In Cambridge, the grass around a large Victorian-style schoolhouse is neatly trimmed, although the building itself is boarded up and surrounded by a chain-link fence.
But what might seem spooky and forgotten is a place that holds many beloved memories for generations of Cambridge children.
The Dorchester County Board of Education bought the acre land in 1872 and built what was originally known as Academy School, but in 1902, workmen thawing frozen pipes accidentally caught the structure ablaze. It was destroyed.
According to the December 20, 1902, edition of the Democrat and News, “Fully 1,000 persons saw the Cambridge Academy go up in smoke about 1:30 o’clock Monday afternoon. Within two hours the building which has been an ornament to the town was consumed. There were about 300 children in the building, when the fire broke out, but none were injured.”
The school was rebuilt using bricks, and that building remained in use until the mid-1970s when it was sold by the Dorchester County Board of Education. A few years later, it reopened as the Golden Shore Christian School. That school shuttered its doors in the late 1990s, and the building has sat unused and abandoned since.
TOP Mrs. Corkran’s 4th grade class pic. BELOW: Mrs. Holsberg and her husband Mr. Holsberg, a former principal. Photos were shared by Peg Holsberg Hughes, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Holsberg.
In 2014, the building sold at auction to a company planning to turn it into age-restricted condos. The project fell through and at press time, the building was on the market.
Although the building is abandoned now, alumni memories are of a school bustling with youthful exuberance.
“We had a fun Halloween/Fall party night, many games and a train ride around the neighborhood in the dark,” said alumna Nancy Fox. “It was so much fun. I looked forward to it every year.” Fran Neal Kern, who attended the school from second through sixth grade added, “The Halloween carnival was the best.”
“The Halloween Fair is a great memory,” Cindy Ringgold Johnson said. “My father ran the cotton candy machine each year because he could keep it running!”
From alumnus David Burton: “The totally amazing Halloween Carnival. Candy apples and cotton candy.”
Several alumni recall a time capsule buried sometime in the mid-1970s. While some have tried to find it, no one is certain where it is.
“They buried a time capsule there the last year it was Academy, 74 I think.” Said Ellen Borga.
Another alumna, Bonnie Foxwell, said, “I tried to find it. Called the board of ed, and they had no records of it. Nobody seems to know where it got buried at.”
It seems the time capsule got lost in the shuffle between the school changing from Academy School to Golden Shore.
“I remember it too,” said Micki Vigneri. “If memory serves me, it was to be buried at Sandy Hill Elementary during the last stage of construction. No one seems to know where it is or what happened to it though.”
For some, their memories of school are linked with major events.
“I was in I think fourth grade there when [Martin Luther King Jr.] was murdered,” alumnus Paul Boisjolie said. “It was very tense between the races during this time. Being in fourth grade, I was not sure how to deal with it.”
“I remember that day too,” said Maria Fernandez Salatti. “Things were definitely uneasy during those years.”
Many students from the 1950s mentioned their principal, Tom Flowers.
“I went to Academy way back in the 1950s,” Barbara Tanner Renzi said. “Tom Flowers was principal then. I have good memories of my time there.”
“He used to bring the 6th graders to the cafeteria occasionally to listen to ghost stories of Dorchester County,” said Dotty Shriver Hackland.
Barbara Marshall added, “He kept us all very busy.”
Peg Holsberg Hughes attended the school, her mother taught there, and her father was the principal.
“I was a baton twirler,” Hughes said. “Our bandleader teachers were Ms. Corkran and Mrs. Robinson. We would practice what seemed like really tricky maneuvers that would wow the judges in parades.
“The Halloween events really were something. My mother always dressed as a witch and created a haunted library in the basement. And we had hay rides and costume contests and lots of games. Christmas performances were held as well. Dad had ‘play days’ on Friday afternoons. Each grade participated in fun games, and we had ‘bag lunches’ of hot dogs and chips. Back then, it was such a fun time.
“As a principal’s daughter, I had some special times after school. I was allowed to go into many crooks and crannies of Academy while waiting for mom and dad to finish working and go home. Of course, I’d be in his office and teacher’s lounge, get to write on my mother’s blackboard, get chocolate milk in the kitchen and hang out with the maintenance man, or crawl around or under the stage, play on areas of the playground that were off limits to my grade level.
“We had great swings and monkey bars. And lots of trees and shady areas to play marbles and jump rope. I remember being a safety patrol with the sash and pins that designated your ‘rank.’
“My favorite teacher was Mrs. Corkran. She was loud and a bit scary at times, but she was fun, and I really learned my multiplication tables from her. I remember the pride we had going to that school. Dad made things fun. His staff loved him. The Academy Band as I mentioned, was a source of pride. We would win a lot of awards. I can still (hear) the flutes playing.”
Now that the building is up for sale, what the next iteration of the historic building will be is anyone’s guess.