The school, built in 1931, was given its name in tribute to a Belmont High School teacher who taught here for 42 years. Born and raised in Kentucky and later in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, she came to Belmont and became a teacher in the two-room school in the old Town Hall. The Belmont School Committee, in tribute to her long service as a teacher, voted 11 years after her retirement to name the school after her.
Burbank was completely renovated and enlarged from 1987-1989 and the school was reopened to students in October, 1989 as a school for children in grades K-5.
Mary Lee Burbank was born in Paducah Kentucky on November 2, 1850. She had three sisters and three brothers. Miss Burbank began teaching at the Belmont High School (which is now the Wellington Elementary School ) in 1879. She saw the high school develop from a small two-room school house with a handful of students to a large school built in 1917 on School Street with 933 students. Miss Burbank taught under 8 principals. She was very helpful with her students. For example, one of her students wrote this about her in one of his letters, "I shall always be grateful for the evenings after schoolwork was done that she devoted to helping me prepare for the M.I.T. examinations."
Miss Burbank retired in 1921 after 42 years of teaching. Some people even wanted to name a street in Mary Lee Burbank's honor.
The Committee named the school "for a woman whose character and long record of distinguished service as a teacher merits the esteem and gratitude of all Belmont." Therefore, when our school was built in 1931, it was named the Mary Lee Burbank School.
The Mary Lee Burbank School was built because the other Belmont elementary schools were very crowded. The Kendall, Daniel Butler, Payson Park, Chenery, Winslow Homer and Roger Wellington were the other schools. Before there was a Burbank School, many Burbank students attended the Winslow Homer School.
The land to build the Burbank School was farm land and cost $35,000 in 1928. The school was built in 1931 and had 17 rooms. Mr. George E. Robinson was the architect and built the school in the Colonial Revised style.
When the school opened in 1931, there were many differences from what we have today. There were two classes at each grade, kindergarten to grade six.