With over 1,500 schools and 1.1 million students, the New York City public education system is the biggest and oldest in the country. Our city has a proud history of commitment to public education since the creation of the Board of Education in 1843. When the boroughs consolidated in 1898, standardization of its architecture, construction and maintenance was overseen by the Division of School Buildings and, later, in 1989, by the New York City School Construction Authority. With this oversight comes a responsibility to honor and preserve the architectural integrity of hundreds of historic school buildings. New York City has more than 200 schools that were built more than 90 years ago.
Erected in 1787, the oldest school building is Erasmus Hall Academy in Brooklyn, which is presently a museum in the courtyard of Erasmus Hall Educational Campus. Designed by Samuel B. Leonard and built shortly after the Civil War in 1897, the oldest school still in use is PS 34 in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. During the period from 1879 to 1898, James Naughton designed more than 100 schools, including Brooklyn’s first high schools. As Superintendent of School Buildings and its chief designer from 1891 to 1922, C.B.J. Snyder was credited with the construction of 350 schools and additions, which provided 80,000 seats for the city’s children. These and other outstanding architects have provided hundreds of beautiful schools that remain today as vibrant places of learning.
The SCA works closely with the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to ensure that all proposed school work conforms with standards appropriate for the age of the buildings. Design plans are submitted to SHPO for determination of eligibility in the National Register of Historic Places. If eligible, all work to be done is reviewed by the State. This process ensures that the rich architectural history of New York City public education buildings is preserved for generations to come.