Reading Girl’s High School

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Original High School on 4th & Court – built in 1839 and demolished in 1895

The first school building at 4th and Court streets was originally built in 1839, and occupied by an all-boys private school called the Reading Academy until 1853, when the boys public school program began. In September of 1857, thirty-eight girls began attending classes in an upper room of the Boy’s Academy building. The boys and girls were kept separate for two years until coeducation began in August of 1859.

1895 built Girls School at 4th & Court
Auditorium of the Reading Girls High – 1912 [colorized]
Reading Girl's High School
View from the stage of the auditorium – 1912
Girls High School Library 1913

When the high school enrollment had reached the figure of 325 in 1881, board members decided to again abolish coeducation in the high schools. In the fall of 1881, the boys were transferred to temporary quarters at Eighth and Penn streets, while a new Boys’ High School was being built. The girls stayed in the building at 4th and Court Streets. The structure pictured above built for them opened in 1896.

March 27th, 1896 Reading Times
Sciences Lab – 1912

Paving the way for Women’s Education

In 1915 Reading Girl’s High School provided a course in the care of infants. This was one of the first courses of its kind offered in public schools in the state of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia School systems implemented a similar course the year after Reading.

Child Care courses at Reading Girls High School 1915

Laying the Cornerstone of the New Reading Senior High School Building

On June 12, 1926, officers of the grand lodge of Pennsylvania, Free and Accepted Masons, laid the cornerstone of Reading’s Cosmopolitan High at Thirteenth above Douglass. Full Masonic ceremonial was observed and the platform was filled with representatives of various Masonic bodies.

Reading High School
Grand Stand at the New Reading High School’s ceremonial cornerstone laying – June 12th 1926

At the direction of the grand master one of the officials placed a box in the stone. In the box, which was sealed, were copies of the minutes of the school board for 1925 and 1926, a school directory and names of the officials of the school district, an American flag, a Bible, copies of local papers, a set of present day postage stamps and coins of 1926.

Reading Cosmopolitan High School
The Cornerstone of the new Reading High School being laid during a ceremony – June 12th 1926

After the current Reading High School building was completed in 1927, coeducation was again practiced with males and females attending the same new building. The old Girl’s High School building became Southwest Junior High School for the Reading School District. The building served as Southwest Junior High until 1936 when the new Southwest building was constructed at 3rd and Chestnut. After that it went on to be a “special” school for the Reading School District, and was finally demolished in 1961.

Sources: Reading School District, History of Reading Book

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