The three-story brick apartment building at 5 Common Street was once a two-story public grammar school. It was located, not at 5 Common Street, but across the street, inside the Training Field.
Built in 1828, 5 Common Street is the oldest extant public grammar school form in Charlestown, as well as one of the oldest extant schools in Boston.
For twenty years the school operated inside the Training Field. The year Charlestown incorporated as a city, 1847, the school was moved out of the park to its present location. On the evening the school was removed, one of the patricians declared it had been ‘the needless destroyer of the symmetry of the park.’ There may have been some truth to that, considering how perfectly balanced the Training Field is today. There are no obstructed views.
(For more about Charlestown’s 'Outdoor Room', see ).
For the next 140 years the school operated at 5 Common Street, first as a public and later as a private school. For many years it was called the Nahum Chapin School, named after a successful businessman, state legislator and long time member of the Charlestown and Boston School Boards. According to the 1914 City of Boston Public Schools Manual, the six room Chapin School had two kindergartens, plus grades one through three. The curriculum offered classes in sewing, cooking and ‘manual training.’
St. Mary’s later acquired the building for use as part of its elementary school. 5 Common Street was converted for private residential use in 1967.
- Where is it? 5 Common Street
- When was it built? 1828. A third floor was added circa 1848.
- Who built it? The Town of Charlestown
- What was it built for? As a public school
- Why was it built? With Charlestown’s growing population, new schools were needed.
- How was it built? Of brick and stone, in Federal school house style
- What are the future plans for the structure? 5 Common Street is privately owned and occupied.
Information for this article was compiled from various research materials, including Charlestown Schools by Carl Zellner; Boston Landmarks Commission; Boston Evening Transcript, August 13, 1897; Manual of the Public Schools of the City of Boston, 1914.