Niagara Gazette

Columns

January 28, 2013

HIGGS: Sugar Street School and other tales

Niagara Gazette — One of the portage routes around the Falls in the very early history of our area became known as the “sugar route.” Boats were unloaded in the upper Niagara River and bags of sugar and other staples were carried along a pathway which ultimately ended in the area of the Lower Niagara River. As sometimes happens even today, the bags would split and sugar would spill along the pathway. The route became formally known as Sugar Street until Charles B. Hyde, the owner of a paper company, passed away following a stroke in 1921.

When Mr. Hyde sold his paper company he purchased a large tract of land on the outskirts of the city. These 316 acres in his estate was located just east of Sugar Street and were left to the City of Niagara Falls. His will stipulated that the land be a park in his name and a memorial be erected in his honor. Additional lands were acquired over time and Harris & Hall, Landscape Architects and Engineers of Buffalo prepared a master plan for the park and work began in 1925. Hyde Park is the largest city park in New York state outside of Central Park in Manhattan. Eventually the old “sugar route” became known as Hyde Park Boulevard.

As often happens when telling a tale, I get off the intended subject which is the Sugar Street School (1896-1959). According to research compiled and written by Patricia Wilson Rice in 1991, the school was designed by architect J. Elmer Passage and built in 1896. Located at 298 Sugar St. at the corner of “D” Street in Echota, this school was the first school constructed after the city was incorporated as Niagara Falls in 1892.

The first school principal was Miss Katherine F. Hanrahan who held this position for many years. The three-story brick building had eight classrooms and was built at a total cost of $80,990.30 which included the land, building and equipment. The school was threatened with closure in 1948 as the Board of Education determined it to be unsafe but the parents requested it be remodeled. The two 82-foot towers were removed as well as the pitched roof and were replaced with a flat roof. A new oil burning furnace (the first ever in a city school building) was also installed and this effort added another $60,161 to the cost.

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