Design New England

North Bennet Street School continues to impress


The North Bennet Street School exhibit boasts of achievements by students and alumni. The work in the foreground is by Paula Garbarino.

Outside 125 High Street is the fast-paced bustle of downtown Boston, but just inside the Pearl Street entrance of this high rise building in the heart of the Financial District, things take on a different tone. Here the North Bennet Street School, a private institution in the North End that educates students in traditional craftsmanship trades, has its student and alumni exhibit on view through Friday May 18. Displayed are impressive examples of wood furniture (tables, chairs, desks, dressers, even a few grandfather clocks), jewelry, books, and musical instruments, all stunningly and painstakingly handcrafted by the students who also designed them.

The North Bennet Street School, founded in 1885, is considered one of the premier institutions of its type in the country. The skill and expertise of its faculty and students is obvious in this exhibit. The level of detail and precise construction of each piece is astounding. Though best known for its carpentry and woodworking programs, the school also teaches jewelry making, bookbinding, and musical instrument construction as well as classes in calligraphy, decorative painting, locksmithing, and piano technology.


Timm Schleiff’s block-front chest of drawers is a timeless design in mahogany and pine finished with shellac and wax.


Francis Ryan’s Heppelwhite-style shield back armchair with a pierced splate and tapered legs was upholstered in stunning red brocade by Andrew Passeri.


A reproduction late 18th-century Boston Seymour Lady’s Tambour Secretary in mahogany, poplar, and pine with ivory escutcheons and inlays of ash, holly, maple, ebony, and mahogany was exquisitely made by Stephen Plays.


A Windsor chair reminds us of the Icon article — The Enduring Windsor — in our May/June issue. It was made by Gary Bosse in the Nantucket style with pine, maple, oak, and cherry and then painted.


The exhibit also shows off a collection hand-bound books as well as jewelry and violins.


David Stanwood’s adjustable leverage keyboard represents one part of the school’s insight into piano technology. When installed, the invention allows the pianist to change the way a piano feels and plays by turning the keyboard’s two knobs.


We love anything maritime-related, so this striped bass that Charles Kline carved out of mahogany caught our eye.


Peter Feinmann of Feimann Inc., a design/build firm in Lexington, Massachusetts, earned a certificate in carpentry from the North Bennet Street School in 1982 and contributed this solid display case to the exhibit.
The school also has a gallery/store open to the public at 39 North Bennet Street. And good news: the long process to relocate the school to a larger facility was moved forward this week when it reached an agreement to buy city-owned buildings on the corner of North and Richmond Streets in the North End. Lots of renovation work is still ahead, but when complete, North Bennet Street will be able to unite all full-time programs under one roof.

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