Niagara Gazette

Opinion

April 1, 2013

HIGGS: Early city schools built lifetime relationships

Niagara Gazette — During more successful and populated times in the early 1900s, this area was growing along with the city’s industrial base and it became necessary to construct more neighborhood schools. Children walked to school in these days — no, this is not an April Fool comment — no school buses picked them up at corners near their residence, so it was necessary to locate schools in various parts of the city.

Built in 1907 the 13th Street School and the 22nd Street School were built in nearly identical designs. The architect was James R. White and they were considered the most modern school construction for the era. Both schools had the two entrances at either side of the front façade; one marked boys and one girls. Some historical research and my own vague memories of 22nd Street School (a bit later than these early days however) tells us that throughout the majority of the 1900s, the typical classroom had seating arranged in straight rows, with students seated alphabetically directly behind and next to one another. The arrangement focused on a teacher-centered classroom where information was presented in lecture format, verbally or written on the board. The teacher could observe all action going on in the room. A shift occurred late in the 1900s and into the 21st century with a focus on seating that promotes interactive learning, with students seated in groups at a small tables or a large conference table, for instance. Harry F. Abate School comes to mind which will be discussed in a later story.

Miss H. May Brown was the first principal of 13th Street School, a two-story brick building with 11 classrooms. An addition was added in 1917 bringing the cost of the entire project to $128,428.27. The school was closed in 1968 and the city obtained the property in 1976 and demolished the building with the exception of the gymnasium which was used for a short time as a recreation center and is currently owned by Eleventh Street Properties in the area principally owned by Niagara Falls Redevelopment. The last principal was Rudolph Marion.

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