Maria Baldwin School - stained glass windows

Maria Baldwin School - stained glass windows

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The Baldwin School, formerly the Agassiz School, was renovated in 1995. Architects were able to salvage and re-use some of the architectural elements of the original school in the new school -- the old front doors, wainscoting, and beams.

But the school and the community wanted to something special, something creative and artistic that would lend a personal touch to the new building.

Eight mouth-blown European glass windows in the stairwell at the Baldwin school represent the Agassiz students at the time of the renovation, and the natural and cultural history of Cambridge.


In 1874 the City of Cambridge decided its children needed a school. There were eight classrooms, forty-two kids in each classroom!

It became a prestigious school, sons and daughters of Harvard Professors and children of notable old Cambridge families attended. Twelve teachers had 412 students in kindergarten through 8th grade. All the students were white.

The teachers were white except for one, Maria Baldwin. In 1889 she became the first African American principal in Massachusetts.

In 1916 the school expanded and renovated, and Maria Baldwin went from being principal to being "Master" (sort of equivalent to Superintendent).


Maria Baldwin graduated from Cambridge High School, went through the Cambridge city teacher training program, and was hired as a teacher at Agassiz in 1882 at Agssiz. In 1889 she was promoted to principal, the first African American woman in Massachusetts to attain such a position.

She was principal from 1889 to 1916, and then "Master" until her death in 1922.

In 1917 WEBDubois honored her as "man of the month", and he eulogized her when she died.

EE Cummings' father enrolled him in the Agassiz school in 1904 specifically because of Maria Baldwin's reputation.

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Artist Nancy Gutkin O'Neil is a stained glass public artist from rural Maine. She recently opened a second studio in New Orleans.

She made these windows for the renovation and rededication of the school in 1996.

The eight windows depict elements from the natural and cultural history of Cambridge, the words that are pinted on the backgrounds of each panel are "hope" "dream" "imagine" written in the languages and handwriting of Agassiz children.


Go on a treasure hunt. Go look at the windows and find:

* Maria Baldwin, former principal of this school and one of the first African American principals in the country
* Map of old Cambridge
* Celestial map from 1776
* Tree
* Algonquin wampum belt
* Astrolabe (an ancient instrument used to measure altitudes of heavenly bodies)
* Computer image of patterns representing chaos
* Map showing the northeastern United States attached to Africa
* Architect's blueprint of a door
* 1640 Cambridge map showing a stockade
* Tracks of local animal species


All right Margaret and Maria!
Great piece on the Baldwin school. It gave great background and insight into the old AGASSIZ and new Baldwin headquarters. I also enjoyed the ZipDocs video - I'll take the class soon because of it!!
Thanks for the Herstory
Be Journalistic

Hey Bee! thanks! Karen did an amazing amount of work on that too! It was a really good story and Maria Baldwin sounds like an amazing person!
Margaret Desjardins
NeighborMedia 02138