James Hillhouse High School
150 Years Of Excellence
Calling All Hillhouse Alumni! All Class Reunion May 16, 2009
From the days of that first New England school-master, Ezekial Cheever, New Haven has been,as an early town report states, "celebrated for her schools as for her carriages." Phillip Galpin was the mayor when two years before the outbreak of the Civil War, New Haven's first public high school was established in May, 1859, at 137 Orange Street in the "Young Men's Institute," later known as the Palladium Building. It was called the Public High School and its student body consisted of thirty-nine boys and forty-nine girls; its faculty, of the principal, William Kinne, and three teachers. In 1863 the school was moved to the old Lancasterian Building at the corner of Orange and Wall streets.
Although from the beginning, the work in higher education, started in the old Eaton and Webster schools went on steadily and thoroughly, no formal course of study was adopted until 1870, when a full four-year high school course was arranged by the Board of Education. In April of the same year, the first graduation of students, the first granting of diplomas occurred. In 1871 the old building was razed, and a new building, named in honor of James Hillhouse, United States senator, treasurer of Yale College, and captain of the Governor's Footguards, was erected on the same site. The city's yearbook of 1874 states of this school, "Although there are eighteen rooms, with a capacity for seating a total of four hundred pupils. The building was erected at a cost, inclusive of land and furniture, of about $125,000."
Boardman Training School
Hillhouse High School remained in this building until 1903, when it was moved to a much larger school which . . . "standing in the eastern side of the park like enclosure, known as York Square . . . is at once close to the center of the city, and, therefore, easily accessible, and sufficiently removed from the noise and bustle of daily traffic to be well adapted for study . . ." In 1904 this school consolidated with the Boardman Manual Training School to become New Haven High School, although it was still popularly called Hillhouse. When, in 1920, Commercial High School was erected opposite Hillhouse on what was no longer the quiet York Square, but now the busy Tower Parkway, the commercial department offered at Hillhouse was removed from the school curriculum; in 1930 Boardman became the trade school, no longer a part of Hillhouse, although the latter still used some of the Boardman classrooms for practical art courses.
Until 1909, the high school accommodated the ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades, but for the next forty years, with the enrollment steadily increasing, the school went on double sessions, with the two lower classes attending the afternoon school. The largest senior class was the class of 1935, which totaled 1350 students. In 1949, both Hillhouse and Commercial became comprehensive high schools. The following year Hillhouse was rededicated James E. Hillhouse High School, and Commercial was renamed Wilbur L. Cross.
In the summer of 1955 Mayor Richard C. Lee brought about the sale of the high school buildings to Yale University and established educators' and citizens' committees for the purpose of planning two new high schools.
Work was begun on the new Hillhouse in October of 1956. The site was a ten-acre piece of land adjacent to Bowen Field. On September 8, 1958, with a total of 2,037 pupils, the school was opened. Now, one hundred and fifty years after the founding of the first public high in New Haven, one hundred fifty five students will graduate in the class of 2009.