School is Out for Summer…. But Before You Go…

Without a second glance students, teachers, faculty, and staff have high tailed it out of school and are off to enjoy summer vacation. Another school year in the books! But before school becomes a fleeting memory, have you ever thought about Ashland’s school namesakes? Some of our readers might remember that the school’s in Ashland were named after the street they were located on; Central Street School, Fruit Street School, and Concord Street School (just to a name a few). Eventually, the names would change to honor prominent Ashland citizens; Henry E. Warren, David Mindess, and William Pittaway- but who were they?

Henry E. Warren, was an inventor. He wanted to make a clock that used electricity over battery or mechanical power. To do this he would need to make accurate electrical timekeeping by inventing a new form of a self starting synchronous motor that would turn the clock gears by counting cycles of the power supply, accurately, and over an extended period of time. He also had to adjust for frequency drifts; at this time, power companies did not keep a steady current. Piece of cake! So he invented a master clock for the power stations as a way to indicate errors in the frequency. He convinced Edison Electric to install a master clock in their Boston plant – which became the industry standard. Basically, in 1916 Warren was able to figure out how to control AC currents, with accuracy, to power a clock. But that’s not all, he had over 135 patents in his life-time.

Mr. Warren moved his converted barn workshop at his home on Chestnut Street to the Lombard building #10 on Main Street! The Warren Clock Company eventually became Telechron and moved to Homer/Union. The Fruit Street School was renamed in his honor.

William Pittaway was born in Ironbridge, Shropshire, England on November 6, 1886. Mr. Pittaway attended Boston University, and graduated in 1914. He fought for England as a gunner in WWI. His service brought him to the Suez Canal, Gibraltar, and India. After returning from service, he became the Submaster at North Yarmouth Academy in Yarmouth, Maine and coached Hockey and baseball.
Mr. Pittaway would make his way to Ashland, where he taught physics, chemistry, and mathematics. He would later become the principal at Ashland High School in 1919. This is where he met his wife,  Ada Pitman. Pitman was the principal of the 7th and 8th grade school. They lived at 6 Clyde Road in Ashland. After many years working together, Mr. and Mrs. Pittaway retired- if you can call it that… After their retirement, they continued to tutor homebound children, they substituted when needed, and volunteered for many groups in the area.

The Central Street school, was renamed in his honor at a dedication ceremony on May 8, 1974.

David Mindess was born in 1925 in Chelsea, MA. After he graduated high school he enlisted in the Navy and became a radioman in Panama during WWII. After serving in the military he returned to Massachusetts and continued his education. Attending Northeastern, Boston University and Harvard, Dr. Mindess received his PhD in Education. In 1950, he moved to Ashland and taught business classes. He would eventually become Principal, then Assistant Superintendent, and finally Superintendent! Steve Leacue spoke with Mindess’ daughter, Karen (Mindess) Waldstein, in the June, 2017 Directions. Karen said that Dr. Mindess saw kids as individuals rather than as a group,often rolling up his sleeves and working one-on-one if necessary.

His accomplishments for the town’s education system include; being at the forefront of implementing the new education concept of a middle school, he obtained federal grants in Early Childhood Education, involved in Project Head Start and SMOC. He even co-authored a book on early childhood education with his wife Mary who taught at Lesley College.

Sadly, Dr. Mindess died at the age of 46. The Concord Street School was named in his honor. Although, it is an elementary school today, I remember it as town’s Middle School. Fitting for the man who pushed to make Ashland one of the first towns to implement the middle school concept.      

When you return to school in the fall, try to remember these great men who worked so hard to improve our town and daily life… There might even be a pop quiz! Happy Summer!

Jennifer Lecesse

Ashland Directions

June 2018


Maxine Rosen, Ashland Directions, December, 1978. Plus Pittaway photo credit
Steve Leacu, Ashland Directions, April 2015

Steve Leacu, Ashland Directions, June 2017

Photo credit for Mindess & Warren, from The Ashland Historical Society