In 1676, the Eliot School was founded when a group of residents donated corn and land to open a school in Jamaica Plain. After more than 340 years, the Eliot School could possibly move out of the neighborhood.
In 2018, a team of architects explored what it might look like to expand the schoolhouse on Eliot Street. This year, consultants Jennifer Gilbert and Traggorth Companies are exploring what it might look like to move operations to a new Boston location, either completely or in part.
The school offers a variety of classes for people of all ages -- from preschool to the elderly. Classes are offered in drawing, painting, printing, photography, woodworking, building furniture, as well as summer programming for children.
In late June, the Eliot School held a public meeting on space planning to engage the community in help to figure out its future facilities plans.
"At this moment in this long history, the Eliot School needs to improve and expand its facilities. We can either do that at our current site on Eliot Street, or elsewhere," said Norman to Jamaica Plain News.
The long history of the school includes many changes, including expansions, contractions, and several moves. It was a grammar school, then absorbed a girls' sewing school, and included a high school before it focused on the arts.
The school gets its namesake from John Eliot, who gifted land in 1690 with parcels in the Fens, Newton, throughout the Boston area, including the Jamaica Plain spot. For more information about the Eliot School's history, please check out the Jamaica Plain Historical Society's website.
The current schoolhouse was built in 1831, long before accessibility concerns, and that's one reason the school wants facilities that allow elders and people with mobility issues to fully participate in classes and be staff. The current building also doesn't provide ample space for classes and programs for project preparation, storage, training and administration.
At the community meeting, about 75 people attended -- students, neighbors, donors, instructors and staff. Norman said the school's need for space was reviewed, as was the process for considering its options.
Attendees broke into groups to brainstorm and offer ideas. The Children's Museum history of moving from Jamaica Plain to the Seaport was brought up, and one idea floated aloud included physically moving the current schoolhouse to another location to add more space for community functions and exhibitions.
The school will continue to work with hired consultants to determine its options, and then the Eliot School board will use 2020 to weigh options and decide how to move forward, said Norman.