Niagara Gazette

Columns

March 18, 2013

HIGGS: A lesson on city schools built in the 1900s

Niagara Gazette — The first school built following the turn of the century in 1901 was the Ferry Avenue School located at 1605 Ferry Ave. between 16th and 17th streets. Earlier a small building known as the Pine Avenue School with four classrooms on the northeast corner of Pine Avenue and 16th Street accommodated students in that area. Since population was growing at a rapid pace and Pine was becoming a retail centerpiece, it was replaced by this school.

The architects were W.H. Orchard and E.E. Joralemon. Their design included a more efficient ventilation system utilizing a centralized fan, the first in the district school system. The school was dedicated on Jan. 10, 1902, and contained 18 classrooms in a two-story brick building of a rather simple design. Over 450 people attended the tours of the building offered during the afternoon and the dedication took place during an evening ceremony. Miss Catherine C. Martin was the principal and remained in this position for 41 years until her retirement in June of 1942. The costs including a gymnasium and auditorium and additions during 1925 and 1961 were $261,143.17.

This school remained in operation longer than some of the others we learned about but it eventually fell victim to decreased enrollment and was closed in 1980. The last principal was Harry Bouchard. Vacant for seven years, it was eventually sold to the Niagara Falls Neighborhood Housing Service for $10,000. This nonprofit agency reinvented the building into apartments and it is now known as The Joseph S. Presti, Sr. Apartment Complex.

According to its website during the mid-1970s “a group of concerned residents from the surrounding neighborhoods petitioned the city for help that would assist the blight they saw filtering in many neighborhoods. It was their tireless efforts and strong conviction for this area that Niagara Falls NHS, Inc was created. Part of a National Chartered Network of NeighborWorks America, Niagara Falls NHS, Inc., continues to address the neighborhood blight, maintains stability through various homeownership incentives and offers safe, decent and affordable housing.”

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