action Taken Against Mayor Jackson Argued.” Burlington Free Press, January 9, 1925.
"Mayor Jackson Holding Up Junior High School." Burlington Free Press, January 19, 1924.
“Mayor Jackson Holds Up Construction of New Junior High School.” Burlington Free Press, September 6, 1924.
“Mayor Jackson Vetoes Resolution for New Junior High School.” Burlington Free Press, June 5, 1923.
“Opening of Two Schools Postponed.” Burlington Free Press, August 25, 1926.
“Print Shop at Junior High School.” Burlington Free Press, December 19, 1922.
Pupils of the Second Year English Classes, Burlington Junior High (1920-1921). Burlington, Vermont: A Brief Sketch of Its History, Educational Facilities, and Industrial Life. Burlington, VT: Self Published, 1921
“Reinventing Play: The 1920s, The Beginning.” Burke: Play That Moves You. Accessed October 15, 2016. https://www.bciburke.com/connect/blog/posts/postid/20/reinventing-play-the-1920s.
"Site of Proposed Junior High School." Burlington Free Press, March 23, 1923.
“Site Selected for New Junior High School Building.” Burlington Free Press, October 25, 1922.
“State Board of Health Has issued ultimatum on Use of Junior High Building.” Burlington Free Press, January 5, 1924.
“The Mayor and the Junior High School.” Burlington Free Press, October 15, 1924.
“Want More Money: School Commissioners to Ask Aldermen for Additional $100,000.” Burlington Free Press, June 24, 1925.
"Way Cleared for Junior High School." Burlington Free Press, March 29, 1923.