The history of the Mary E. Taylor school building

By Barbara F. Dyer | Feb 02, 2018
First teachers at the M.E.T. building

Camden — One of the hottest discussions going on in Camden and Rockport is between the SAD 28 School Board, who know all the buildings that were built “piece-meal” have to be torn down, and the people who want to save the M.E.T building.

The board has spent hours planning the new building for the Camden-Rockport sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

Many residents and “historic preservation groups” feel the M.E.T. building could and should be saved. It could be restored and used for school needs.

Several letters requested that I write about it, as I should know about the architect and the building constructed in 1926. I was two years old at the time, but attended it from 1930 through 1938.

I have researched it, thanks to the Walsh History Center and John Williams “History of Camden 1907-1950.” l also used information from Town Reports 1925-26 to tell some of the story.

Previously, I have written that in 1862, one-room schools were placed in various parts of town, because there were no buses and automobiles, so all children walked. The schools were graded and became the Megunticook School District, incorporated by the Legislature in 1874. It is stated that we had eight good school houses and twelve poor ones. The estimated value was $11,850. The Elm Street School, built in 1869, was one of these. It held all eight grades and the high school.

In 1904, Camden High School was built and was to last many years. However in the 1940s, when the band was practicing on the third floor, we could feel the building shake, rattle and roll. When the slate roof began to fall off, it was demolished in 1984.

By the mid 1920s, Camden's population was increasing and formal education was becoming desirable. They had 50 to 60 students crowded into each room at the Elm Street School. Superintendent Charles Lord said, "A new school building is an imperative necessity. More children are attending school each year. Until the new brick building is completed, ideal conditions cannot be secured at the Elm Street School. The Building Committee has worked out a very satisfactory building.”

The new building was a model in every respect. It was referred to as the “Brick Building” or the “Knowlton Street Building.” The contractors were J.A. and J. R. Partridge of Augusta, and the architects were Bunker & Savage, also of Augusta. The price, including equipment was approximately $65,000. The cornerstone was laid with impressive ceremonies. It opened Jan. 4, 1926, and reaction from the community was positive.

In the 1925 Annual Town Report it reads: “The year 1925-26 will always be memorable in the history of Camden schools. Environment plays an important part in all lines of education. The aim in our course is to instill in all pupils a better appreciation as beauty, as expressed in line, in proportion and in color – to provide some with a means for a livelihood – and to encourage in many ways a desire to make for themselves attractive, comfortable surroundings as expressed in the form of their future homes. For this reason the educational value of our splendid new school buildings can be seen, and I wish to voice to you and to the taxpayers of our town the gratitude of the children.”

Superintendent Dyer and his predecessor had been telling the people the same thing for the previous three years, but it was another five years and two superintendents later before the Camden Grade School (now M.E.T) would become a reality. In 1924 the Annual Report spelled out to the residents in no uncertain terms that the quality of education was suffering, due to inadequate school buildings.

Then we refer to John R. Williams' “History of Camden:”

“The newly formed School Building Committee met on March 10 and selected Rev. Ralph H. Hayden, as its chairman. The committee considered the merits of the plan submitted to various architects as well as the location of the proposed building on Knowlton Street....The specifications were drawn up and went out to bid in early May. On May 19, the contracts for the new school building were released. The J. A. and J. R. Partridge Company of Augusta won the general contract for $47,000.00. A. H. Parsons of Camden won the heating bid at $8,377.00 and Scribner and Iveson of Portland won the plumbing contract with a bid of $2,432.00. On July 6th the cornerstone was laid.....and a number of articles were sealed in the stone, including a copy of the Camden Herald.”

Lena Cleveland, art teacher reported, among other good things, “A few pieces of playground equipment have been placed in the yard at the Elm Street School building, through the kindness of Mr. John Taylor.” (He was the first to run the new Y.M.C.A. on Chestnut Street.)

“There was a population boom in 1930, that meant a second story be added to the Knowlton Street building. Although it was not expected when the school was constructed, they did make plans at that time for another story, by increasing the thickness of the walls from eight inches to twelve inches. The standard grade consists of not more than thirty-five pupils per room.” -- Charles Lord Supt., 1930.

I hope this article satisfies the ones who requested knowing more about the history of the controversial building.

The School Board was kind enough to have a vote by the public in November. Whatever your position is on the matter, please get out and vote (or get an absentee ballot at the town office by mail). This is the only way, we shall know the will of the people. You owe it to your town and its children.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Feb 02, 2018 15:18

I hope the people do get out and vote for the future of Camden is it's children. Brick lasts so think solid and know it will last.



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