Saturday, March 2, 2013

Former Dom Savio Building to Be Sold

Former St. Dominic Savio HS
Building to Be Sold

Another little piece of my personal history will become ancient history before long--as will the history of a lot of young men who grew up in East Boston, Winthrop, Chelsea, Revere, Lynn, and other communities in those precincts.  (Related story at

I did 2 of my 3 years of practical training--2 very happy years--at St. Dominic Savio HS in Eastie in 1972-1974, teaching English mostly, but also Afro-Asian world and (Lord help us!) French III.  That last one was an act of desperation on the part of the school administration--on the basis of my having taken French I and II in high school, and not a lick more.  Such were the sometime workings of Salesian assignments in a long-gone era.  I was also dean of freshmen in 1973-1974, and many of those young men and I formed long-lasting friendships--a grace for me, and also for them, I believe.
Some of Savio's Class of 1977, most of them my former students, last November at their annual get-together. (Photo courtesy of Mike Giannattasio)
For those not up on SDB practices, "practical training" is a period of formation for young SDBs that follows their immediate postnovitiate training, which is still in a house of formation, usually doing studies like philosophy to earn a college degree.  This was generally a 3-year period until 1974 in our province, and since then has generally been a 2-year period.  In practical training the young SDB for the 1st time lives and works full-time in an "active" SDB community practicing apostolic ministry, such as teaching.  Nowadays he might be engaged in a boys and girls club or retreat work, but "back in the day," it was always in the classroom.

After practical training, candidates for the priesthood begin their theological studies, and coadjutor brothers make their perpetual (final) vows and continue with their apostolic ministry as teachers, youth ministers, etc.

Well, St. Dominic Savio HS was closed by the SDBs in the late 1990s due to low enrollment and budget problems.  Not long after, a group of alumni organized to start a new school, renamed Dominic Savio Prep, and leased the buildings from us.  For a time they also had a couple of SDBs on staff and were recognized as a Salesian school (because they tried to follow Don Bosco's charism).  But they too struggled financially and after 10 or 12 years (I haven't verified the dates precisely) were compelled to close.  Truly a sad date, 2 sad dates (the 2 distinct closings).

In the meantime, SDBs continued to live in the residence at the corner of Bennington and Byron Sts.  Two buildings across Byron St. adjacent to the Savio gym and cafeteria (Savio Hall) had been knocked down sometime in the '80s (I'm guessing again), the one that had housed Carlo's Deli and the little 2-story house where Bro. Joe Botto had lived for years with occasional other SDBs, including me during my 2 years in town.
Savio Hall/Salesian Boys & Girls Club, 2009. The building, built in the early 1960s, houses the gym and various activity rooms; it used to include the school cafeteria, locker rooms, and 3 freshman classrooms.
And most, and then all, of the activities of the Salesian Boys & Girls Club were brought to Savio Hall, up from their other property on Paris St.  It has been the Club staff living in the SDB residence all these years, along with other SDBs now and then doing studies or some other local ministry, e.g. Fr. Tom Brennan when he was chaplain at Harvard and Fr. Tom Dunne when he was director of YM for the Boston Archdiocese.

Well, some 4 or 5 years after Savio Prep's closure, and steady deterioration of the old school building (Caselli Hall) at the corner of Horace and Byron (the John Paul Jones School in its first incarnation, before the SDBs bought it in 1945), we're selling it and the rest of the property on that side of Byron St. to the Edward W. Brooke Charter School.
Caselli Hall in 2009
The Brooke School plans to renovate the school building and knock down the 2 triple-deckers that make up the SDB residence, then build a large addition to the school and a playground where the residence and parking lot are presently.  Construction is expected to start in May and be completed by Sept. 2014.  While those associated with Dom Savio from 1958 until its definitive closure about 4 years ago (not only alumni but also many SDBs and former staff) lament the closures, at least we can be happy that the abandoned school building will be returned to educational use.

Salesian residence
There's a chance that the original part of the SDB residence, the one closer to Byron St., will be moved across the street by Savio Hall to remain our residence. Otherwise a new one will have to be built.

According to a story in the Boston Globe (, the Brooke School will be able to use Savio Hall when the Boys & Girls Club isn't using it, and the Club will be able to use Brooke's playground when students aren't using it.  Brooke students will, of course, also be able to join the Club.  Jon Clark, co-director of the Brooke network of charter schools, is quoted by the Globe as saying that Fr. John Nazzaro, executive director of the Club, "has a great after-school program.  We're excited that our families will have access to that.  It just worked out really well.  A lot of synergies."
Dom Savio/Boys and Girls Club gym, 2009
I wonder whether the Brooke School will retain the name Caselli Hall.  Fr. Joseph Caselli was the founding director of St. Dominic Savio HS and a treasured, long-time presence at the school and in the East Boston community.

A little SDB history:  Assisted by the intervention of Abp. Richard Cushing, the Salesians bought the John Paul Jones School from the city in 1945 sent up 3 SDBs, led by Fr. Angelo Bongiorno (, who began an "oratory" or youth center (  A few years later, they opened a trade school named for Don Bosco, and the youth center relocated to another old school building on Paris St., about a mile away (I'm not certain of the date of this move).  Don Bosco Trade School did well, and in 1954 yet another old school building was purchased, this one in downtown Boston on Warrenton St., and in 1955 Don Bosco Technical HS was opened on that site (  Over the course of the next 3 years, the old building at Horace and Byron was renovated and prepared to re-open as St. Dominic Savio HS, accepting its 1st freshman class in the fall of 1958.  A few years later, Fr. Joseph Stella oversaw the building of Savio Hall, which Cardinal Cushing came to bless.

Besides Savio, 1 of the 3 grammar schools I attended, both high schools, my college seminary, and the high school where I was principal for 4 years have all become "history."  Oy!  But so far the provincial house is open for business!

1 comment:

Steve said...

I attended St Dominic Savio for my Junior year back in 1978-79 school year. I was probably their first foreign exchange student. I have fond memories of my year there. Of Father Earl, the American History teacher / football coach, Russo..and also of my Algebra, AP Biology, and English teachers. So sad to find out the school is no longer there.