Niagara Gazette

Columns

January 21, 2013

HIGGS: A trip to the Third and Fifth Street schools

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette —

At a special meeting of the Board of Education on Feb. 1, 1854 it was resolved to erect another school building in the still “Village” of Niagara Falls. The sum of $7,500 was appropriated for the original three-story building. The builder, Ormal G. Johnson, was paid $634.38 for construction and cost overruns of $72.50 were added later. Elaine Timm told me that Mr. Johnson built both Third and Fifth Street schools and his house at 113 6th St. still stands. It was built in 1856, before the Civil War. It is now listed as a local historic landmark, thanks in part to her research.

Each floor had three large rooms with a recitation room in the rear. Like all other schools at that time, a woodshed was built across the back and the wood came from a nearby birch grove. Outdoor toilets prevailed and a bench with a pan and pail of water was used as a washroom. Candles provided light when needed and each room was heated by a stove. The first principal, J. W. Barker, was hired at a salary of $700.00 per year. Primary grades teacher Miss Balis was paid just over $16.00 per month.

As population grew in this area, there was a definite need for a larger building. In 1888, the Board of Education adopted a resolution to enlarge Fifth Street School. An addition was added utilizing most of the available school lot and had separate entrances, one for boys and one for girls at either end of the building. I recall the same situation existed at Twenty-Second Street School where I attended at one time. More on that one later. There were staircases to the upper floors at each end also.

The new school had four large rooms on each floor and students progressed from primary (first floor), to intermediate (second floor) and finally high school on the third floor. Is this where “upper classmen” originated? I will have to look that up one of these days. The small recitation rooms in the original school became cloak rooms. These large rooms accommodated about 50 students each and the nine furnaces of different ages and descriptions kept the janitor so busy, he often did not have time to ring the school bell.

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