Framingham History Center - The Old Academy
Constructed in 1837 by Dexter and Adam Hemenway, the Greek Revival temple-style Old Academy replaced the 1792 Framingham Academy, which was part of Benjamin Franklin's academy movement. From 1851-1915, it was used by the Framingham School Department, celebrating the town's bicentennial in 1900 with a series of local history exhibits. Since 1916, the building has been leased to the Framingham Historical Society, and has been kept historically intact, including the original blackboards and light fixtures . The Framingham History Center, founded in 1888, utilizes the space for exhibitions and curation of its collections, as well as the Edgell Memorial Library [1; 2]. The Center holds over 12,000 artifacts, documents, and photographs, as well as a research library. Its local archaeological collections date to 10,000 BCE and its historical records to 1655 . Exhibits at the Academy include a Colonial kitchen; Colonial schoolroom; architects' models of historic Framingham buildings; period furniture, toys, and tools; Nipmuc Indian artifacts; local business history; local art; and the flight suit of Christa McCauliffe, the first teacher in space .
Backstory and Context
A Brief History of Framingham
John Stone was the first European to settle in the area.
From England, he settled in Watertown in 1647, then Sudbury, and finally built
his home and corn mill in what is now Saxonville, in the 1660s. Others from
Sudbury settled nearby, and the Colonial government granted over 15,000 acres
to Thomas Danforth (first treasurer of Harvard College) by 1662. Originally
called Danforth's Farms, it was later named Framingham, after Danforth's
English hometown Framlingham. More
settlers arrived, including refugees from Salem Village's witch trials of the
1690s, and the town was incorporated on June 25, 1700 . The first Meeting
House was built on the knoll of Main Street at the turn of the century, and
Reverend John Swift arrived from Milton to serve as the town's minister,
followed in 1703 by school master Deacon Joshua Hemenway, who taught in his
home and then in the first schoolhouse near present-day Buckminster Square.
Centre Common was acquired by the town from William Pike in 1735, and a new
Meeting House was built in the central location. A century later, the Village Hall and the (new at
the time) Old Academy would be built at the Common. In the meantime, on March 5,
1770, following the Stamp Act, Framingham resident Crispus Attucks and a Boston
mob protested. None had firearms, but the British fired on the protestors; the
first man to die for Independence in the Boston Massacre was Attucks.
Framingham raised two companies of Minute Men, led by Captains Simon Edgell and
Thomas Nixon, who received the alarm on April 19, 1775 to march from
Buckminster Square to the battle at Concord. Framingham's Revolutionary heroes
include Peter Salem, General John Nixon, and Jonathan Maynard. A brick school
house was erected (located where the present Old Academy stands) in 1792 by
Reverend David Kellogg and his associates. The Framingham Academy, as Kellogg's
school was known, was a grammar school of liberal arts and sciences .
During the 19th century, Framingham served first as a busy stage coach stop and then as a train stop, but the railroad stopped in South Framingham, not in the city Centre. Industry, business, and eventually civic functions moved away from the Common as South Framingham developed. The first public normal (high) school in America (now State College at Framingham), founded originally in 1839 in Lexington, moved operations to a new building in Framingham in 1853, funded partly by the Boston and Worcester Railroad; a year later, a grade school was added, its teachers the advanced high school students. Harmony Grove in northwest Framingham was used for gatherings, including meetings of the Anti-Slavery Society in the mid-nineteenth century; at one, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison burned a copy of the Constitution. Four hundred and ten Framingham residents fought in the Civil War, the Battle Hymn of the Republic was first sung for the first time 1862 in Framingham's Plymouth Church, and Blue Kersey Union army cloth was made by nearby Saxonville Mills. The Edgell Memorial Library was built to honor those who died to keep the country united. After the war, Musterfield training camp for the Volunteer Militia was established by the State of Massachusetts at Framingham, on the site of Pratt's Plain .
became an important manufacturing town in the twentieth century, particularly
in the automobile industry. It also produced some notable educators, and
continues its teacher training program today. Two Framingham educators are
Bishop William Rice of the Jesuits, who became a master of languages, served as
administrator of Boston College, and established Baghdad College in Iraq in
1932, later serving in Belize until his death in 1946; and Olivia A. Davidson,
who helped found the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama along with Booker T.
Washington, whom she later married .