We are still waiting to learn the fate of the Liberty Street School. In the meanwhile, enjoy this informative article is by Newburgh historian Mary McTamaney, originally published July 27, 2005.
Liberty Street School
Before Washington Heights formed a neighborhood association or worked to rebuild an old dress factory into a neighborhood center, the gathering places for Heights residents were out on the bluff and inside Liberty Street School.
Liberty Street School was constructed in 1891 in response to the burgeoning population on Newburgh’s south side, especially all the new families who had moved to “The Heights.” At the turn of the last century, Newburgh was a commercial powerhouse in the Hudson Valley and most of its citizens, men and women, worked in its many factories. The majority of the plants were located south of Broadway. Knowing that many eligible young people did not attend school (dropping out to help at home or in a family business was common by fourth grade), the city’s Board of Education recognized the need for thorough and practical education for its workforce. Primary and Grammar school levels were given budget and curriculum emphasis in the 1890’s and 1900’s “as to secure the pupils therein the best and most practical education possible.” Teachers were selected who could nurture these children who were often the first in their families to go to school. When it opened, the school hummed with activity during class hours and after hours as well when the neighborhood used its rooms for meetings and social events.
Liberty Street School was Newburgh’s sixth grammar school, a designation still seen carved over the doorway. The elegant building was designed by a home-grown architect, Frank Estabrook. The school was one of his first professional jobs as he set up his practice in his hometown after study at Brooklyn Polytechnic. He designed it to take advantage of abundant natural light and ventilation to be a healthy place for children. It was fashionable in the early 1900’s to train ivy over educational buildings to give them the air of an old campus. Liberty Street School was once ivy-covered as this 1911 image shows. So were other Newburgh grammar schools.
Frank Estabrook went on to design and build Broadway School in 1908 (now completely altered inside) and to design several other beautiful, but sadly lost, Newburgh buildings like Columbus Hall, the YWCA and Quassaick National Bank. Some of his residences remain along Liberty and Grand Streets as does the Wheelman’s Club, now Best Resources, Inc. His buildings, like this Heights neighborhood school, are usually characterized by their elegant cut stone, expensive brick and arched, recessed doorways. Mr. Estabrook never got to contribute more to his hometown as he died young while visiting his alma mater. While exploring new parts of the campus alone, he tripped and drowned in the swimming pool in a building’s basement.