Renovation Now Complete for Boston’s 300-Year-Old Eliot School

By Lisa Kopochinski

BOSTON—A $15 million renovation project for Eliot Innovation School—the oldest continuously operating school in the United States—was completed in September.

The school—which serves students in grades PK- through 8— now has a dedicated middle school facility which is located at 585 Commercial Street. Eliot School has been located in the North End for its entire history and was originally opened as the North Writing School in 1713 educating many famous Bostonians, including Samuel Adams and Paul Revere.

“I am thrilled to celebrate the opening of a new Eliot School building,” said Boston Mayor Martin Walsh. “This school is a big part of the North End’s history and will remain the heart and soul of this community for decades to come. Thank you to all our partners who made this possible.”

Finegold Alexander Architects served as the design architect and architect of record. The project team included: Daniel O’Connell’s Sons (Contractor); RSE Associates (Structural Engineer); RW Sullivan Engineering (MEP/FP Engineer & Code); Bryant Associates (Civil Engineer); Copley Wolff Design Group (Landscape Architect); Acentech (Acoustics); Sladen Feinstein Integrated Lighting (Lighting); Crabtree McGrath Associates, Inc. (Food Service); Kalin Associates (Specifications); Bourne Consulting Engineering (Environmental & Permitting); Fuss & O’Neill (Hazardous Materials); McPhail Associates (Geotechnical Consulting); and Tavares Design Associates (FF&E Consultant)

“The Eliot Innovation School offers students a truly unique experience,” said Rebecca Berry, president, Finegold Alexander Architects.

“The waterfront location affords harbor, Zakim Bridge and USS Constitution views, with the Freedom Trail steps from the front door connecting students to their natural and historical environment and significantly enhancing the learning experience.”

The Eliot K-8 School now consists of three facilities, all in the North End. The Lower School, located at 16 Charter Street, serves pre-K, Kindergarten and first-grade students; the Intermediate School at 173 Salem Street serves students in grades 2-4; and the recently completed Upper School at 585 Commercial Street serves students in grades 5-8.

The renovations of both the Commercial Street and Salem Street locations were designed by Finegold Alexander Architects.

Construction began in 2017 on the school at 585 Commercial Street. The new, 42,000-square-foot school facility features a digital art studio, technology classroom with robotics lab and laser cutter, media center, and 18 new classrooms that promote collaborative learning. The building features eight brightly colored projecting bays, which create “learning nooks” geared for small group instruction and collaborative learning. Exterior upgrades include a new schoolyard with play structure, new sidewalks, and an accessible entry.

“Every student deserves access to a 21st-century education and Boston Public Schools is committed to providing all of our youth with safe, joyful and innovative learning environments,” said Boston Public School Superintendent Brenda Cassellius.

“This is an exciting time for the Eliot School, and demonstrates the immense value and strength of coordinated community engagement and collaboration for the benefit of our children.”

Many of the building’s features promote sustainability and resiliency, including a new reflective roof, high R-Value insulation at the new building envelope, and glazing that maximizes natural light. Mechanical improvements include a new electrical service located at the second floor for climate resilience, a new fire protection system, and 98% efficient boilers.

The school was designed to meet LEED Silver V4 for schools’ standards. The cafeteria accommodates the My Way Cafe school meals program, which provides students with fresh, healthy food options. The building features a multi-purpose space that may be utilized by the community.

The new campus is located on the Harborwalk and is a short distance to public parks and all of the historic North End, with nearby MBTA access via North Station. The two other Eliot School campuses are also within walking distance, with students frequently traveling from one building to the others throughout the school day.

Eliot’s 730 students are evenly distributed among the three school buildings, with the Upper School currently serving nearly 250 students. The Eliot School has experienced renewal under Principal Traci Walker Griffith’s 12 years of leadership, transforming the school into a thriving, deeply connected K-8 school community.

“The opening of the new Upper School is a true testament to our community’s and the City of Boston’s belief in public education and commitment to the Eliot School’s expansion,” said Principal Walker Griffith. “As the proud principal of the Eliot School, I am forever grateful for a community deeply rooted in the mission that a great education can transform students’ lives.”