NBSS was founded in 1881 as North Bennet Street Industrial School. Our founding mission was to enable immigrants to adjust to their new country by learning the skills needed for gainful employment.

In the past, we've offered a variety of vocational training courses, such as pottery, printing, sewing, sheet metal work, and watch repair. Though our programs may have changed, we retain our core commitment to train individuals for employment using time-honored methods and skills.

Since its founding, NBSS has contributed to the character of Boston as a city that cares about its neighborhoods, the education of its citizens, and the vibrancy of its culture. Through various social services, like childhood education, recreational activities, and pre-vocational and trade training, we’ve helped generations of Boston’s immigrants make productive lives in their new homeland.

1881

The associated charities volunteers established the North End Industrial Home to serve immigrants in the North End. Early programs taught women skills for employment, paid them for piece work and provided social services. Programs such as the Saturday Evening Girls’ Club grew out of reading and discussion groups held in the Boston Public Library branch at the school.

Founding visionary Pauline Agassiz Shaw developed and funded dozens of kindergarten classes and Boston’s first day nurseries for preschool children. The kindergartens were followed by other recreational and vocational programs including libraries, reading rooms and a gymnasium. Parallel and mutually reinforcing manual skills training and social service departments emerge.

1885

The Board of Managers raised enough funds to purchase the building. Pauline Agassiz Shaw becomes President of the Board and serves until 1915. In response to neighborhood children not attending school or finishing school, Shaw contracted with the Boston Public Schools (BPS) to provide manual training classes for 300 students. By 1902, 900 students were engaged in manual arts education 5-6 hours per week. In 1891, manual arts was a requirement in the BPS. The BPS rented equipment and classrooms at NBSS until 1937.

1902

By the early 1900s, the rising rate of immigration caused the school’s Board to create more systematic ways of helping newcomers settle in America. The School’s role as a settlement house and the hiring of Zelda Brown as head resident formalized the social service role, creating social service house and much-needed efficiencies.

1907

The Board hired Alvin E. Dodd, the first trained administrator to lead NBSS. To better serve the community and maintain both the manual training and social service programs, Dodd divided the school into departments, established after-work programs and expanded the services provided by Social Service House including a savings society and offices for the local probation officer, the animal rescue league and a physician.

1909

The school formalized vocational training classes and started English classes for immigrants. By 1911, 28 salaried teachers and 55 volunteers served more than 1100 students. George Greener was hired to run the Ceramics department.

1915

George Greener became the Director. Caddy Camps were established to enable inner city boys to spend the summer working in the country where they earned tips, benefited from the fresh air and exercise and learned from the golfers, many of whom were professional lawyers, doctors and businessmen. The camps run until 1983.

Social service programs developed over the next ten years included a jobs counseling department, testing pre-vocational students and playschool for habit training.

1920

Social service credit union established. Greener began dual programs — handmade craft (homespun) and power machine operators — traditional crafts and skills for jobs. Post WWI, Greener introduced programs for veterans including Watch Repair, Cabinet Making, House Framing, Printing and Jewelry Engraving.

1947

Ernest Jacoby hired. Greener and Jacoby introduced trade courses, many of which continue to be offered by the School: Cabinet & Furniture Making, Jewelry Making & Engraving, Carpentry, and Piano Technology.

1960

In the 1960s, programs for North End youth were established — after-school programs, outreach workers, sports, and recreational classes. 1964 Social Service House became the George C. Greener memorial building, housing the nursery school.

1976

Locksmithing program begins

1979

First attempt at accreditation with National Association of Trade & Technical Schools.

1981

Accreditation by National Association of Trade & Technical Schools approved. “Industrial” dropped from School name. Last classes of Camera Repair & Offset Printing.

1983

Start of Violin Making & Repair program. Focus on traditional trades and crafts.

1985

100th anniversary of the School. The clock is installed and dedicated.

1986

Bookbinding and Preservation Carpentry programs begin. Settlement House program moves to North End Union allowing the school to focus on professional training programs. Last classes of Watch Repair & Clock Repair.

1987

First School catalog published. First graduation at Old North Church.

1991

Continuing Education program established.

1992

Tim Williams retires. Cindy Stone hired as the new Executive Director.

1993

Day Care Program moves to North End Union.

2004

Carpentry and Preservation Carpentry programs move to new facilities in Arlington.

2005

Cindy Stone resigns. Walter McDonald appointed Acting Director.

2006

Miguel Gómez Ibáñez hired as Executive Director.

2010

A pilot program for manual skills training for John Eliot School middle-school students begins.

2011

Locksmithing & Security Technology moves to South Boston. Two rooms at NBSS become specialized classrooms for John Eliot School.

2012

NBSS submits a bid for surplus city buildings on North Street. The bid is accepted and design development begins. Construction begins in December.

2013

The year is filled with intense activity and construction at the new building site. The School and all nine of its programs move under one roof — to the new facility at 150 North Street — on September 9.




Photo Gallery

A selection of photos of students working, various bookbinding processes and finished work.

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