FAIRHAVEN — Why is Fairhaven High School so special?
Maryanne Gladu Richard (class of 1970) immediately knew the answer to that question last week when she visited her alma mater and was flooded by wonderful memories of happy times spent in the historic high school located on Huttleston Avenue.
Richard, along with an enthusiastic group of Fairhaven alumni, guests and local residents, visited the school, known affectionately as the “Castle on the Hill,” for a interesting tour lead by Robert “Bob” Foster ’66, president of Fairhaven High School Alumni Association, a retired teacher at New Bedford High School and history buff.
“I wanted to see the school and I wanted my granddaughter to see where I went to school,” shared Richard, who now lives in Oxford but who frequently visits the area. She added that the tour gave her a deeper appreciation for Fairhaven High and taught her a few things that she didn’t know about the treasured high school.
As he began the tour, Foster explained that the Fairhaven High School Alumni Association was founded by Henry Huttleston Rogers in 1894.
Rogers was a member of the first graduating class (1857) of F.H.S., and went on to become a successful industrialist and entrepreneur. He built a state-of-the-art high school in 1906 and frequently returned home to check on the facility’s progress during the one year that it took to build the school.
According to Foster, the granite was mined from deposits located near Fort Phoenix and carried by teams of horses to the building site.
Foster told the group that after a period of dormancy, an alumni group was restarted by Mary Battaini (’36), who lead the association until he took over the group in 1998.
When it was revived, the mission of the F.H.S. Alumni Association revolved around the restoration of Fairhaven High School’s interior, which was starting to show signs of disrepair. During the 1980s and 1990s, the alumni group was responsible for the restoration of Room 7, then a large classroom often used as a homeroom or study hall and now used for testing and instruction.
According to Foster, when the building opened in 1906, the industrialist wanted a beautiful large classroom that would encourage learning.
During the tour, several alumni recalled many years ago not having time to run to their basement lockers between classes so they kept their belongings in their large roll top desks and then ran down the hall or upstairs to the second floor. A few graduates also chuckled when they mentioned having to go to detention in Room 7, a room synonymous with detention.
Foster invited the guests to visit “The Principal’s Office” and “Mrs. Martin’s Office” and also told the participants about the school's impressive architecture and impressive features, which include hand-carved chalkboards, and detailed, ornate ceilings made of limestone.
“I still see things that I didn’t see before,” he added.
Other highlights of the historic building are the original stained glass windows and the Knipe Auditorium, a round, two-story facility once used as a gymnasium that now serves as the Bernard Roderick Library/Media Center.
Foster will offer building tours on consecutive Fridays July 7 and July 14, both at 10 a.m., in the high school rotunda. He also offers walking hours about the history of Henry Huttleston Rogers on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m., starting from the Town Hall, 40 Center Street, weather permitting. The tour will include stops at the Millicent Library and Town Hall.