The history and development of New Britain High School
In 1850, the town of New Britain built a town hall at the corner of Main and East Main Streets. Before the building’s completion, it was purchased by The New Britain Educational Fund Company. It was then altered to meet the needs of both a state normal school and town high school. For the first two years, the primary grades were included as sell. Since 1852, New Britain High School has served as a three/four year high school (the completion time was originally four years). For a period of time, it was only a three year institution, however today NBHS is once again a four year institution. New Britain High School has always offered a college preparatory program. Business and vocational education classes were added in 1913.
In 1896, a new building was erected for the high school at Franklin Square. It was one of the finest and best equipped schools in the state. An annex for the vocational high school was erected on South Main Street in 1915. A connecting building on Bassett Street was added in 1929. This provided an auditorium, library, office, two gymnasiums and additional class rooms.
September 1961 marked the opening of Pulaski High school on Farmington Avenue as a second city high school. Pulaski High School was closed in 1982 and converted to a middle school at that time. In 1972 New Britain High School moved from its Bassett Street location to a new multi-million dollar facility on Mill Street, which rests on the edge of Willow Brook Park. Classrooms, the cafeteria, gymnasiums, science, art, music and media centers were improved greatly.
Through the 1970’s, enrollment in the New Britain Public Schools declined. To handle the situation, the junior high schools became middle schools and New Britain High School once again became a four year institution with the merging of Pulaski High School students in 1982. In 1999, a new wing was added onto the school with additional upgrades made throughout the building. In 2005 more classrooms were added, making the school the largest high school in Connecticut.
The New Britain High School course offerings have varied greatly over the years to accommodate the changing needs of society. In 1896, courses such as Greek, zoology, botany, astronomy and political economics were offered. Russian, industrial arts, home economics, harmony and architectural drawing had replaced most of the 1896 era course offerings by 1939. Computer programming, computer math, data processing, ecology, as well as Polish and Spanish bi-lingual classes were introduced during the 1980’s as a result of the changing community.
New Britain High School continues a long heritage of service to the community, state and nation. As early as the Civil War, NBHS graduates gave their lives for our country. During the First World War, seventeen perished. One hundred fifty-two died during World War II and more have fallen in conflicts such as Korea, Vietnam and in the Middle East.
Many New Britain High School alumni are famous in the community, with some reaching higher levels of fame. Two of Connecticut’s Governors graduated from NBHS. There were Abraham Ribicoff and Thomas Meskill. Several nationally recognized athletes, musicians, artists and other performers have graduated from New Britain High School. A good example is Charles Welch, who did commercials for Pepperidge Farms products.