Niagara Gazette

August 19, 2013

HIGGS: Number of schools in LaSalle grows

By Norma Higgs
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — I was not able to find out what happened to the former Cayuga Drive School in time for last week’s deadline but Teresa Lasher-Winslow came to the rescue later that week. The school was closed in 1976 and sold to a developer for $14,000. It was demolished and replaced by private residential building lots currently occupied by single-family housing. The original Niagara No. 4 was moved from that site back in 1909 and is still located on 88th Street and Mang Avenue. Terry is trying to locate the original plaque from No. 4 District School 1909. She has the photo but the plaque is missing. Does anyone know where this may be?

Terry has been active in collecting and relating the history of LaSalle to the public. She held a lecture series last year and covered a lot of territory and noted there is a display of former LaSalle schools this summer on the second floor of the LaSalle Library.

Moving along to the late 1940s, I found an article in the March 1948 Gazette which stated that Howard Stone of the board of education studied the cost of moving students throughout the LaSalle section of the city. He determined the one-year cost would be $37,000 for school year 1948-49 or $5.06 per pupil per month and felt this warranted building new schools closer to the growing populations. On April 7, 1948, an election was held to vote on construction of two elementary schools; one at 93rd and Colvin Boulevard in the former Griffon Manor area of LaSalle and another at Lindbergh Avenue between 79th and 80th streets.

Seventy-ninth and 93rd street schools were completed in 1950 and were the first new schools built since 1931. The finished buildings were identical in modern design and function. Seventy-Ninth Street School, a two-story brick building with 22 classrooms, an auditorium, gymnasium and pool was completed at a cost of $992,996 which included the land, building and equipment. Ninety-Third Street School was identical in construction and size and the cost was $1,018,162. These two schools were the pioneers in the establishment of an on premises school library with a full-time librarian.

During the 1950s the board of education purchased property from Hooker Chemical Company (now Occidental) to provide facilities in this fast growing area of LaSalle. It was stated the purchase was necessary as there was a lack of available land within the city limits in this area. Ninety-Third Street School was built in the northwest corner first and 99th Street School was opened on Feb. 14, 1955. Ninety-Ninth Street School was also a two-story brick building with 22 classrooms, an auditorium and gymnasium and cost $916,248 which included the land, building and equipment. In 1980, both schools were closed and later demolished due to public health concerns regarding the presences of potentially contaminated fill material in the northwest corner of the Love Canal Emergency Declaration Area of the city.

Sixty-Sixth Street School was constructed at 630 66th St. at the same time and at the same cost as the 99th Street School. Opened on the same day, Feb. 14, 1955, Miss Isabel Lefort was the first principal. A birthday party was held each year on that day and celebrated with a breakfast in the school cafeteria. More celebrations continued in 1965 at the Red Coach Inn at the 10th anniversary of the school and a brunch was held at the former Ramada Inn in 1980 at its 25th anniversary. The school closed in 2008 during a consolidation measure and is currently used as the administration building for the board of education. The students were moved to a newer building on Girard Avenue.

LaSalle continued to grow at a rapid pace and the population included younger families with elementary age children. Another two-story brick building with 22 class rooms was built at 1330 95th St. at a cost of $1,229,964.43 which included the cost of land, building and equipment and was opened in 1958. Dr. Rita N. Moretti was the first principal at 95th Street School which was renamed in 1981 the Geraldine J. Mann School in honor of the late assistant superintendant for elementary education. Miss Mann retired in 1977 and ceremonies were held to honor her 28 years of service and dedication to education.

At the 30th birthday celebration of Geraldine J. Mann School, Mayor Michael C. O’Laughlin and School Superintendent William L. Sdao designated School Spirit Day. The children held a parade, planted a tree and buried a time capsule as part of the celebration. The present principal is Tina Smeal.

School buildings continued to open in LaSalle and the 60th Street School at 60th Street and Kies Avenue was dedicated on Feb. 15, 1963. The architect was Sargent, Webster, Crenshaw and Folley of Syracuse and Harold J. Smith and Sons, Inc. was the general contractor. A two-story brick building with 18 classrooms, auditorium and pool cost $925,132 and replaced the former Evershed School following a six-month study. Helen Kowalski was the first principal. This school was closed during the consolidation measure also and the students were moved to the Cataract Elementary School along with those from the former 66th Street School.

Class is over for the day. Stay tuned.

Norma Higgs serves with the Niagara Beautification Commission and Niagara Falls Block Club Council.