Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Closing of the Old Colonial Elementary School in 1926 to Make Way for Today's School Building

The original Colonial School once stood on the site of today's Colonial Elementary School in Pelham Heights. The first Colonial School was built in 1900.  The poorly-designed structure was a two-story brick building with four classrooms and a wooden staircase so noisy that multiple accounts indicate that teachers had to stop lessons when students or visitors moved up or down the staircase.  An image of the original Colonial School appears immediately below.

First Colonial School that Stood on the Site of Today's Colonial
Elementary School in an Undated Photograph, Circa 1905.  Source:
Pelham Union Free School District No. 1, [Untitled History of District
Schools], p. 4 [Unnumbered Pages], Visited May 10, 2015.
NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

During the first quarter of the 20th century, the Town of Pelham experienced two significant bursts of growth in its population that virtually overwhelmed the schools of the Town.  To make matters worse, older structures such as the first Colonial School were poorly designed to handle an expanded student population and quickly became outmoded for modern education.  Indeed, prior to 1921, the State Board of Education condemned the first Colonial School for use as an "educational institution."  

With enrollment still on the rise, the School Board had little alternative but to continue using the school building.  As it searched for a replacement site that would accommodate a much larger building with adequate recreational space, it received stiff opposition from residents of Pelham Heights who did not want a new, large school building near their properties.  Finally giving up, the School Board decided to build a replacement structure on the site of the first Colonial School and an adjacent property that the School Board was able to acquire.

On Friday, June 11, 1926, the original Colonial School closed its doors for the year, thus ending its twenty-six year history as the principal elementary school for Pelham Heights schoolchildren.  The following month, the empty school building was razed to make way for its replacement.  

The cornerstone ceremony for the new building took place on November 21, 1926.  The new school building, today's Colonial Elementary School, was completed in 1927, dedicated to "the truth and virtue in the interest of the children who will begin their education there."

To learn more about the history of Colonial Elementary School, see, e.g.:

Fri., Sep. 18, 2015:  Early History of Colonial Elementary School: The Battle in 1925 Regarding How to Deal with Colonial School and Other Pelham Schools - Part I

Mon., Sep. 21, 2015:  Early History of Colonial Elementary School: The Battle in 1925 Regarding How to Deal with Colonial School and Other Pelham Schools - Part II.

Thu., May 14, 2015:  When School Board Balked, Pelham Heights Resident Donated a School, Furnishings and Paid Teachers With His Own Money.

*          *          *          *          *

Below is the text of a news article noting the closing of the first Colonial School building in 1926.  It is followed by a citation and link to its source. 

"Colonial School Closes Doors in March of Progress
School Building Marked the Beginning of Education of Many Pelhamites

After more than twenty years service to the Pelhams as an educational institution, the Colonial School on Highbrook avenue closed its doors Friday, to be torn down to make way for a more modern structure.  The classes, which have studied there were removed to the Memorial High School, there to pursue their studies until the new building is constructed.

Erected during the last few years of the nineteenth century, the Colonial School was at one time the last word in school buildings.  Its four rooms were ample to accommodate the students of Pelham Heights and a portion of Pelham Manor.  With the construction of the Siwanoy School the Colonial school shared the educational work, and as the school children grew more numerous, the building was relegated to the teaching of the lower grade children.

A few years ago the State department of Education condemned the building as an educational institution and the Board of Education sought to replace it with another school nearer the Pelhamwood section.  The taxpayers however rejected this.  At a recent special election the taxpayers voted to construct a new two-story, twelve-room school building on the site of the Colonial school and adjoining property owned by the school district.

The work of razing the school building will start early in July."

Source:  Colonial School Closes Doors in March of Progress -- School Building Marked the Beginning of Education of Many Pelhamites, The Pelham Sun, Jun. 11, 1926, p. 11, cols. 3-4.  

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