Maria Clark Grammar School

An article from the series celebrating Hallowell’s 250th Anniversary, as published in the Capital Weekly on February 10, 2012

by Janis Cross

Who was Maria Clark for whom the school was named? She was born in 1807 and the great granddaughter of Deacon Pease Clark who was the first settler of Hallowell in 1762. She was also the sister of Eliza Clark Lowell who so generously gave the money to build our present Hallowell City Hall. Maria bequeathed $6000 to help build the grammar school.

Emma Huntington Nason in her book OLD HALLOWELL ON THE KENNEBEC, wrote the following: “At a reception at the Vaughan Homestead after the dedication of the new City Hall on July 15, 1899, Maria Clark was a distinguished guest. She was described as a bright-eyed, animated, youthful old lady. In her straight old fashioned gown, her little black shoulder length cape, and queer indescribable bonnet she was the center of reverent and loving attention.”

The school was completed in 1903, nearly four years after the death of Maria Clark on Christmas Day in 1899. The building was large enough to incorporate the various grades scattered over the city and, at the same time saving the taxpayers a great deal of money. There were two floors with the fourth through the sixth grades on the first and seventh and eighth on the second. My two brothers and I attended Maria Clark.

Students entered the school building through two doors. The girls lined up to pass through the right door and the boys did the same on the left side. Fooling in line could get you some time after school keeping the teacher company. The fifth grade had several double seats. They would have been a great challenge to many teachers, but not our fifth grade one. All it took was one look from her and any talking or fooling ceased immediately–or else!

The school had no cafeteria or gym. Students who didn’t live closely enough to go home at noon had to bring their lunch. Students who lived on the Vaughan Road as far out as Scott Cowger’s B&B walked to school unless they were lucky enough to get a ride from someone passing by. The same was true for those living at Loudon Hill.

Though there was no gym, the boys in grades 6-8 practiced and played basketball for Maria Clark at the YMCA against the Augusta Grammar School League. In the spring, they played baseball against area grammar schools. The teams were strongly supported by Hallowell families and fans.

A 15 minute recess in the morning and afternoon substituted for our gym back in those days. The 7th and 8th grade girls looked forward to playing softball while the boys were into baseball or throwing around a football. Our only spectators were cows from the Vaughan Farm lined up behind a wire fence. Winter didn’t provide us much to do out doors except fresh air. When I was in the 8th grade, the class didn’t see much of any season outside for recess. We had a great little lady who was both teacher and principal, but didn’t have a lot of discipline and the boys took advantage of it. However, instead of punishing the guilty ones we all lost our recesses. We girls were not very happy with our male friends. They were great fellows and now just about all have passed away.

In 1947, two rooms were added on to Maria Clark. After the new Hall-Date High School opened in 1962, the building no longer served as a grammar school. Classes for special needs students and the office of the superintended were located there. In December of 1985, the Hallowell Planning Board gave approval to a contractor to renovate the building into apartments. Today, the 108 year old brick building at 83-85 Middle Street houses seven condos.

A picture of Maria Clark hung in the school for many years. If anyone knows if it still exists, we would like to have it back.

I have enjoyed working on this subject because I have learned information I didn’t know about Maria Clark. I am honored to call Maria and Eliza my cousins since they did so much for Hallowell.