Blackinton, now part of North Adams, was one of many communities experiencing dramatic change in the age of industrialization in the mid-nineteenth century. As the economy grew, so too did the population. Residents needed homes to live in, places to work, shops for goods and services and with the influx of immigrant workers to the growing city, they especially needed schools for their children.
The Archer School was named for Sanford Blackinton’s bookkeeper, Oscar Archer. Archer was hired in 1856 to help with the day-to-day operations of the thriving Blackinton Mill and would become Blackinton’s nephew by marriage. Oscar Archer played a very active role both in the business and in the community where the Archer School was founded. He had been educated and taught school in New York before arriving in the Berkshires. He was described as “an emblem of change for the mill.”
A member of the North Adams School Board for more than 25 years, he was instrumental in establishing the Blackinton Free Library in 1859, where he served as librarian. He and his wife Helen, daughter of John R. Blackinton, had six children. Archer died in 1919 at the age of 89.
The Blackinton Union School was founded in 1873, by a special act of the legislature. The two story structure was built at a cost of $10,000, adjacent to the Blackinton Union Church. In 1885 it had approximately 275 pupils.
Archer, a strong advocate for education, saw the founding of the school as a great benefit to the community, and in 1916 the school was renamed in his honor.
In the late 1940s, concerns about the cost of repairs to the building resulted in the closure of the school. Although the building itself no longer stands, the legacy it left behind stands as a testament to the idea that education should accompany industrialization.