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51 3 Architecture and Reform The great social reform movements that swept Boston during the early nineteenth century offered architects opportunities to develop original design solutions for specialized buildings. Traditionally, buildings erected for charitable causes operated under very tight budgets, and the resulting architecture was often plain in appearance and conventional in plan. Typical is Bryant’s design for the Mariners House, erected by the Boston Port Authority in 1846 (fig. 3.1). Still standing in Boston’s North End neighborhood , the Mariners House is four stories high with flat stone lintels, a gable roof, and cupola. On the first floor were shops where seamen’s wives and widows could sell handmade goods for extra income. The upper floors contained rooms for sleeping. Only the pediment over the entrance suggests a stylistic treatment. Of course, a building located near the waterfront constructed to provide respectable housing for visiting seamen would not need to offer more than simple, clean accommodations. This is reflected in the traditional character of this architectural design.1 Bryant’s personal attitude toward the various reform movements in education , the treatment of prisoners and the insane, and slavery is not known. A Whig in his political sympathies, he presumably became a Republican when that party emerged as the alternative to the Democrats. It is worth noting, however, that his architectural office at 4 Court Street was in the same building that contained the office of Charles Sumner, one of Boston’s leading “conscience Whigs” and an antislavery spokesperson. Nonetheless, it is not known if Bryant actively identified with any political cause beyond supporting the candidates promoted by the wealthy elite of Boston. Primarily , Bryant wished to offer his clients the most advanced and efficient 52 Chapter Three design for their needs, and he may have found that the most effective way to do so was to work with specialists in a given area of reform. The reform of public education in Massachusetts was one of the most important successes of the 1840s. Horace Mann led the effort when, in 1837, he helped to create the first state board of education, on which he served for eleven years.2 Mann and others were responding to the changes brought about in society by the industrial revolution and the rapid growth in population, especially through emigration. They held that the traditional pattern of minimal public education combined with reliance on the family would no longer suffice to produce a citizenry capable of self-government. Figure 3.1. Mariners House, North Square, Boston, 1846, Gridley J. F. Bryant, architect. This view, from Boston Notions, 1847, illustrates the sober and respectable home Bryant designed for seamen which was very compatible with the traditional architecture of this North End neighborhood. (Courtesy Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr.) Architecture and Reform 53 The educational reformers sought a uniform curriculum, as well as better training and higher pay for teachers. Naturally, improved schoolhouse design was also an area of concern. The major changes taking place in Boston were touted in the city almanac for 1849: “The vast progress that has been made in the system of instruction, and the character of the schools, has been fully equaled in the improvements of the school houses. To those who remember the small rooms, the inconvenient forms, and the torturing benches of the old schools, the present noble buildings and spacious, convenient and finely-furnished rooms are a perfect luxury.”3 Gridley Bryant’s involvement in these “noble buildings” was significant. Boston demonstrated its commitment to educational reform during the years 1840–48 with the construction of eleven new grammar schools and three primary schools. By contrast, in the previous decade only four new grammar schools had been built. Primary schools did not even exist in separately dedicated structures prior to 1848. Bryant designed at least two of the new grammar schools, both of which were important as models of their kind, as well as one of the new primary schools. He probably collaborated closely with Joseph V. Ingraham, a well-known Boston school reformer . Ingraham’s role in the new school designs is not recorded, but his contribution to school reform was acknowledged when one of the new primary schools was named after him within a few months of his death in 1848 at age forty-eight. Bryant’s Quincy Grammar School on Tyler Street (fig. 3.2) and the Bowdoin Grammar School on Myrtle Street were both dedicated that year. Fifty years later, a commemorative newspaper article proclaimed...


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