With the completion of St. Francis of Assisi Church, members of the church, under the leadership Rev. Charles Burke, focused on a new goal of building a parish school. On September 6, 1886, the new school came to fruition under the direction and guidance of four Sisters of St. Joseph. The Hoosac Valley News stated there were 250 students, all girls, who began the new school year. The North Adams Transcript reported that 300 students transferred to the “new parochial school from the Union and Academy” (meaning the Union Street School and Drury Academy).
There were debates over what name the school should be called. Some proposed that name St. Francis Parochial School while others encouraged the idea that the school should be named after the Sisters of St. Joseph. In the end, Father Burke persuaded Bishop O’Reilly of Springfield that St. Joseph was the proper name.
The school’s enrollment continued to climb to about 500 students, boys and girls in the first few years. By 1921, St. Joseph’s roof, plumbing, and other areas needed major repairs and so talk of building a new school began. Through successful fundraising efforts, hard work and determination, the new St. Joseph’s school opened in 1929 with 10 sisters of St. Joseph and close to 550 students.
Hundreds of people visited the new school building when St. Francis held an open house on the Sunday before the school opened. They found well lighted and ventilated classrooms, 24 in all, and a modern heating system. Dedication ceremonies, led by Right Reverend Thomas M. O’Leary, the bishop of Springfield, was held about 1 month later.
Shortly after the new school opened, the “Old School” went through a series of upgrades, turning many of the rooms into meeting areas for The Knights of Columbus, The Ancient Order of Hibernians and other organizations. The gymnasium was given a new floor for banquets.
The school flourished as the 1900’s continued. There were debate teams, church and school sponsored Boy Scout troops and successful basketball teams.
By the early 1970’s however, St. Francis found it difficult to sustain St. Joseph’s School and as a result it was decided to close the educational facility at the end of the 1973-1974 school year. Many people of the parish were hurt and angry over this decision but the dye was cast.
Later in that decade, the school was refurbished for the purpose of becoming a congregate housing for the elderly. In March of 1983, the project was completed and about 600 people viewed the renovated school during the open house. The newly named St. Joseph’s Court has continued to this day as one of the best elderly housing structures in the city.
Adapted from a story for the North Adams Historical Society.