Breathing New Life into an Old Building

Marblehead Veterans Middle School
Marblehead, Massachusetts

Entering the new millennia, the Town of Marblehead began reconsidering the adequacy of its public schools. Like any good municipality, it sought to provide its children with learning environments capable of delivering the best in modern-day education. However, it faced a significant obstacle: Many of its school buildings were firmly rooted in the past. 

The Town commissioned SMMA to develop a master plan that would provide actionable steps toward modernizing its K-12 educational facilities, ushering its school system into the 21st Century.

Our plan, which considered all grades, ultimately called for the renovation and conversion of the former high school into an “upper middle” school, serving grades 7 and 8.


Originally constructed in 1913, with successive additions over time, Veterans Middle School retained substantial value in its prominent, centrally located site; 700-seat performing arts center; and large gymnasium complex. Less appropriate were its undersized classrooms, small library, and basement cafeteria. 

Right-Sizing the Design

SMMA’s design for the renovated facility called for outmoded sections of the building to be demolished and replaced with appropriately sized classrooms, as well as spaces for team teaching and small-group learning.

The handsomely decorated original library—which had become closed in, following successive building additions—was expanded and relocated to the building’s perimeter, with faithful replications of its earlier architectural motifs. Similarly, we relocated the cafeteria on an exterior wall, allowing for easy access from the school’s new main entrance and arrival plaza.

SMMA’s design also called for the complete replacement of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, as well as, for the first time, incorporation of technology infrastructure throughout—integral to the overall rejuvenation of the building.

Linking the Past & Present

A new building facade of red brick, stone trim, and multi-faceted windows echoes the historic character of the original 1913 building, which enters its second century of service to the Marblehead community. The preservation of historic buildings is important, not only from a sustainability perspective, but from a cultural one. The outcome we achieved with the Veterans Middle School ensures that many future generations will be able to enjoy a building woven into the Town’s rich historical fabric, celebrating the past while looking ahead to the future.

Click below to read more about the importance of building preservation in New England.

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