Niagara Gazette

Opinion

March 11, 2013

HIGGS: Back to our landmark schools

Niagara Gazette — Before we head back to school, I learned from a former high school classmate, Jean Saracini Caprio that she attended Third Street School during 3rd and 4th grades as she lived at 229 Third St. at the time.

The school building was later occupied by the Niagara County Community College as its administrative offices during the 1970s before its demolition. The college itself was located in the former Shredded Wheat building. Her mother, Philomena Scrufari attended Whitney Avenue School and so did her Uncle Bruno. Their father and Jean’s grandfather was Bruno Sr. who emigrated from Calabria. As a teen he went to Austria to learn the stone mason trade and worked on the Holy Trinity complex in Niagara Falls among many other of our historic buildings. He was the founder of the Scrufari Construction Company. Jean and I see each other occasionally, usually at informal high school reunion gatherings.

On to Center Avenue School which was located at the corner of Highland, in the city’s old Fourth Ward. It was a two-story brick building with 16 classrooms. It opened in 1898 to ease the overcrowding at the Cleveland Avenue School as population increased in the North End. The design was named the “Pan American” and was chosen from nine other plans. W. H. Orchard was the architect and the building featured a very distinctive roof design. Just before the new school opened a law was passed making it compulsory that parents and guardians were obligated to send their children to school. It was titled the Compulsory School Attendance Law and it was the beginning of the truant officer as the enforcer of this landmark law. Obviously attendance increased at all schools. Miss A. Mary Shellington was the first principal and the school served the population until the late 1960’s. James Showers was principal when it closed in 1968.

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