This prominent school building is a product of St. Johnsbury's mid-nineteenth-century growth and prosperity that followed the arrival of the railroads. It stands on Summer Street, which developed from c. 1850 as a residential area west of and parallel to Main Street. Consistent with their pattern of patronage to improve the community for their factory workers, the Fairbanks family donated land for this new central school, visible from Main Street at the west end of the Summer Street common. A frame structure was built on the site in 1858, then moved and replaced six years later by the present T-shaped two-and-a-half-story brick block. The eaves-front crossbar of the T has tall, paired, square-headed windows set within flat-arched wall panels. The short leg forms a central entrance pavilion with three stories of pointed and round-headed doors and windows and a gable truncated to serve as the base for the wooden top of a multistage tower with a polygonal mansard cap of patterned slate. The arched window heads, the elaborate paired eaves brackets of the roof and tower stages, the flattened arches of the belfry and wall panels, and the use of corbeled brickwork are all Italianate. Format, circumstance, and style suggest Horace Carpenter as the likely designer.
Carpenter was chief carpenter for the Fairbanks Company—a manufacturer of doors, sashes, and blinds—and a major builder within the community in the 1850s and 1860s, developing much of the neighborhood north and west of the school on his own land. Buildings credited to him include the Italianate Horace Fairbanks House (1852, now the B.P.O.E.; 118 Western Avenue) and the Caledonia County Courthouse on Main Street (1856) constructed by the E. and T. Fairbanks Co. The latter is a quiet counterpart to the more stylistically ambitious school, while similar in material, plan, and scale.
A fire at the school in 1882 necessitated interior renovations. In 1913–1914 a rear addition was built with compatible Italianate detailing and a position that maintains unaltered the building's presence on the common. The building was adapted as offices in 2005.