The Laying of the Foundation Stone at Prospect Hill School on Sunday, June 9, 1929
No definitive history of Pelham schools has been written. Many articles and publications, however, have touched on the issue. Indeed, I have written numerous Historic Pelham Blog postings that touch on the history of schools and education in The Pelhams. For a few of the many, many such examples, see the list of links and articles at the end of today's posting.
In his seminal history of The Pelhams published in 1946, Lockwood Barr touched on the long history of schools and education in Pelham. He wrote:
"THE first mention of a school in that section of Westchester County, in the tract owned by Thomas Pell, is found under the date of August 13, 1683. This school was located in the tract which he sold to the "Ten Families," not far from Old St. Paul's Church in Eastchester. The school was under the jurisdiction of the Rector of the Congregation, according to Bolton's History of Westchester, Vol. II, p. 100. The first reference to a school in the Town of Pelham, states that ". . . at a Town Meeting held at the School House in the Town of Pelham on Tuesday, the 7th day of April 1801 . . . there were elected seven Commissioners of Schools." The location of that school is not known."
Source: Barr, Lockwood Anderson, A Brief, But Most Complete & True Account of the Settlement of the Ancient Town of Pelham Westchester County, State of New York Known One Time Well & Favourably as the Lordshipp & Manour of Pelham Also The Story of the Three Modern Villages Called The Pelhams, p. 149 (The Dietz Press, Inc. 1946) (Library of Congress Control Number 47003441, Library of Congress Call Number F129.P38B3).
Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog adds a little more to the history of education in The Pelhams. It transcribes an account of the laying of the cornerstone of Prospect Hill Elementary School on June 9, 1929, only months before the stock market crash and the onset of The Great Depression. The account is transcribed in its entirety, followed by a citation to its source.
"Foundation Stone Of Prospect Hill School Laid By School Trustee Ives; Ceremonies Conducted By P.T.A.
Keynote Of Exercises Is the 'Reincarnation Of Prospect Hill School,' the First Of the Schools Of Pelham -- President Nevins Praises Foresight Of L. Ogden, Thompson In Obtaining Site For School
Little old schoolhouse on Prospect Hill, where Pelham children of half a century ago mastered the three 'R's' will be reincarnated in the new Prospect Hill School, the foundation stone of which was laid on Sunday. The Parent-Teacher Association was in charge of the ceremonies. The new school is located at Clay and Washington avenues and Hudson street. It will accommodate the children living south of the Boston road in Pelham Manor.
In dedicating the foundation stone, the Parent-Teacher Association, which is composed mainly of mothers of pupils in the Pelham schools, accepted a responsibility for the school and inaugurated a program of cooperation wherein the parents and school officials will work together for the best interests of school matters in the town.
'Henry B. Nevins, president of the Board of Education sounded the keynote when he said: 'In inviting the Parent Teacher Association to conduct these ceremonies we wanted them to feel an interest in this school from its very beginning. The responsibility started today does not end here; it is a cooperation that all must be vitally interested in.'
It was Mrs. Herbert Elliott, ,vice-president of the P. T. A., who announced the name of the school. Heretofore the new building had been referred to as the Washington School. Inspiration for the new name was the little one-roomed Prospect Hill school which stood on Split Rock road, and had been used as a schoolhouse since 1835. This was the foundation of the Pelham school system. Pres. Nevins later announced that Mrs. E. T. Gilliland, of Pelham Manor, had suggested the name of the new school, as a fitting memorial to the sturdy school children of the early Pelhams and an inspiration to youngsters of today.
The old Prospect Hill School was referred to many times in the addresses.
Mrs. Holton H. Scott, president of the Parent Teacher Association presided at the ceremonies. In her opening address she said:
'It is with especial pleasure and enthusiasm that we the members of the Parent Teacher Association greet you and welcome you to the laying of the cornerstone of this school.
'Situated as this building is, on one of the choicest and most commanding sites in Pelham Manor, it marks the rounding out of the school system of the Pelhams. A system which starting with this school and continuing through the Siwanoy, Colonial and Hutchinson schools with the High School in its midst, we think is scarcely surpassed by any community of its size in the state.
'I shall let others speak of the building itself, of its place in the community, ,of the generosity of the taxpayers which made possible its erecction.
'To us members of the P. T. A. the laying of this stone has a deeper, a more personal significance than the mere start of a building. To us the fact that we have been invited to officiate at this occasion shows the confidence placed in us by the Board of Education and the school authorities, in our ability to work side by side with them in the interests of our children's education. It is a public testimony that the P. T. A. is regarded as a body influential in the community and deserving to be recognized as such. I wish that all past presidents of the organization might have sat here on the platform with us to receive the honor due them. For it is to their efforts and the efforts of those who worked with them that our association has attained its present standing.
'To us members of the P. T. A. the laying of this stone is also another evidence that we have an intelligent and enlightened group of men directing our schools, who are willing and eager to give our children the most efficient and more progressive education and educational facilities that modern investigation and experience affords. The selection of the superintendent for the past two years shows this interest; an educator of the finest type whose going we all lament. Their next selection promises the same high order.
'I regret that my allotted time will not allow me to enlarge upon this theme, to dwell at length upon the measures in the liberal education which the School Board has started during the past few years. The fine new buildings and equipment speak for themselves. It is what goes on in those buildings, the kind of things our children are taught; the emphasis placed upon the forming of healthful bodies; the foundations laid for character; essentials not so evident, but of great importance; that we parents watch most eagerly.
'I wish I might tell in detail of the health service and dental work which has been carried on by the Board of Education in all the schools in the past year with the special clinic at Hutchinson; of the opportunity classes for retarded children started in that school; of the introduction of French in even the lowest grades of all schools, with its broadening effect on the children's comprehension of their own language; of the interest in athletics stimulated throughout the school system, wherein every single child is encouraged to take part. One could spend many hours expatiating on the improvements in our system made in the last two years at the risk of embarrassing these public spirited men with a few words of praise.
'In the mentioning of these measures, I am not only giving words of commendation to those most deserving I am also speaking of the improvements dear to the heart of the P. T. A. These are measures with a true spirit of cooperation, the P. T. A. organization has encouraged and in some instances even suggested.
'I point with pride to the really surprising number of experienced and trained women whom we have in our membership; authors; educators, psychologists, statisticians, playwrights, nurses, musicians who have come to the Pelhams to educate and bring up their children and who are willing to give their services freely whenever the teachers or school authorities call upon them. It is their policy to cooperate with those in charge of the education, as they are doing today.
'I detract no jot of praise from the school authorities in speaking as I do; the P. T. A. takes to itself no credit for what goes on in the schools. It has merely the power to mould [sic] public opinion and make tactful suggestions when called upon. It rejoices, however, in being able to say with all truthfulness that here is a body of men willing to call upon it for cooperation; whose wishes it respects; whose requests it is glad to carry out.
It is only thus by working in harmony, teachers, parents, and school authorities that we secure for our children highest efficiency in education.'
Mrs. James F. Longley president of the Manor Club was called upon to speak. Her address was as follows:
'Speaking on behalf of the women of Pelham represented n the membership of the Manor Club, I wish to voice satisfaction in the growing educational facilities of Pelham.
'The need of a school easily accessible to the children living in this end of the town has been felt for many years as the crossing of the Boston Post Road has always been a menace and an anxiety to the mothers of this locality.
'Our hard working school board, our fellow citizens, who give so freely of their time and thought to school affairs are to be greatly congratulated on their foresight in keeping pace with the rapid growth of our town. Under the leadership of Mr. L. Ogden Thompson some years ago, they secured this fine piece of property while it was still available, and now that the need has arisen for more school space they are building this fine school in keeping with the character of this village.
'The growth of this town in the past few years has been phenomenal, and it took vision to keep abreast of it in school facilities. It is not so long ago that two schools were adequate to take care of all the children in the three villages; when the old assembly room in the Siwanoy School was quite large enough to seat the parents who attended the annual school meetings, while now the auditorium in our splendid Memorial High School is scarcely adquate to hold the attendance at some of these meetings in recent years.
'That the standard of education to be obtained in our schools is a very high one has been strikingly demonstrated during the past week, when coveted honors were won by graduates of our high school in three of the most prominent of our women's colleges.
'It is very necessary that this standard should not be lowered by inadequate facilities, but I think that we have every reason to feel that our equipment is keeping pace with our needs, and I am sure that for many years to come, this fine school will afford ample space for the younger children of Pelham Manor.'
Mrs. Sophie Schuyler Dey, representing the older residents of the Pelhams, marked the growth of the town inn a short address, first paying tribute to the best loved of Pelham's old residents, Mrs. James F. Secor, who is now in California.
'I wish we could have had Mrs. Secor give this address,' said Mrs. Dey. 'She always took so much interest in the Pelhams and everything was so dear to her.
'I was asked to speak because I am a very old resident inasmuch as I have lived here 29 years,' Mrs. Dey said humorously. 'This site, however, is not very far from the beginning of the Pelham School District. The old Prospect Hill School on Split Rock Road was first opened in 1835, on the Hunter estate. It was later moved to its present location to make way for Mr. John Hunter's race track.
'It was a one room schoolhouse, and one teacher taught every class. It must have taken sturdy women to teach in those days. Its students included many well known national figures today. Two men who taught school in the little building are still living today. They are Isaac C. Hill and John M. Shinn.
'There came a time when it became necessary to make improvements at the school. These were estimated at $300, but at that time the residents of the small village thought it was too much to pay so they failed to approve of it.
'In 1879, however, it was suggested to bond the district for 44,000 to build a new school. That too at those advanced days was considered too high, and it seemed that the issued would be lost, until the late Mrs. Robert C. Black, organized the women of the town behind the measure and even though there was no provision for women voting at that time they went to the district meeting and cast their ballots in support of the bond issue.
'I believe that this was the first instance in which women cast their vote on any matter.
'The little red brick schoolhouse on Jackson avenue near Prospect avenue was then built. One of its teachers, Mrs. Kate Mulligan, of Pelham Manor, is now teaching in the New York City schools.
'Since then there has been ever increasing cooperation between the citizens and school officials. Women have taken their share in civic duties and responsibilities. The day shall shall [sic] come I believe when women will take their places in official positions in town and school board offices.'
President Nevins officially presented the school to the district. He paid deep tribute to the foresight of L. Ogden Thompson, school trustee and former president of the Board of Education, who was responsible for the purchase of the property on which the new school is being erected.
'The school district owes a lot to Mr. Thompson. It was through his foresight that the property was purchased for $65,000. I believe it is now worth $100,000. Mr. Thompson of his own initiative secured options on the property quietly to avoid profiteering, and after getting contracts for each parcel of land here he turned them over to the school board at an advantageous figure. We owe a great deal to Mr. Thompson's foresight.'
Arthur S. Ives, chairman of the Building and Grounds committee, of the Board of Education, who set the stone in place, visualized the new school, as a second community center for the Pelhams. In setting the stone he was assisted by Mayor Joseph N. Greene, of Pelham Manor; Trustee Albert E. Shaw, of North Pelham, and former President Clyde B. Gray, of Pelham Heights.
Mayor Joseph N. Greene, represented the Village of Pelham Manor. He complimented the Board of Education and Parent Teacher Association on their activities in directing the schools. His message, however, was of the future. He declared that in view of the progress that is imminent it would soon be necessary that the civic affairs of the Village of Pelham Manor be directed by a paid Village Manager.
Supt. of Schools W. Howard Pillsbury pictured the new school as a unit in the modern system of universal education which has placed the United States at the head of all nations. Outlining the advance of nations, he showed how uneducated world powers were overcome and as culture progressed other nations overcame the conquerors.
'We have merely to refer to the history of Europe to realize how educated nations have succeeded. Uneducated nations have not survived the struggle and now some of the greatest powers of a few years ago are now dictatorships.
'This school is one unit of the great universal system of education. It should stand for the best in education and the seven fold aims of education, which are: the common essentials of reading, writing and cyphering; sound health; vocational education; wise use of leisure time; worthy home membership; good ethical character and good citizenship.
'With this school, we add one more stone to the foundation which guarantees securty for our form of government. Education will always symbolize what is the nation's most precious gift, to give unfettered for every boy and girl to realize his better self.'
A chorus of children of the Siwanoy School sang the 'Star Spangled Banner' and 'Joy, Joy and Freedom, Today.' Mrs. Frances Hawks directed. The chorus was as follows: Mary Jane Collette, David Cook, Virginia Donovan, Florence Harmon, Roberta Higgins, John House, Elaine Howes, Louise Hurlbut, Marion Hurlbut, Ida Jenke, Robert Katz, Robert Mahoney, Paul McCarthy, Jimmey McEvoy,. Jane McKee, Rhoda Powers, Barbara Ramsay, Eleanor Eansay, Randall Reyer, Marva Rood, Constance Seyer., Carla unger and Eleanor Wheelock."
Source: Foundation Stone Of Prospect Hill School Laid By School Trustee Ives; Ceremonies Conducted by P. T. A., The Pelham Sun, Jun. 14, 1929, Vol. 20, No. 11, Second Section, p. 1, cols. 1-6.
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Below are a few of the many examples of previous postings to the Historic Pelham Blog that deal with the history of schools and education in The Pelhams.
Mon., Aug. 11, 2014: Excerpts of January 8, 1889 Remarks Dedicating a New School Building in Pelhamville.
Fri., Aug. 08, 2014: 1894 Pelham School Budget Vote: Stage Coach Authorized To Transport Pelham Students in Days Before Autos and Buses.
Thu., Mar. 27, 2014: The "Industrial School at Pelham" Hosted by Christ Church in 1884.
Tue., Mar. 11, 2014: An Early History of Mrs. Hazen's School For Girls in Pelham Manor, Published in 1913.
Mon., Mar. 10, 2014: Dedication of Pelham's New High School in 1911, Now Known as Siwanoy Elementary School.
Tue., May 11, 2010: Mystery Solved - Pelham Town Hall That Once Stood On Shore Road Was Used as a School.
Wed., Mar. 31, 2010: Request for Comment: What Pelham Manor School is This, Shown in 1907?
Tue., Feb. 23, 2010: A Brief History of the Development and Unveiling of Parkway Field in 1955 -- Known Today as Glover Field.
Tue., Feb. 16, 2010: Photograph of Only Known 19th Century Women's Baseball Team in Pelham, New York.
Thu., Feb. 04, 2010: Successful Appeal of Order Dividing the Union Free School District No. 1, Town of Pelham, Into Two School Districts in 1916.
Wed., Jan. 13, 2010: Celebration to Lay the Cornerstone of the New Pelham Memorial High School Building on October 18, 1919.
Fri., Jul. 24, 2009: Late 19th Century Photos of Students with Tennis Rackets at Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in Pelham Manor.
Tue., Jan. 20, 2009: An Account of the Rev. J. L. Ver Mehr Regarding His Brief Stint as an Instructor of French and Italian at Pelham Priory in 1843.
Mon., Mar. 3, 2008: 1891 Advertisement May Reflect Summer Rental of One of the Dormitories of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls.
Mon., Feb. 25, 2008: Town of Pelham School Board Trustee Election of 1881.
Wed., Feb. 20, 2008: Pelham Teachers Threatened to Strike for a Pay Increase in 1906 -- All Eleven Of Them.
Tue., Jan. 22, 2008: Townspeople of Pelham Vote Down Bond Proposal at the First Prospect Hill School in 1891.
Wed., Nov. 14, 2007: 1890 Advertisement for Taft's School for Boys in Pelham Manor.
Thu., Jul. 12, 2007: The Infamous Burglary of the Girls of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in Pelham Manor in 1905.
Wed., Jun. 06, 2007: Proposed Layout of the Grounds of Pelham Memorial High School in 1920.
Mon., Apr. 16, 2007: History of Pelham Schools on the Web Site of the Pelham Union Free School District.
Thu., Apr. 5, 2007: A Brief History of Early Schools in the Manor of Pelham and Surrounding Areas Published in 1905.
Fri., Mar. 2, 2007: A Brief Account by American Author Margaret Deland of Her Education at Pelham Priory in the 19th Century.
Mon., Jan. 15, 2007: Brief Biographies of Henry Waters Taft and Horace Dutton Taft of Pelham Manor (and Other Family Members).
Tue., Jan. 02, 2007: The Little Red Schoolhouse In Pelhamville -- Predecessor to Today's Hutchinson Elementary School.
Wed., Sep. 6, 2006: Pelham Hall Shelter, a "Refuge for Erring Girls", Founded by Alumnae of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in Pelham Manor.
Tue., Aug. 22, 2006: Early Advertisements for Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in Pelham Manor.
Wed., May 31, 2006: Two Views of the Pelhamville School House Built in the 1850s.
Tue., May 30, 2006: A Biography Published in 1906 on the Life of Horace Dutton Taft, Founder of the Taft School for Boys in Pelham Manor.
Wed., May 24, 2006: Program for January 8, 1889 Opening of the Hutchinson School in Pelhamville.
Tue., Mar. 28, 2006: More Reminiscences of Isaac C. Hill of Early Public Schools in Pelham.
Mon., Jan. 09, 2006: The First Prospect Hill School in Pelham Manor.
Fri., Oct. 14, 2005: A Reunion of Alumnae of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls.
Mon., Oct. 03, 2005: Siwanoy School -- The Town of Pelham's Former High School.
Tue., Sep. 27, 2005: I. C. Hill's Reminiscences of Early Public Schools in Pelham.
Mon., Aug. 15, 2005: 952 Pelhamdale Served as a 19th Century School for Girls, Then a School for Boys.
Mon., May 09, 2005: The Historic Murals in the Pelham Memorial High School Library.
Bell, Blake A., Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls: Pelham Hall, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 40, Oct. 8, 2004, p. 12, col. 1.
Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.
Home Page of the Historic Pelham Blog.
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