North Bennet Street School keeps its trade school traditions

The North Bennet Street School at the beginning of the 20th Century. Credit: Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe
The North Bennet Street School at the beginning of the 20th Century.
Credit: Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe

An appreciation for fine craftsmanship has long been a part of the North End’s character, stretching back to the days of Paul Revere, arguably the neighborhood’s most famous silversmith. These days, though the Revolutionary War has long since ended and the North End itself has undergone countless transformations, a commitment to artisanal skills remains in the form of the North Bennet Street School.

The school, founded in 1885 as a trade school targeted specifically towards the immigrant communities that made the North End their home throughout the nineteenth century, continues its mission today through both professional programs and continuing education classes. The school has changed since its inception – disciplines as diverse as bookbinding, violin making, and preservation carpentry were added in the 1980s – but now something retro is going on, too: the return of youth programming and partnerships with middle schools in the Boston Public school district, hearkening back to the school’s beginning. Now, the North Bennet Street School is more embedded within the North End than ever before.

What happened to the youth programming in the years prior? During the 1970s and 80s, President Miguel Gómez-Ibáñez explains, the school retreated inward, abandoning the social service programs it had previously offered to the North End community, like settlement programs for recent immigrants and “Caddy Camps” for city boys to earn tips as summertime golf caddies in the suburbs, due to consolidations in funding. The school transformed itself into one with a national focus, its students aged (today, the average student age is 30 years old), and its interactions with the North End dwindled.

“In the last four to five years,” though, Gómez-Ibáñez says, “we’ve refocused on the North End.” Why? Gómez-Ibáñez, himself a graduate of the school, laughs a little when he considers what possibly could have prompted the renewed focus. “Maybe it’s the yuppie part of the North End…It’s much more of a place for kids.”

The school partnered with John Eliot K-8 in the North End to offer woodworking classes to Eliot School’s sixth, seventh, and eighth grades and the program, says Gómez-Ibáñez, has proven to be so popular with parents and students alike that it has also expanded to Clarence R. Edwards Middle School in Charleston and St. John School in the North End. It’s a new twist on the same old impetus behind the North Bennet Street School’s founding: “hand skills” and crafts are as valid, and necessary, as the more theoretical aspects of a child’s education.

“It’s just a more welcoming, a much more modern school,” is how Gómez-Ibáñez describes the North Bennet Street School of 2014. In addition to the renewed middle school programming, the school also opened a new building, also in the North End, in 2013, replacing an older facility that the school had outgrown. “We’re always looking at changes.”

One thing hasn’t changed: the North End’s continuous legacy of craftsmanship in America.


Mayor pledges lower greenhouse gas emissions from New…

Just hours before the start of the People’s Climate March on Sunday, and two days ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit, Mayor Bill de…


The best places to see the Northern Lights…

A large solar storm hit the Earth's atmosphere and will tonight illuminate the skies with aurora borealis -- also known as the Northern Lights.


Police officer killed Sunday morning Bronx crash, 8…

One NYPD police officer was killed and eight other officers were injured early Sunday morning when the van they were traveling in crashed  in the…


Pennsylvania police shooter manhunt near home of suspect's…

A police manhunt intensified on Friday for the gunman who killed an officer and wounded another in an ambush at a Pennsylvania police barracks a week ago.


'How to Get Away with' mischaracterizing Shondra Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes read Alessandra Stanley's New York Times piece about her being "an angry black woman" and "a romance writer" and it did not sit well with her.


New nude celebrity selfies leak … and Clay…

A new batch of nude selfies of Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Hudgens, Lake Bell and Avril Lavigne hit the web and Clay Aiken has something to say!


James Spader's route to villainy on "The Blacklist"

In honor of the second season premiere of "The Blacklist" tonight, where James Spader plays good guy/bad guy Raymond “Red” Reddington, it’s a good time to look back at Spader’s…


True Detective


Jay Cutler takes Marc Trestman's coaching to heart

While Jay Cutler turned to an autobiography on the man who would be his head coach, Trestman had personal experience with the player.


Jets vs. Bears: 3 things to watch

Jets fans likely chalked up Monday's matchup with the Bears as a loss when the NFL schedule came out. But given their team's play so…


Rashad Jennings carries Giants in first win this…

Rashad Jennings, who came to New York from Oakland last year, by way of Jacksonville, was highly coveted this offseason by general manager Jerry Reese.


3 things we learned as Giants pick up…

The Giants picked up their first win of the season over the Texans.


Here's how to make the most of visit…

You’re primped, you’re looking polished, you’re prepared with a stack of resumes. Job fair hunters, unite! There are a few things to keep in mind…


Learn how to study effectively and stop cramming…

Picture this: It’s midterm week, and college students everywhere are trying to frantically memorize all of the math formulas, political theories and historical facts that…


How motherhood inspired Bethenny Frankel's new book

Bethenny Frankel's new children's book is about how her daughter and dog didn't always get alone.


A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.