A Short History of the Purdy School

An iconic historical building of Marshfield, the Willard D. Purdy Junior High School still stands today at 3rd Street and Chestnut Avenue in downtown Marshfield.

The collegiate gothic three-story structure was constructed in 1920 and named after Willard Purdy, Marshfield’s World War I hero with Company A of the 127th Infantry in Europe. Purdy died at age 23 after launching himself on grenade that lost its safety pin during collection so he might save his comrades. His remains later returned from France in 1921 and lay in state at the Purdy School until the funeral.

Originally, school board members had selected the name of Franklin School in honor of Benjamin Franklin. Once the public learned of the decision, they began to write letters of protest and circulate petitions. The memorial for Purdy was read at the August 1919 Common Council meeting and in September, the Board of Education rescinded its earlier decision and accepted the new name, according to newspaper reports.

The school taught grades 7-9. When McKinley High School burned on Oct. 13, 1936, students crowded into the Purdy School until the construction of a new high school at E. 4th St. (today Marshfield Middle School), which opened in 1940.

Mid-State Technical Institute would move into the Purdy School building in 1968 until 1991, when it left for a new campus. The building was owned by the School District of Marshfield, but considered “blighted.”

The redevelopment of Purdy School was made possible by the creation of Tax Increment District #2 by the City of Marshfield. Since it is on the National Register of Historic Places, the building could be redeveloped as an architectural and historical asset. From 1993-94, the building was redeveloped into Aster Assisted Living, an independent living senior housing facility.

[How TIF Funding works – A Basic Explanation] 

Because of this, the property provided new property tax revenue and fit in comfortably with the City’s downtown revitalization plan. It also filled a gap – there was also no specialized housing available at the time for senior citizens.

Today, the Purdy School continues to operate as a senior housing facility. In fall 2016, Aster hosted a reunion for students who attended the junior high to reminisce about their days inside its halls.