We recently got a tip that scaffolding has now been seen on the Renwick side of the Liberty Street School. Perhaps this will be the start to some more facade repair or maybe even new windows. The Liberty Street School is a cornerstone building for the Liberty Street business area as well as the Heights neighborhood. It has been abandoned since the last class left in 1980. Newburghers continue to anxiously await the rehabilitation of this building. For more history and photos of the school, sign up for updates from Newburgh Restoration, or check out the Save the Liberty Street School fan page on Facebook. We’ll be closely watching.
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.
Back on June 18, 2012 at a City Council meeting, further updates were announced regarding the Liberty Street School, designed by Frank E. Estabrook. Here’s a little summary of what was said.
-In 2008 Bluestone Developers entered a Land Purchase Agreement with the City of Newburgh to purchase and redevelop the school.
-In 2009 Bluestone and the City entered an Option to Purchase Agreement for empty lots that would be used for parking at the school on Johnes Street.
-In 2010 the City issued Bluestone a stop work order
-The City Council now feels that it is in the best interest of the City to continue development of the site with Bluestone
Now that the work order has been lifted, Bluestone has a timeline in which they must submit construction plans and a building permit within 4 months of the June 18th City Council meeting. After the closing, completion of the work must occur within 18 months. The purchase price for all of the properties was $50,001.00.
That means that by October 18th the plans must be submitted. And Bluestone will have a year and a half to complete the work after they close on the purchase.
Bluestone shared their plans in 2009 and 2010 to renovate the school into condos. If not too much has changed, the school will look like the photo below:
The building would have 25 apartment units and restore original walls when possible. Some community members are worried that with the current state of the economy not many would be interested in purchasing a condo at the school and, in turn they would become public assisted housing. Would you be interested in purchasing a condo there?
One fact remains is that the renovation of this building would remove a giant eyesore to Liberty Street and it could become an anchor to the commercial district and the Heights Neighborhood. It just depends on how it is done and who would be moving in. For now it continue to deteriorate. If you love the Liberty Street School check out the Save the Liberty Street School Fanpage for old articles, photos, and discussions on the school.
Thank you Yaakov for the City Council information.
Even though developments on the Liberty Street School have been on the hush, or non existent, it is still not forgotten. We are still looking forward to the day when you shine again like the picture above.
At the City Council meeting held August 16th the board unanimously agreed that Bluestone Developers has failed to diligently undertake the securing and clean-up and improvement of the Liberty Street School, as required under Section 5.a. of the LPA. That now means that Bluestone does not hold the title for the school and the City is now owner of the property.
The Newburgh Heights Association has been on top of this as this building is in the vicinity of their neighborhood. Some find it very unlikely that Bluestone will get the building back. That leaves one to ponder what will now happen to the building. First it was supposed to be an artist haven envisioned by Phillip Rudolph III, then condo’s from Bluestone, now what? The entire community wants to see a successful rehabilitation of the this building. Here’s what it looked like in it’s glory days. Click to enlarge.