History of Bristol’s high schools takes residency at library

The first Bristol High School, which is now the Bristol Historical Society on Summer Street.



Through the month of March, the Bristol History Room will, highlight the history of Bristol’s public high schools.

Jay Manewitz, director of the Bristol History Room at the Bristol Public Library explained there were high school courses taught in 1883. But the first Bristol High School was not built until 1891. Manewitz explained that the original high school classes were taught in an already established school, before moving to its new home.

The structure still stands today, with an addition that was opened in 1908. This building at 98 Summer St., now houses the Bristol Historical Society.

“It consisted of two school rooms and offices on the first floor, an assembly room and a library on the second floor, and in the basement manual training and mechanical training,” said Manewitz.

On display alongside the photographs of the original high school are copies of the oldest yearbook in the library’s possession. It is dated 1919.

“To accommodate a growing school population a new much larger high school was built on land donated by Albert Rockwell,” said Manewitz, describing the Bristol High School on Memorial Boulevard that was built in 1922.

It housed all four grades until 1929, when the freshman class returned to the old high school on Summer Sreet. And, in 1939, a technical department was established in another building.

Just inside the entrance of the high school on the boulevard was a statue of Minerva, the Roman Goddess of wisdom. In 1967, the current Bristol Central High School (480 Wolcott St) opened, and shortly thereafter the statue was relocated to BCHS. She was housed first in the main entrance, before being moved into the library, and then being moved to her current location – the classroom of Latin teacher Kelly Monahan Dinoia.

In 1959, Bristol Eastern High School was built, and with the introduction of a second high school, the boulevard high school was renamed to Bristol Central High School. With the introduction of Bristol Central on Wolcott Street in 1967, the school on the boulevard became a middle school.

Also on display in this exhibit are old class rings, yearbooks, rule books, photographs from the first graduation held at Muzzy Field in 1955, literary magazines circa 1908, and an athletic jersey. There is also a booklet with information about the senior class night held in 1897.

The Bristol History Room is open every Tuesday and Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m., and every Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m., and from 6 to 7:45 p.m., as well as one Saturday per month.

The next exhibit will open on Saturday, April 13, and will focus on the Flood of 1955.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@BristolObserver.com.