Collection Location: Baltimore County Public Library, Reisterstown Room, Reisterstown, Maryland
Collection Overview: This collection from the Baltimore County Public Library’s Reisterstown Room contains a selection of items related to Franklin High School in Reisterstown, Maryland and spans its history from a private academy to a public high school. Included in the collection are photographs, commencement programs, postcards, early yearbooks, diplomas, and artifacts.
Franklin Academy, named for Benjamin Franklin, was established January 10, 1820, as a private boys’ school of liberal arts when the General Assembly of Maryland appointed nine trustees and awarded them $400 for the creation of the academy. Classes were held in a private residence, but quickly the town recognized the need for a dedicated schoolhouse. Funds were raised by public subscription, donations of materials and labor, and a political barbeque. By 1826 the students occupied a new building. A cupola was added to house the school bell, which is currently located at the present Franklin High School. The bell is rung on the first day of school to mark the beginning of each school year.
In the early years, Franklin Academy students paid tuition and could choose from three academic paths: Classical ($25 yearly), Mathematical ($16), and Rudimentary ($12). Franklin Academy was one of few schools of its kind in the greater area, and a number of students came from far distances and had to board in town during the week. In 1831, Edgar Allan Poe applied to be a teacher here, but his application was not accepted by the trustees. In 1847 the first “female teacheress” was hired and by 1849, there was one female student in attendance.
In 1847, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation creating public schools in Baltimore County, and two years later the County School Commissioners rented the building. It wasn’t until 1874 that the school facilities, having greatly deteriorated, were turned over to Baltimore County. The following year, the school was renovated, remodeled, and enlarged. The school was then referred to as Reisterstown High School. In 1896, when a ninth grade was added, the name was changed again, this time to Franklin High School, which it remains today.
As Reisterstown grew, so did the need for a bigger school. In 1905, students attended class in a brand new schoolhouse across Cockey’s Mill Road, constructed where the present middle school addition stands. This was followed by a 1914 addition, doubling the structure in size. In 1930, another high school opened to serve the booming area, this one costing over one-quarter of a million dollars and touted as “Baltimore County’s most modern and best-equipped educational plant.” It still stands today as the middle school. By the early 1950s, it became apparent that the area was growing rapidly, and the answer to the increased school population and the aging of the earlier buildings was the construction of the present Franklin High School. It opened in 1960 and was followed by the southern addition in 2000.
The old Academy building sat idle for many years, but eventually was refurbished to serve as a school bus garage and later as the high school’s agricultural department, housing poultry and pigs. Since 1961 it has served as the Reisterstown branch of the Baltimore County Public Library.
The Reisterstown Room is open to researchers for a limited number of hours each week and by appointment. Visits may be scheduled by calling 410-887-1165.
Collection overview by Ann O’Neill, Librarian, Reisterstown branch of the Baltimore County Public Library.