The building of Johnson School began in 1896 and it was completed the following year. When it officially opened in September 1897, 313 students entered its doors. Grade 6 (41 students) and grade 5 (83 students) were each divided into two rooms apiece; grade 4 (45 students), grade 3 (47 students), grade 2 (49 students) and grade 1 (48 students) each had one room. (Can you imagine one teacher for that many students?)
The original estimated cost for the school was about $35,000. The final cost was $50,857.51. The structure was made with red brick and trimmed with Long Meadow sandstone. The first and second floor had four classrooms each and the third floor held a larger room for assemblies. There were also two dressing rooms “for the use of scholars” whenever they “gave any entertainments”. The principal’s office and teachers’ lounge was on the second floor. The “sanitary rooms” were wainscoted with slate and the floors had marble tile. The school rooms were finished with North Carolina Pine. The first principal was Mary A. Hathaway who was paid $18.00 a week.
In 1924 the school expanded with an addition of an annex. This portion of the school had a distinctly different outer look to it from the rest of the building. Its windows framed 15 squares of glass while the main building’s windows had only 4 panes each. The annex held the cafeteria which also doubled at the gymnasium. To handle increased numbers of students, classrooms were also expanded into the basement several years later.
Johnson School, the last of the city’s 14 neighborhood schools, closed after 98 years in 1995. At its closing the school had 272 students and 13 faculty members. About a year later, Mayor Barrett penned an agreement which allowed Head Start to use the school as its home base. The school continued to be used as an alternative school as well.