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Buried History

Remnants of original school building found beneath quad

Last fall, during an electrical primary system upgrade, work crews unearthed a historical remnant in front of Boyden Hall.

While digging in a section of the quadrangle, workers discovered an abandoned foundation. As digging continued, more obstructions were revealed.

According to Barbara Masaitis, project manager, the discovery constituted the remains of the former Bridgewater State Normal School.

Head of BSU Archives and Special Collections Orson Kingsley agrees that the unearthed foundation is the remains of the Normal School, which stood from 1890 until a fire destroyed it on Dec. 10, 1924. Old Woodward Hall and the original Tillinghast Hall were also reduced to ashes during the blaze.

(The original Normal School building was built in 1846 and constructed of wood; it was torn down and replaced with the larger brick building.)

During the 1924 fire, due to the lack of water pressure, firefighters struggled to put it out. Reports indicate students helped put boxes on the back of wagons for firefighters to stand on in order to get water to the upper floors.

In the aftermath, the school and town used the tragedy as an opportunity not only to rebuild, but to also make improvements.

Amazingly, school officials didn’t cancel classes after the blaze, instead they adapted and constructed classrooms in the buildings left standing, the basement of the girls’ dormitory and in the gymnasium.

“I find it fascinating how the entire school didn’t permanently shut down after so much of the campus burned,” Kingsley said.

Two years later, Boyden and Harrington Halls were erected and Bridgewater updated the town’s water facilities.

Portions of the discovered foundation had to be demolished in order to complete the new project, but some pieces of the wall remain buried.

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