When Schools Mattered

As superintendent of school buildings from 1891 to 1922, C.B.J Snyder designed close to 350 schools, plus numerous additions and other school improvements. Snyder put up 5, 10, sometimes 15 buildings a year, ranging from giants like Erasmus, Curtis and Morris high schools to public schools in almost every neighborhood, these new schools symbolized the commitment of the city to care for and even uplift its citizens, many of whom were new immigrants.

Bronx;Morris, Brooklyn;Erasmus, Staten Island;Curtis

Snyder’s schools attracted occasional criticism for ”unnecessary ornamentation” but the city board replied that it was ”worth every cent — in the long run the modest and appropriate adornment of schoolhouses would do much more to raise the level of public taste than any amount of money spent on more sumptuous and conspicuous municipal edifices.”  Social reformer Jacob Riis wrote of Snyder  “He found barracks, where he is leaving palaces to the people.”

270 of his  buildings are still in use, over 20 (and counting) have been designated New York City landmarks.

Throughout my travels around NYC I’ve photographed some of these schools without realizing they were the work of one man.

P.S. 277 Bronx (landmark)

P.S. 66 Queens (landmark)

P.S.66 detail

P.S.95 Brooklyn (landmark)

P.S. 95 detail

P.S. 95 detail

P.S. 109  in East Harlem ( National Register of Historic Places) has been closed since 1996; community groups saved it from demolition and want it restored as a school, but some local politicians and other interests want it converted into apartments &/or art spaces. It remains empty as neither side has come up with funding.

(H.S. photos courtesy of NYC DoE and Creative Commons)

About Denise P. Puchol

Always carrying a pocket camera to photograph random spots throughout the five boroughs of New York City and to share a little of the history.
This entry was posted in photographs of historic building and sites in the five boroughs of New York City and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to When Schools Mattered

  1. elizabethweaver says:

    Denise, this is an amazing post. Of course the images are beautiful….the buildings are beautiful. It’s the history that elevates this even beyond the art. The history of Snyder and his commitment to uplifting the future of this country, and immigrants in particular, is patriot, compassionate and foresightful, as Snyder practiced the art of upgrading: people, buildings, community. Thank you so much for sharing this!

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