The history of Westford Academy


Jackie Clay

Photos of all four WA buildings, past and present, in time order from left to right.

Jackie Clay, Staff Writer

Two centuries. Four buildings. The timeline of Westford Academy is incredibly fascinating, but students and even long-time residents do not know its deep history.

It all started in 1792, when a group of men met to forge the beginning of a school. Westford Academy was founded as a private school that year and classes were taught in the town Meeting House until the building was finished in 1794. The first class included 32 students, including 14 boys and five girls from Westford, as well as students from other nearby towns like Lexington and Carlisle. A house on Main Street was used as a dormitory for WA students. Students of any nationality, age, or sex were allowed, meaning both boys and girls were allowed from the beginning.

English, Latin, and Greek were all taught, as well as writing, math, and the art of public speaking. Geometry, logic, geography, and music were also offered as part of the curriculum.

Students had to be able to read the Bible and pay nine shillings per term. When dollars and cents were used for the first time to pay tuition in 1796, it cost $2.20 per term to attend. Tuition price changed over time; for the term ending on July 12, 1865, tuition was $5.

WA moved to its second location in what is now the William C. Roudenbush Community Center in 1897. At this time, the town paid the tuition to WA trustees for all Westford high-schoolers. The school was semi-public because of a state law that required towns with more than 500 families to have a public high school. In 1901, there were 10 members of the graduating class. The building was named after Roudenbush, its principal for 25 years, after WA moved to a different building.

Around 1905, after the school changed locations, a man named Henry Otis Keyes, nicknamed “Tricky Keyes”, moved the first WA building across the street to what is behind the now Parish Center of the Arts. In 1942, a granite step from the first WA building was placed to mark the original location. The building became the Westford fire station from 1918-1974. After that, in 1976, it became the Westford Museum, holding artifacts of the town’s history.

The school officially became a public school after a vote that took place at a special town meeting on April 30, 1928. The town purchased WA from the Trustees of the Academy and kept the name “Westford Academy” so graduates could receive scholarships from funds that were established by trustees.

The third WA was built at what is now the Abbot Elementary School in 1955. There were 30 members in the 1956 graduating class. After WA moved for the last time, the school was named after the Abbot family because of their long-time residence in Westford. The Abbots have been involved in the town of Westford and the school since its founding.

Now Westford Academy sits on Patten Road and has been the site of the public high school since it was built in 1973. The doors opened to the school that year on Sept. 10.