The North Bennet Street School (NBSS), America’s Oldest Trade School, has been a Boston institution located at 39 North Bennet Street in the North End since 1879. The school was incorporated in 1885 and has a long history of offering vocational training and forward thinking social services which continue through today.
After more than a century at the original location the school eventually grew beyond what the old assemblage of buildings (an ex-church, sailor’s retirement home, townhouses etc) could fit and some of the programs had to move to other locations around the Boston area. In an effort to re-unify the school, update the facilities, and get everyone under one roof again the school embarked on an aggressive fundraising campaign and has now moved to 150 North Street in Boston (about 1/3 mile from the original location). This new building takes up a city block and has recently opened for the new school year. This new set of buildings once served as the Boston City Printing Press and a Police station. They sit above the entrance to the Callahan tunnel right on the Greenway. The buildings have a stately facade, are stoutly constructed and have an interior fitting for a school of this kind.
Wednesday night was the first North Bennet Street School Alumni Meeting at the new building. We had the opportunity to tour the new facility.I took as many pictures as I could with my iPhone and have shared them below as a virtual tour of the new building. This small set of photos do not do it justice, so I recommend coming by to see it in person yourself during this year’s open house events Nov 8-9. If you click on any of the photos below you can see it in a larger size and can also cycle through them like a slide show.
Front of the building complex which touches the Rose Kennedy Greenway
Scale — the 2 buildings stretch a full city block in the North End of Boston
Architectural Details of the Building
Rear corner of new building. 1st floor in the corner is Preservation Carpentry. Above that is Carpentry. Above that is Cabinet and Furniture Making
Part of the new NBSS marketing campaign ‘Do what you love, every day’
Student work already on display in the new Gallery
Boyd, the new NBSS Gallery Manager in the new Gallery Space
Early NBSS Sign that we used to have in the PC dept. in Arlington
A violin in progress
Violin-making bench room
One of the many awesome views of Boston from the new building.
A nice change is that each student will have a locker to store and lock up personal items
First year Preservation Carpentry Bench Room
Rich’s sweet new teaching space in the second year classroom
Timber framing models in the second year Preservation Carpentry Bench Room
Human powered miter and mortising machines in the PC dept.
More models and kitchenette in the Preservation Carpentry Classroom
Preservation Carpentry Machine Room
Loading dock and wood rack in Preservation Carpentry
NIcely redone skylghts with indirect lighting — it’s almost too nice for NBSS — ‘Where’s the dank Moe? The dank?”
NBSS Feeling more like home — some of the many great sample walls have migrated to the new space.
One of the cabinet and furniture making bench rooms.
A CFM Student’s tool chest.
More CFM Bench Room. Great to see all the natural light.
Piano technology and repair classroom
Great new common space for students to gather, have lectures, display work etc.
Entryway to the carpentry department
NBSS Alumni Association touring the new facility
Jewelry making and repair department bench space
Jewelry making and repair department work area
Nice view from the atrium.
Great indoor space for big lectures etc. I love seeing the old exterior facade exposed inside of the building.
As a graduate of the Preservation Carpentry Program and workshop instructor at the school, the old building will always hold a special place in my heart, but I am happy to see this new building come together as it took an incredible amount of work by the school and its many supporters to pull of this move.
You can learn more about the history of the school here and here.
During the holidays there is always so much to do, so many errands to run, so many people to try and catch up with, and all of the other usual holidays stresses. Even with all the running around, one of my favorite events of the season is the North Bennet Street School Holiday party. For me it always evokes images of what I imagine a party at Old Fezziwig’s warehouse would be like.
There is always lively holiday music being played on a fiddle recently made by its owner. Lance plays a tune on his saw. Everyone brings homemade dishes. Many of us are covered in saw dust or smudges from the shop and there is a energy in the room. The annual table hockey tournament is being played to a cheering crowd.
The room is alive with students, faculty and alumni talking about their work, their passions and the year ahead.
This year (Thursday 12/13/12) was the first North Bennet Street School Holiday Party at the new building which is located at 150 North Street in Boston which is now partially occupied by the school (the rest of the departments to move in this coming year).
The new building will start an exciting new chapter in the school’s history. While I am nostalgic for the original NBSS building which had a lot of unusual quirks and a TON of history in the walls, the new space is starting to take on a life of its own and as more tools make it up onto the walls and the old benches find their way to their new homes you can see a distinctly NBSS feel develop.
The Bookbinding program was one of the first to move into the new space. And even during the party a few dedicated folks are still toiling away at their benches as party-goers make the rounds to see what students have been up to.
Walking the halls you can see all the tools and equipment that have seen many years of use.
In the violin making department there are a few more folks finishing up their bench work. The new space is larger and more spread out.
The school also has many of the posters from the new ‘Do What You Love Every Day’ marketing campaign you can see around the city and in related trade magazines. It really captures a core tenet of the NBSS Philosophy and how skilled hand work is a very fulfilling vocation.
You can learn more about NBSS and their efforts to bring the school ‘Under One Roof’ here on the website. There is also a powerful video clip about why this move means so much to the NBSS community and the surrounding neighborhood.
Thursday was a busy night for me in the city. After the NBSS Holiday Party I had to head over to the BAC to see the public opening of the new building they’ve renovated/re-purposed at 951 Boylston Street in Boston.
On display in the entry way is a beautiful desk and shelving system which was fabricated by NBSS students.
The interior of this building is now a bright and modern space designed to celebrate student work, host school and community events, and provide more studio space for students.
Above I am standing in front of a section of this building which was a hot topic of discussion during the summer Historic Preservation (HP) classes at the BAC. Originally this historic masonry work was going to be concealed in the wall, but with some pushing from the HP students and faculty this architectural detail will be the subject of upcoming materials conservation work and will be incorporated into the design of the space and a creative example of work on display.
You can learn more about this new space at the BAC here.
It was a great night to be in downtown Boston and helped get me into the spirit of the holidays.
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!
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