February 7, 2003
Framingham State Marks 150 Years on Bare Hill
A Look Back at School's History
By Charlie Breitrose, Staff Writer
A century and a half ago the hill just south of Framingham Center sat almost empty. Bare Hill, as it was known, was used as farm land until 1853 when the parcel was sold to the state as the home of the state's teacher college - the Normal School.
Little bare land remains on the hill as residences mix with the administrative and classroom structures now known as Framingham State College.
The college began in Lexington in 1839 with the help of Horace Mann, who championed the idea of a teacher training school. Mann even resigned as senate president to become head of the newly created board of education to oversee the college.
Five years later the Normal School, under its first president, Cyrus Peirce, moved to West Newton. Less than a decade later the school was on the move again, settling in Framingham on Dec. 15, 1853.
The college's mission has grown and the site has moved twice but FSC President Helen Heineman proudly says she heads the first public teacher college in the country.
The college began with an all female student body. While most teacher colleges in Europe were all male, teaching was one profession women in the 19th century could pursue, Heineman said.
"Women could to work anywhere except as teachers, and nurses were OK, sort of," Heineman said.
Not long after the school moved to town, the United States became engulfed in the Civil War. The conflict changed the college in more than one way, Heineman said.
"The Civil War created demand for female teachers, because the men were off fighting," Heineman said. "The college built quite a reputation."
Part of what the college became known for was the support for freeing the slaves.
"The college was very involved with the Abolitionist Movement," Heineman said. "Many students involved founded schools for black children."
Graduates did not stay in New England. They fanned out to the South, the Midwest and even Canada founding schools for former slaves. Among the institutions Normal School graduates helped found is the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
In fact, Olivia America Davidson (1854-1889), who later married Booker T. Washington and co-founded Tuskegee with him, was a 1881 graduate of the Normal School. Davidson was the first principal of Tuskegee, which is now one of 99 Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Soon after the end of the Civil War, Annie Johnson - the first female principal (as the president was called then) - was appointed.
The Normal School spent most of the first three decades in Framingham in a building called the Normal School. When more space was needed May Hall was built, opening in 1889 for the school's 50th anniversary. It is the oldest building remaining at the college.
In 1899 the mission scope of the college expanded from strictly a teacher training school to one that included "household arts," which is known now as home economics or family and consumer science.
The first campus dorm, Normal Hall, burned down in 1914, and was replaced by one named after Cyrus Peirce.
The Normal School became the State Teacher College at Framingham in 1932. Dwight Hall opened four years later, named after Edmund Dwight, who $10,000 to help the college move to town.
The hurricane of 1938 hit the college hard, damaging Crocker and May halls. A year later the college celebrated its centennial and Martin F. O'Connor composed the college hymn for the occasion.
A major transformation at the FSC began in 1959 when it began offering a liberal arts education. That year the was authorized to start awarding bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees.
D. Justin McCarthy became president in 1961, a post he would hold until the 1980s. Also in 1961, the college started offering master of education degrees.
In 1964, after 125 years, the college admitted the first male students.
The changes came right in time for the influx of Baby Boomers hitting the public colleges, said Phil Dooher, vice president for enrollment management and dean of admissions.
"The Baby boom started around in 1946, and if you fast forward 17 years you are right up around 1963 or 1964," Dooher said.
At the time single sex colleges were not uncommon, Dooher pointed out. Regis College remains an all-women's college, as does Wellesley College. And at the time, Holy Cross College was still all male.
"It was a matter of time (before men were admitted), the institution needed to support the emerging Baby Boom," he said.
In order to accommodate the growing enrollment the college went on a building spree in the 1960s and in the early 1970s.
Hemenway Hall opened in 1963 to house the home economics and science departments. Larned Hall opened in 1968 and year later the Whittemore Library was completed, and the college acquired the church at the corner of Maynard Road and Church Street, now called the Ecumenical Center.
The college first offered master of arts degrees in 1969.
In the middle of the growth one of the college's most famous alumni, Christa Corrigan MCAuliffe, attended FSC. The member of the class of 1970 would go on to become a teacher in New Hampshire and was selected to be the first teacher to go into space. She died along with the rest of the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986.
Dooher arrived at FSC in 1973 as an admissions officer. The same year the college opened three dormitories - Corrine Hall Towers, Linsley Hall and Foster Hall - and the annex to Hemenway Hall.
The last major addition to campus was the Justin McCarthy College Center, in 1976. Dooher still remembers the site before the building was constructed.
"You could walk down two sets of wooden stairs and there were two clay tennis courts where the dining hall of the College Center is now," Dooher said.
Paul Weller was appointed president in 1985. He served through the mid-1990s. The college celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1989, during his tenure.
The next president, Raymond Keift, was appointed in 1996, but left a couple years later. Heineman was appointed to the top job in 1999.
Last year the college completed work on the new athletic center, which adjoins Dwight Hall.
The college plans to make the most of the 150th year in town, Heineman said. A number of celebrations, special events and exhibition are planned. The celebrations will build toward Dec. 15, the day that the college officially moved to its new home Bare Hill a century and a half ago.