Mather Elementary School

1 Parish Street, Dorchester

Mather School, 1905. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Mather is the oldest public elementary and the first tax-supported school in the United States. It was founded in 1639 near the corner of what are today Cottage Street and Pleasant Street as a one-room schoolhouse. It remained there until 1694, when it moved about a half mile to Winter Street (the site of a fire station today) atop Meetinghouse Hill, Dorchester’s highest point–just yards from the school’s present location. It was then that the school was named after Richard Mather (Increase Mather’s father and Cotton Mather’s grandfather), a Congregational minister who settled in Dorchester in 1635. It is unclear when girls first attended the school, but in 1784, the town of Dorchester voted to allow females to do so and provide for their education.

In 2014, the Mather School marked its 375th birthday. Today, it is a school of great diversity, with students of African American, Cape Verdean, Haitian, Irish, and Vietnamese backgrounds. With many recently immigrated students of Vietnamese descent with limited English proficiency, the school runs a Vietnamese Sheltered Instruction program. 

The Mather is today housed in a building constructed in 1905. There is a beautiful view of the harbor and much of the city from the school’s grounds.

Getting there:

Red Line to Fields Corner station. 0.7 mile (15-minute) walk.

Nearby point of interest:

First Parish Church Dorchester (established in 1631, Unitarian Universalist), 10 Parish Street. The congregation, which founded the Mather School, has had a church on Meetinghouse Hill since the 1670s. The current building was constructed in 1897.

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