The North Bennet Street Industrial School was founded by Pauline Agassiz Shaw in 1885. Known as the “godmother of kindergarten” for being the institution of Boston, Shaw’s special interests were caring for and educating poor women and children. With the success of her first kindergarten, the city of Boston’s school system retained the classes and Shaw moved on to fund nurseries and settlement houses to aid families. This led to the start of the NBSS for training of immigrants for employment in traditional trades, with the mission of teaching not only how to make a living, but how to live. One hundred and twenty-six years later this training in traditional trades still holds true.
Today, the North Bennet Street School creates a foundation for life by teaching traditional values and trades in 8 full time professional programs, all of which are taught by graduate students throughout the years. These 8 technological hand skilled programs consist of Bookbinding, Cabinet and Furniture Making, Carpentry, Jewelry Making and Repair, Locksmithing, Piano Technology, Preservation Carpentry, and Violin Making and Repair.
During my trip to the New England Home Show and Wood Expo, we toured North Ends NBSS and met with Claire Fruitman, the Provost at NBSS. Claire, a former graduate of NBSS, is currently a furniture maker by trade. Below (left to right) are from the cabinet and furniture making class: Geoffrey Foster, Tim McCann, Paul McNamara, Claire Fruitman, Owen Willis, Austin Campbell, and Ben Warehime.
Students come from all walks of life, from all over the world, and consist of attendance in ages from 19 to 69. Some are just starting out after high school or GED, some are attending after college, and some are transitioning their lives into a new career after losing a job or just deciding that they wish to have a career change.
Take the cabinet and furniture shop tour with us inside the North Bennet Street School:
Continuation of the tour includes the violin, jewelry, bookbinding, locksmithing, piano departments, and concludes with a little school history, and tuition costs:
Similar to the Brienz Carving School in Switzerland, the interests in hand crafted woodworking and the knowledge base to acquire such talents are still alive and well in this technological day and age we live in. As long as this remains, good old fashioned hard work, yielding to fine craftsmanship will never die.
Next up, we are headed back to the Wood Expo and talking with 6 of the NBSS students while taking a look at their projects. Don’t forget about the carving blog on Friday; the craftsmanship of Walter Croft is one to truly appreciate.