Niagara Gazette

Opinion

April 8, 2013

HIGGS: Niagara Street School - Then and now

Niagara Gazette — The population on the east side of the City of Niagara Falls grew significantly after World War I and more schools were built to accommodate the new students. The original Niagara Street School was opened in 1919 and was the largest elementary school in the state other than in New York City.

James H. Erwin was the first principal. Located at Niagara and 25th streets, it was a three-story brick school with 48 classrooms, an auditorium, gymnasium and pool. This was truly a “landmark” building for the times but as its reputation grew even larger so did the school itself as an addition was necessary after only 10 years. Cost for the land, building and equipment was $523,554.39 which included the addition of 1929.

Another renovation began following the end of the school year in 1986. At the time it was a typical elementary school offering kindergarten through sixth grade with an enrollment of 710 children. The renovation included two three-story connected buildings, the original built in 1919 and the 1929 addition. The work continued over 16 months and consisted of a total renovation including replacement of all of the wooden windows with double glazed thermal-grade aluminum windows. A new elevator was installed along with a new roof, new security lighting and replacement of all exterior wooden doors with aluminum ones. The interior went through some upgrades also with a complete renovation of the electrical and plumbing systems. Toilet rooms were moved into the individual classrooms which were upgraded with new lighting and carpeting. The two school buildings were connected by a walkway on the second and third floors. Great care was exercised to refinish and restore the original woodwork throughout the buildings.

During this major project the students, teachers and support staff were moved lock, stock and barrel (actually their desks, materials, other furniture, supplies, etc.) to South Junior High School which was vacant at the time. Completed in August 1987 and completely furnished with new desks for both students and teachers, the school reopened in September for the new school year. This renovation cost $4,200,000. Miss Jacqueline L. Kane was principal during this time.

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