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In Newburyport, one noticeable theme over the decades has been that the smaller schools have given way to larger, better-equipped structures that can provide new approaches to education, leaving properties available for use by local organizations and sometimes for purchase by developers.


That history is playing out in the present day. The Kelley School on High Street, built in 1872, is the second oldest school in the state. It originally served as an elementary school before being used as an after-school drop-in center for Newburyport Youth Services in 2008.


The former Kelley School, which has been empty since 2014, was then purchased by real estate development firm Diamond/Sinacori LLC of Boston. The historic building is currently being converted into 10 gorgeous luxury condominiums that will retain the historical architectural assets of the stately brick structure.


“The land was purchased in 1872 from Henry Toppan and the overall appearance of the building is one of a sturdy, tall and distinctive school house,” according to program notes written by Betsy H. Woodman to honor the school in 1987.


Records at the archival center at the public library show that in 1851, the city had 27 schools. The Kelley School was named after the then-mayor, Dr. Elbridge Gerry Kelley, “a man born in 1812, and who served as the city’s first dentist, as well as being a gentleman farmer and politician.” Kelley served only briefly as mayor, but the school named in his honor would go on to become one of the oldest continuously operating school buildings in the state.

The Kelley School was designed by renowned Architect Rufus Sargent 1812-1886 (descendent of 1st settlers of Newbury). His other notable designs in Newburyport are The Institution for Savings and The O’Brien Building on State Street and St. Anna’s Chapel at St Paul’s Episcopal Church on High Street. 


The Kelley School’s North Faced placard will remain “1872 Kelley School” locking in the project’s name for The Condominiums at The Kelley School.


Original blueprints are available Newburyport City Archives Lot 6-6.

Interior photos by Chris Wren

Class photos from the Newburyport City Archives at the Newburyport Public Library

Source: The Daily News, Newburyport

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