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Chinese Historical Society of New England Preserving Important Boston Landmark
The Josiah Quincy School (JQS), founded in 1847, was the first school in the country to separate classes by grade level and to provide individual desks for students. Although the school relocated in 1976, JQS has catered to the city’s immigrant communities for 170 years. These demographics reflect American immigration patterns, as well as that of the dense Boston neighborhood in which the school is located.
By the mid-20th century, Asians made up a majority of the school’s population. After the original building was vacated by JQS, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of New England acquired the site from the city in 1983. It is now used as a community center for Chinatown groups, including family associations and cultural organization—extending the building’s local history into the present day.
CHSNE hopes to memorialize this important focal point of Boston’s Asian American history by having it listed on the National Register. CHSNE has provided a detailed history of Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans in the city as part of its nomination package, and the society continues to research the history of the school, neighborhood, and local residents.
National Register designations honor more than 90,000 historically significant structures across the country, yet less than one-tenth of a percent of the sites mention Asian Americans. Most of those are concentrated in California and Hawaii.
The preservation community is beginning to take notice of New England’s Asian American history, however. In 2015, the Department of the Interior awarded an Under Represented Community Grant to the Massachusetts Historical Commission, in partnership with CHSNE, and the original Quincy Grammar School building in Boston is soon to be the first site in the state listed on the National Register for its connection to Asian American history.
CHSNE believes that local preservation efforts such as this benefit all Americans—residents, tourists, and people who might never visit such sites in person—and that inclusion on the National Register honors the past by making it more accessible to the present.
The nomination and context study are available for viewing and comments through May 31 at www.chsne.org/nr.
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