About Us
A History

How We Began: The Cooperative Open Air School

Maria Baldwin

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The House at 16 Quincy Street

An excerpt from from "Creating A School" by William Ernest Hocking, published in The Atlantic Monthly, December 1955

"The Agassiz School, on the northerly stretch of Oxford Street, ranked high. Its principal, Miss (Maria) Baldwin, held a critical community's standing respect. Numerous children of Harvard faculty folk turned up in "Miss Baldwin's school." But now, in the spring of 1915, it was time for the old building to be torn down and rebuilt. Demolition set in well before spring closing, and refugee pupils were assigned pro tem to neighboring schools. These fugitive squatters in already crowded schoolrooms were doubtless made as welcome as human nature would permit; but nothing could abolish the fact of strain for both teachers and taught. . . .

"As newcomers in Cambridge, this was no moment for us to start a school, and we had no intention of doing so; but if circumstances required, one of us was ready to meet a temporary emergency. We had built a commodious back porch for our old house at 16 Quincy Street, open sleeping porches on the second floor, on the first floor an extra porch-room for anything that might happen along — why not school quarters for half a dozen of the refugees from Miss Baldwin's school? After consulting with a few friends similarly discommoded, among them Mrs. Wallace Atwood, Agnes Hocking went into action. . . . (W)ith parental aid from several sides, work went forward with such zest and good effect that at the end of the term there was call for continuance, with several new applications.

"In the fall of 1915 we began, if I remember rightly, with a group of some twenty pupils. Before long we had between thirty and forty, and a sizable waiting list. School activities spread into the dining room, the front porch, the under porch, the garage, and, of course, the yard, under the curious eyes of the Harvard Union on one side and the Colonial Club on the other. . . . The question was bound to arise in the spring, not whether to carry on — that seemed settled — but what to do with the waiting list for the ensuing year. At this point, I, who had to oversee physical arrangements and had been moving our piano from drawing room to dining room and back for the music periods, presented an ultimatum. The school must limit its numbers or move. It decided to move."

Agnes Boyle O'Reilly Hocking

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Willliam Ernest Hocking

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