John Walton Spencer was born in 1843. Many years of his life were dedicated to farm life and he gradually became interested in the scientific side of agriculture. In 1896, he began work at the State College of Agriculture at Cornell. There he instituted the Cornell Nature Study Movement. Mr. Spencer retired in 1907 because of age limit regulations. A few years later, in 1912, he died at the age of 69.
Another of John Spencer's special interests was young people. Although childless himself, he loved children and was very interested in their involvement in agriculture. John Spencer started the Junior Nationalist and Junior Gardeners programs for children who lived in New York State. It was this loving interest in young people which enabled him to meet them with an understanding that won an immediate response.
School No. 16 opened in 1849 with classes meeting in rented rooms on what was then called Kirk Street. Early in 1850, a two-story brick school was built at the junction of Hudson and North Streets. It was used until 1893. For the next ten years, it housed the Truant School.
In 1908, the Board of Education purchased land on Post Avenue at Aberdeen Street. A nine-room schoolhouse was built and opened in September 1911. Originally named the Hudson Street School, the name was changed in 1913 to honor John Walton Spencer. By 1928, the school consisted of 25 rooms with a capacity of 900 pupils. The most recent additions were made in 1980 as part of a renovation project to make more room in the elementary school.
John Spencer School No. 16 was one of the first schools to offer special classes for children with above-average intelligence.
Joseph C. Wilson attended grammar school at No. 16. Later on in his life, he became an accomplished businessman, guiding Xerox Company to its great achievements.
The Rochester City School History Project
By Students from School Without Walls
Written for the Rochester Sesquicentennial
Presented to the Board of Regents for their Bicentennial