A Tale of Two Schools: Mason-Rice Elementary
Tracking the course of the Mason-Rice School's history goes all the way back to 1852.
Built in 1959, the Mason-Rice School is one of Newton's fifteen public elementary schools. Sitting on the edge of the Newton Centre Playground, it is also one of four elementary schools in Newton Centre alone.
But the history of this school stretches back much farther in time than its current building. Opening in 1852, the original Mason School was built as both a grammar school and a high school. It was named for David Haven Mason, a Newtonian who served as U.S. Attorney General under President Ulysses S. Grant.
There are no pictures of the original Mason School building, which was destroyed by fire in 1869. A second Mason School was constructed in 1870 to replace the original school. This wooden structure was located on Centre Street. In 1901, a new Mason School, also located on Centre Street, was built to replace the second building.
The Rice School was built in 1870 to relieve overcrowding at the nearby Mason School. Originally called the Newton Centre Primary School, it was renamed in 1886 in honor of Marshall Spring Rice, a Newton resident who served as Town Clerk for over 27 years.
Marshall Rice had run a boarding school for boys from his home up until 1848. He was also on the committee to organize the Newton Free Library, was surveyor of the land on which the Newton Cemetery was built and was a major benefactor of the Methodist church in Newton Upper Falls. The Rice School was used up until 1959 and at that time was the oldest public building still in use in Newton.
In 1956, the Mason-Rice Parent Teacher Association published a pamphlet that detailed the inadequacies of the Mason and Rice schools and argued strongly for the need a build a new, joint Mason-Rice school to serve the children of Newton Centre.
In the pamphlet the group asked, "Can Newton point with pride to the Rice School…to the Mason School?"
They detailed the problems with each school in this pamphlet. The Rice School at that time was the only wooden school house still in use in the city, was located in a busy area with a great deal of traffic and had no automatic sprinkler system above the basement level.
The Mason School, on the other hand, was located in an island surrounded by heavy traffic, had an open stairwell and children had to share playground space with parked cars. Neither school had a proper gymnasium, and children at the Mason School had their physical education classes in the basement during the winter months.
The group's demands were heard, and in 1959 the new Mason-Rice School opened.
The current Mason-Rice School has been serving Newton children with their mission to work hard, love learning, think creatively, be responsible, and respect themselves and others; it is much beloved by current and former students alike.