History of Whittier School
John Greenleaf Whittier
John Greenleaf Whittier, 1807-1892

Whittier school was named after John Greenleaf Whittier, the most outspoken abolitionist among the poets of his generation.

History of Whittier Elementary School:  "An Era That is Past"

(This history appeared in the Whittier Alumni Day Program, June 1, 1975)

Researched by: Beverly Blaisdell Hochstetter and Margaret Laird.
Written by: LynEllen Lacy

1849 - John T. Blaisdell, one of Minneapolis' well-known early pioneers, came from Maine to what is now Minneapolis at the age of 21. A.. the land between Nicollet and Lyndale, from Franklin to Lake, was platted by him and was known as Blaisdell's Addition. John and his brother Robert homesteaded the land, and another brother William homesteaded around Powderhorn Park. A fouth brother Isaac Blaisdell was the great-grandfather of Beverly Blaisdell Hochstetter. John built his first log house on a hill near 24th Street between Pleasant and Lyndale. In the 1860's the house gave way to a six-room frame house where the family was to live for the next 28 years. In this house the first school was held in what was to become the Eight Ward.

Mary A. Blaisdell, the only surviving memeber of the John T. Blaisdell family, recalled in an interview in the Minneapolis Tribune in 1920: "The school room really was our parlor. It meant alot to give it up too, for there were five children and we boarded the school teacher... Father wanted the school so badly he would have done most anything for it. so we gave up our best room, and it was fitted with wooden benches and a desk for teacher, and there school was held. Miss Lizzie Lockwood was the first teacher....." Thus the Blaisdell name became attached to the school. The "parlor school" was replaced by a little one-story frome building on Third Avenue. The next schoolhouse had six rooms and was located on 26th between Nicollet and Blaisdell and was in school district #93 of Hennepin County.

1875 - Mrs. Martha M. Burdick, according to school records, was appointed principal. She is also remembered as principal in 1894.

1879 - M. Louisa Bourne was hired as third grade teacher.

1880 - Libbie G. Reid was hired as 4th-5th grade teacher.

1882 - The Blaisdell school was replaced by a new two-story brick building at 26th Street and "Blaisdell's Road" with eight classrooms for kindergarten through eight grade. (This is approximately the middle section of the old school, between the north "1903 Whittier" front door and the middle "1903 Whittier" front door. There was no front door facing Blaisdell in this original building; apparently the building originally faced 26th Street.) The school board records state that there were 187 admitted pupils and only 3 regular day school teachers.

As with all the Blaisdell school buildings so far, John Blaisdell worked hard to get this new building that he thought the growing community needed. Blaisdell Addition was well built-up and quite a town in itself by now, with McCrory's motor line transporting the people into the City and many new streets laid out by Blaisdell himself and lined with new trees. Getting workmen to come out so far from the City was difficult, so the stonemason "Uncle Joe" Nelson stayed at the Blaisdell home while he built the new school building. He later built the big brick Blaisdell home at Nicollet and 24th.

1883 - Blaisdell, Longfellow and Irving Schools were annexed to Minneapolis school system. The school board renamed Blaisdell school John 19th century poet and abolitionist. The land was bought for $15,363.00.   A 3"-thick bell, 42" in diameter and 4 feet high with a sheel that stands 7' from the floor, was made by the Troy Bell Co. (inscription date 1883) and sometime thereafter was hung in the first Whittier bell tower. Sarah M. Jerman was hired for 5th grade and Sarah A. Jenison was hired for 2nd grade.

1885 - Rose E. Upton, 1st-2nd, Cora E. Chamberlain, Bertha M. Barton, 1st, were hired as teachers.

1887 - Mary S. Long, 3rd-4th, Emma Chamberlain, 1st, and Ella M. Crombie, Grammar Assistant, were hired. At a Board of Education meeting 30 November, a delegation from whittier asked that "the bell be rehung", and it was ordered.

1888 - A two-story addition of 4 rooms and the "small gym" was made on the 26th Street side, "connected to the old school but separate and complete in design." The small, low-ceilinged style of gymnasium has been said "to be good for nothing except, perhaps, running in place." This addition provided the building with its first front door facing Blaisdell. "1903 Whittier" is carved over the door, obviously added later when the 1903 addition was made and a new facade was added. Ida F. Charnley - 6th-7th-8th, Addie F. Thrall - 4th and Pearl McCool, Primary Assistant were hired.

1891 - Plumbing was installed.
Mrs. Mabel Parsons is 90 years old now (1975) and resides at the Alliance Residence Home, 3101 Lyndale S. she was seven years old Mabel Eliza Phillips when she started to school at Whittier in the first grade. Her family lived at 25th and Harriet and her mother had "held her back" so she would not be too far ahead of her younger brother Milo and sister Mellie in school.

In an interview, Mrs. Parsons recalled Mrs. Burdick and Miss Morrison as principals, and her first grade teacher was Emma Chamberlain. Other teachers remembered were Cooke, Gould, McGhan, Thrall and Ford. She recalled that when the circus came to town, it raised its tent right in the middle of Pillsbury. Ruining one of her knee stockings on a box elder on Whittier's playground was a vivid memory. In the 1920's Mrs. Parson's two children Paul and Helen also attended Whittier.

1892 - The school district now composed ot the area from Franklin to 31st, and from Lyndale to Clinton. The Whittier building was insured for $18,000.00.

1894 - Mrs. Clyde Hill was little 6-year-old Olga Carlstrom when she started first grade at first grade at "the very progressive" Whittier, walking four times a day the distance between the school and her home at 29th and Pillsbury (everyone went home for lunch). She so admired young Miss Mary Jones in the fifth grade, whose father brought her to schoool n a pony cart. Mrs. Hill recalled in an interview that Mrs. Burdick and Mrs. Morrison were her principals during her 8 years at Whittier, and she listed in order every one of her teachers:

1894 - 1st grade - Miss Chamberlain
1895 - 2nd grade - Miss Pomeroy
1896 - 3rd grade - Miss Hammond
1897 - 4th grade - Miss Thrall
1898 - 5th grade - Miss McGahn
1899 - 6th grade - Miss Fannie Cooley
1900 - 7th grade - Miss Sullivan
1901 - 8th grade - Miss Lovejoy

Miss Hill remembered Whittier as being small and square, with only 6 or 8 classrooms, 2 of which were in the basement (Miss Thrall's being one of them). There is the possibility that the 1888 addition of 4 more rooms was not being used. She recalls "winding" stairs at the south end of the building and when the class went upstairs, "children on the inside were required to take small steps so that children on the outside could keep up."

In Miss Sullivan's 7th grade, the class marched everywhere two by two to piano music by Miss Sullivan, usually to the tune of "Mine eyes have seen the glory..", and there was absolutely NO CROWDING. "We respected the center yard, the Principal's Yard, and never played there." The Whittier bell called everyone to school, an 8:45 first bell (rung 5 or 6 times), then the 8:55 last bell, and by 9:00 "you'd better be in your seat. It was an
unpardonable sin to be late. I was late only once that I remember -- when my father had set the clock back the night before. I was petrified." The bell also called everyone back to the school after lunch at home. Mrs. Hill recalled a sign in the hall by the bell rope that read,"In Case of Fire, Six Rapid Strokes." She described the same small-fire incident that Miss Abbott will describe (see 1902). Miss Hill is now 87 years old (in 1975) and resides at 3322 Emerson Ave. S.

1895 - Rose B.Morrison became principal.

1898 - John T. Blaisdell died.

1902 - Anstice Abbott, who resides at the Jones-Harrison Home, graduated from the eight grade in 1902 and lived at 2644 Pleasant , the present site of an apartment building. She spent nine years at Whittier because one year she was ill a great deal and could not make up her work when the school had to close early due to a shortage of funds. Her first grade teacher was Emma Chamberlain, she recalled in an interview. Her picture of the 18 Whittier teachers, taken in 1901 is on display. she remembered the bell ringing for fire drills and recalled the one time the fire department was prematurely called. It seems that shortly befoe Christmas a tree lighted with real candles caught fire in one of the rooms. the fire was put out immediately, but an over-zealous schoolboy had already rushed out into the hall to sound the bell and an engine was on its way from the nearby 28th Street station. Miss Abbot's school scrapbook contained a "Botanical Analysis" she wrote about members of her 1902 graduting class, each classmate named for a flower and a clever reason given for each botanical choice. A school program that mentions this is on display. Helen Haines, who lived at 3023 Pleasant, was classmate of Miss Abbott's and recalled that once a year Bigelow's at 26th and Nicollet gave away free ice cream sodas when the soda fountain was cleaned, a much-celebrated event for the neighborhood smallfry. Both former classmates remembered the Bible verses Elizabeth Sullivan, 7th grade teacher, wrote on the blackboard each school day.