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Boston - Freedom Trail: School Street - Boston Public Latin School - City Carpet

Just beyond King's Chapel, in front of Old City Hall along the Freedom Trail, is the hopscotch-like mosaic, City Carpet, embdedded in the pavement. The artwork, by Lili Ann Killen Rosenberg, commemorates the original site of Boston Latin School, the first public school in America, on the now aptly named School Street. Brass letters, Venetian glass, and ceramic pieces spell out the names of its famous alumni.

 

Reading the bible was a basic element of Puritan faith. Therefore education--more specifically, literacy--was of the utmost importance. On April 13, 1635, once the colony's survival was assured, the town voted that "our brother Philemon Pormont shall be intreated to become schole-master for the teaching and nourtering of children with us."

 

The school was unique in the world. Technically, all children--rich or poor--could attend tuition-free. Practically, though, few poor children attended, since students had to pay for firewood, and poor families were more likely to require their children's assistance around the house. So in reality, the school bcame a bastion for education the Boston Brahmin elite.

 

Until 1645 classes were held in the schoolmaster's home when the first school building was built on this site. At that time, the Town also stipulated that 'Indians are to be taught gratis'. The original schoolhouse--a crude wooden structure, was removed a century later to make way for the enlarged King's Chapel.

 

Now located in the Kenmore-Fenway section of the city, Boston Latin is still the pride fo the city's public school system. Admission is by competitive exam (ISEE), and even today four years of Latin are still required to graduate.

 

Among those who studied in the first school building were Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams. It has produced four Harvard presidents, four Massachusetts governors and five signers of the Declaration of Independence. A statue of Franklin, Latin School's most famous dropout, stands in the nearby courtyard of Old City Hall. A large mural commemorating the school adorns to lobby entrance to Old City Hall as well.

 

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Taken on May 5, 2007