The Final-Identified ‘Coloured’ Faculty in Manhattan Turns into a Landmark
For years, New York Metropolis Division of Sanitation staff ate their lunch in a three-story yellow brick constructing on West seventeenth Avenue in Chelsea with out understanding about its historical past: It was as soon as a “coloured” college that served Black Individuals throughout racial segregation in New York Metropolis public colleges.
On Tuesday, the town’s Landmarks Preservation Fee voted to designate the constructing, which had been often known as Coloured Faculty No. 4, a protected landmark, and metropolis officers introduced that they would offer $6 million in funding to rehabilitate it.
“We stand on the shoulders of the younger women and men that attended this college, and whereas they might be gone, I’m honored to make sure they may by no means be forgotten,” Mayor Eric Adams stated in a press release.
The schoolhouse, at 128 West seventeenth Avenue, was built around 1849, and have become one of many metropolis’s “coloured colleges” in 1860. There have been eight public primary schools in Manhattan on the time that served 2,377 Black college students. The college additionally housed a night college for Black adults.
It was renamed Grammar Faculty No. 81 in 1884, when the town’s Board of Training stopped utilizing the time period “coloured” within the names of public colleges, but it surely continued to serve Black youngsters solely till the general public college system closed segregated colleges 10 years later.
Sarah Carroll, the chair of the Landmarks Preservation Fee, stated in a press release that the college represented “a troublesome, and sometimes neglected, interval in our metropolis’s historical past.” The choice to landmark it, she stated, demonstrated “the significance of preserving the websites that inform the whole, generally difficult, story of our metropolis.”
After the college closed in 1894, the constructing remained the property of New York Metropolis. It has been used for a wide range of functions since then, together with as a clubhouse for Civil Conflict veterans of the 73rd Regiment. From 1936 by 2015, it was used as a satellite tv for pc workplace and locker facility for the Sanitation Division.
Metropolis officers estimate that the constructing, which has water injury, can be absolutely rehabilitated in 2027. It’s unclear how it will likely be used after that, however officers stated they’d work with metropolis businesses and native stakeholders to determine.
The landmark designation and funding for the constructing’s rehabilitation comes years after Eric Ok. Washington, a historian, in 2018 started urging the town to maneuver to guard it. Greater than 2,800 individuals signed a petition in favor.
Whereas the Sanitation Division had expressed help for rehabilitating the college, a spokesman stated final yr that officers didn’t have the funds to take action.
Jessica Tisch, the commissioner of the Sanitation Division, stated in a press release that Mr. Adams had “made a crucial funding in preserving an necessary piece of Black historical past in New York Metropolis.”
Ms. Tisch stated that officers would do their half to verify “future generations know each in regards to the hurt precipitated at this website and in regards to the resilience of the New Yorkers who resisted it.”
A mob of working-class white individuals who had been upset by the primary federal draft, and the truth that wealthier individuals had been being allowed to evade the service, attacked the schoolhouse throughout the Draft Riots of July 1863, in line with The New-York Tribune. Academics barricaded doorways, and the rioters ultimately gave up.
Sarah J.S. Tompkins Garnet, the college’s principal, was instrumental in combating again in opposition to that mob. She was one of many first Black feminine principals within the New York Metropolis public college system.
The college had a number of notable graduates, together with Susan Elizabeth Frazier, who grew to become the primary Black instructor working in an built-in public college, and Walter F. Craig, a classical violinist.
One other former “coloured” college, No. 3 in Brooklyn, was designated a landmark in the late 1990s.