SALISBURY — The sounds of “America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee)” rang out just behind Maple Street on Wednesday afternoon, a century to the day after the name of the Rev. Jacob F. Spalding became familiar to local schoolchildren.
The 16-classroom Central School was built and designed in 1917 for $40,000 and was later renamed Spalding School in honor of Spalding on Oct. 6, 1921.
The original bronze lettering carrying Spalding’s name was dedicated to the school on that day 100 years ago. The building is now YWCA Greater Newburyport’s The Residences at Salisbury Square affordable housing complex.
Selectmen, Town Manager Neil Harrington, state Rep. Jim Kelcourse, R-Amesbury, and former Selectman Fred Knowles came together in front of the former school building Wednesday afternoon to rededicate it in Spalding’s name.
Knowles said the Board of Selectmen named the school after Spalding after a successful citizen petition effort signed by more than 500 town residents
“Dr. Spalding was getting quite old at 80 years old at this point in his life in 1921,” Knowles said. “And Mrs. Francis Pettengill, another Salisbury name, thought it would be fitting.”
Spalding’s descendants were also in attendance Wednesday, including great-great-grandson Bob Frothingham.
“He was a great man,” Frothingham said. “I’m pretty proud of him. I never knew him but my dad talked about him a lot.”
Spalding played many roles in Salisbury, serving as a doctor, minister, Anna Jaques Hospital trustee and School Committee member.
“I have a picture of him with a horse and buggy back when he was a doctor on my wall,” Frothingham said.
Historical Commission Vice Chair Connie Hellwig said Spalding was remarkable.
“As pastor, he prayed with us, seeing to our spiritual welfare,” Hellwig said. “Later, taking on the study of medicine, he tended to the ill and the injured. Caring for our spiritual well-being as well as our physical well-being.”
Harrington said the former Central and Spalding School still carries a lot of meaning to many people in town.
“Rather than lose this to the wrecking ball, I think that the YWCA and all of the folks who were involved in converting this into affordable housing have done a wonderful job,” Harrington said. “It is important, at least in my mind, to retain as many meaningful structures in town as possible, particularly in historic communities like Salisbury.”
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.