Niagara Gazette


January 14, 2013

HIGGS: Educational landmarks the lesson plan


Niagara Gazette — Ms. Rice records the possibility of a one-room schoolhouse as early as 1807 near what is now Main and Second streets. She admits there is some doubt as the population probably did not warrant even a school of that size. By 1812, New York state had passed the first Public School law which “permitted and encouraged the people (by promising money) to set up school districts, elect trustees, build a schoolhouse, hire a teacher and collect taxes form the people to pay the cost.”

General Parkhurst Whitney became the first school commissioner in 1814 and built the first recorded school house, the Union Chapel, near the Eagle tavern on Falls Street. It was also used for church services. During these times, only a few children continued their education beyond the elementary grades.

In 1838, now a Judge, Augustus Porter donated land on Second Street near the woods at the edge of the village and stipulated that a school be constructed at a cost not to exceed $800. Cost overruns were familiar even in these early days and the deficit of $107 included the cost of a much needed “privy.” Two years later the enrollment was 180 pupils and following the incorporation of the hamlet into the Village of Niagara Falls in July of 1848, increased population called for a railroad terminal in this area. The land and building were sold and the proceeds were used in the construction of the original Third Street School in 1850. The small school building was moved, became a private residence and was still standing in 1960, but not fit for habitation, was condemned and torn down.

The Third Street Grammar School (1850-1897) was built largely due to the efforts of James F. Trott. Mr. Trott was active in educational progress and was elected trustee in School District Number 2 in the Town of Niagara. When Niagara Falls became incorporated in 1892, he was appointed by Mayor Wright to the City Board of Education where he served for 50 years and became known as the “Father of Our Schools.” One current board member, Don King, has accumulated more than 30 years of service and should soon hold the title of “Caretaker of Our Schools.”

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