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.

Rewarding Work book


A History of Boston's North Bennet Street School

Learn more about the history of NBSS in this engaging account of how the School provided new immigrants with the skills they need to flourish in America, and how after 138 years, the impact of NBSS can be felt around the globe. Click here to purchase.

Images courtesy Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Locksmithing program begins.


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


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


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


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


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.


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


Continuing Education program established.


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


Day Care Program moves to North End Union.


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


Cindy Stone resigns. Walter McDonald appointed Acting Director.


Miguel Gómez Ibáñez CF ’99 hired as President.


A pilot program for manual skills training for John Eliot School middle-school students begins. Partnership of a Furniture Design Certificate program with MassArt begins.


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


NBSS submits a bid for surplus city buildings on North Street. The bid is accepted and design development begins. Construction begins in December. Partnership with Boston Public Schools to tune/repair pianos begins.


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.


Lives & Livelihoods Scholarship Campaign begins with goal of $20M for the School’s endowment.


Partnership begins with Boston’s Madison Park Technical Vocational High School students and with Dorchester Youth Collaborative. Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development awards NBSS a Neighborhood Jobs Trust grant, and the School also receives a Workforce Skills Cabinet grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.


The School receives second NJT grant from the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development. NBSS receives Massachusetts Cultural Facilities funding for the third time.


Partnership begins with middle school students at the Donald McKay K-8 School.
Lives & Livelihoods Campaign
concludes with over $20M in gifts.
Miguel Gómez Ibáñez CF ’99 retires as President. Sarah Turner hired as the next President.