Niagara Gazette

Columns

August 5, 2013

HIGGS: School bells are ringing again

Niagara Gazette — Ding dong — school bells ring — not to worry kids, it’s not for you (yet). It’s for me. I am back to my self-imposed assignment writing about city landmarks and the first part is about city schools. I touched on Hyde Park Elementary School a bit in the piece about” my own school years” as I was a student there for a short time.

Hyde Park School sits between Michigan and Linwood avenues at 1670 Hyde Park Boulevard. Built in 1928 as a three-story brick building with 25 classrooms, it was open for business in September of 1929. Simon and Russell Larke were the architects. Later in 1957, four classrooms and a gymnasium and auditorium were added bringing the total costs involved to $279,991.45.

According to my main source of information, Patricia Wilson Rice, this building “possesses several unique and unusual features.” She noted that beautiful sculptured animals are placed along the banister in each stairwell. “They are not only decorative, but serve to discourage sliding down the banisters.” I doubt that thought ever entered my mind during my time there. These animal sculptures and other sculpture designs are the works of Mrs. John Pierce Lange, a foremost sculptress in the history of Niagara Falls.

Other interesting features she mentioned were the beautiful tiles around the drinking fountains that were hand-painted in Spain. The school’s main entrance boasts ornamental border designs and a Mr. Ruben, described as an expert in brick design, used a special method in completing the exterior brickwork on this building. The first principal was Miss Gertrude M. Kurth. The current principal is Ms. S. Smith and the school is known as Hyde Park Elementary school.

In 1958, just after the gymnasium was completed, a tank car exploded at the nearby Niagara Junction Railway shaking the entire building. Guess it was fate that the gymnasium was recently completed as most of the younger students were there attending a function which was the safest place in the building.

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