Fall 2015

History Underfoot

A sidewalk plaque marks our school’s original location

By Marjorie Howard

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Gone but not forgotten: Tufts Medical School first stood near this spot in downtown Boston. Photo: Kelvin Ma

A few years back, Henry Banks, ’45, who served as dean of the medical school from 1983 to 1990, called the school to report that a historical marker badly needed cleaning. No one but Banks seemed to know anything about the marker, so Stephen Nasson, now the senior director of facilities services at Tufts, took a walk over to 188 Boylston Street with Jim Mooradian, the facilities manager in Boston. They discovered a copper marker, flush with the brick sidewalk, that reads, “Near this site stood the first School of Medicine of Tufts University.”

“I’ve been at the university for 29 years, and thought I knew everything about the health sciences campus,” says Nasson. “We were amazed the marker was there; we had had no idea.”

The marker denotes the medical school’s original location when it opened for business in 1893—on land now occupied by the Four Seasons Hotel. The school had 80 students, seven faculty members and quite a progressive gender balance for its time: 23 women and 57 men. The medical school was the first graduate program offered by Tufts College.

Just four years later, having outgrown its first home, the medical school moved to a remodeled Baptist church on Shawmut Avenue. In 1900 the school moved again, to 416 Huntington Avenue, along with the dental school. The School of Medicine has been at its current location on Harrison Avenue since 1949.

Nasson is mindful of tending the university’s history: The Boston campus facilities crew now gives the copper marker an annual cleaning. “To me, it’s a hidden gem,” he says.

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