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Reading Memorial High School - Historic Value
"Seven years after World War II, the Town of Reading constructed the Reading Memorial High School on Birch Meadow. The initial construction, now nearly 51 years old, currently houses classrooms, offices, auditorium, cafeteria, (gymnasium) and girl's (and boys') locker rooms. In 1969, the Town added a media center, science labs, math classrooms, and an athletic field house. Over the past thirty years, numerous improvements and small renovations have been carried out in response to fluctuating enrollment and evolving educational programs."
-Flansburgh Associates, Inc. RMHS "Executive Summary," October 8, 2002
Reading Memorial High School (RMHS) is one of the first large high schools built in Massachusetts after World War II. Dedicated to the memory of World War II veterans, RMHS' Memorial Tower is one of its most striking architectural features. A clock may have been planned for the face of the tower and RMHS is representative of post-World War II architecture and the late period work of the Boston architectural firm Adden, Parker, Clinch & Crimp. Willard P. Adden and Winthrop D. Parker were Reading natives and Howard Clinch lived in Reading from the 1950s to 1965. Not only did they design Reading Memorial High School, a structure that has served the town Reading well for many years, but Adden, Parker, Clinch & Crimp also designed Reading Town Hall and the old Library (now connected to Town Hall), renovations to Old South Church, the Pearl Street School (now an assisted living facility), Reading High School on Sanborn Lane ( now condominiums) and the original Parker Middle School (of which only the interior of the auditorium remains).
Though Reading Memorial High School is structurally sound and representative of a particular architectural era, the $54 million proposal (Option 3) before the voters for the Feb. 25, 2003 Special Election is to demolish the entire original high school, including the Memorial Tower, and some of the 1969 addition. The rest of the 1969 addition and the Field House are to be gutted if Option 3 is passed. The voters have not been given an RMHS option that retains the value of the existing original structure. Even Option 1, allegedly a "simple" $49-53 million renovation option not offered on the ballot, involved unnecessary, extensive gutting and the redesign of the facility interior.
Historic Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Historical Commission strongly urge all citizens to carefully evaluate any plans to destroy public buildings. The following .pdf document provides important information for communities when determining the future of their existing school buildings.
Massachusetts Public School Buildings - An Endangered Resource [.pdf document, 974 kb, right click "save target as" to download]
1969 Addition - 1969 School Construction Committee report to Town Meeting. Explains the reason behind the use of concrete columns in the RMHS addition design - to minimize the known ledge problems.
RMHS is historical, Advocate 02/06/03
1958 Annual Town Report - Information about Reading school enrollment, programs, building sizes in 1958.
Designed by Aden & Parker, Reading High School at 52 Sanborn St. opened in 1906 and remained Reading's high school until RMHS was opened in 1954.In 1957 the structure became a Community Center and eventually was sold in 1988 for condominiums.
Then & Now (Advocate 09/24/98), Reading's first high school located across from the Common demolished for educational Wing of Old South Methodist Church.
Then & Now (Advocate 09/09/99), Lowell St. School razed for new homes.
Pearl Street School, constructed in 1939, Adden & Parker design.
Parker Middle School, prior to demolition and reconstruction. An Adden & Parker design, only Shepardson Hall, the auditorium, remains of the original building.
Please right-click, "Save Target As" to download the linked files on this page.
Boston Globe 06/17/03 (A16 Editorial), A Good Building Faces Demolition, "Reading Memorial High was among the first large high schools built in the state after World War II. Yet, Reading's Historic Commission did not even weigh in on the high school's historic value before the February election funding the (new high) school because it did not want to 'influence' the vote."
The Deception Continues: The Reading Historical Commission's Role In The RMHS Demolition / Renovation / Addition Project
According to minutes released to Town Hall June 10, the Reading Historical Commission moved on May 22, 2003 to "approve the sending of the letter" stating that they are "not aware of any historical or architectural significance of the high school at this time." Minutes (approved or in draft form) of the Historical Commission's February 4, March 11, April 10, May 6,and May 27, 2003 meetings, including discussions of the historic significance of RMHS, still have not been made available to the public in spite of requests.
Why delay the release of these minutes?
The Historical Commission's May 22, 2003 letter (to be included in the Department of Education RMHS June 2003 application) references only "additions and renovations" and does not mention the planned demolition of the entire original 1953 high school and a significant portion of the 1970s addition. Current Reading Memorial High School plans have also changed from the additions and renovations presented to Town Meeting in January and approved by the voters in February 2003 (See 06/04/03 news entry below).
Reading Historical Commission Materials: minutes for Jan. 9, April 1, May 22, 2003, 05/22/03 letter to architect Keith Hoffses, Historical Commission letter to Design Partnership of Cambridge for DOE application [.pdf, 129 KB].
Although some officials, deceptive individuals, manipulative special interest groups and misinformed citizens would like (us all) to believe otherwise, many neglected and poorly maintained sections of Reading Memorial High School scheduled for demolition (when basic care and renovation is all that is needed) have historic significance.