1921, the shortage of student space was alarming.
Kindergarten had been relocated from the school proper to a spare
room in the Fire House (i.e., the building which had opened in 1906) on
Board promptly solicited offers of land for the High School.
The minimum size was 5 acres, but 10 acres would be preferred. By
March 1922, a site had been identified, and negotiations to purchase it
snapshot from the 1925 Aero-View
the many months that negotiations for the site continued, the Board
engaged the services of architects, and plans for the building evolved.
I have not been able to determine how the architects – brothers
H. Errol Coffin and Kenneth Ford Coffin, both graduates of Cornell –
were selected. Their
partnership, formed in 1919, was too new to have much of a track record.
Later on, the firm went on to distinguish itself over many
decades as specialists in educational buildings, designing structures
for (among other places) Mattituck, Farmingdale, Glen Cove, Cornell
University, and for towns in upstate New York, northern New Jersey,
Peru, and Chile.
between the Board and the architects seem to have been less transparent
than the earlier parts of the process.
The Long Islander (a
newspaper published in
finally acquired, the site comprised
15 acres, more than originally contemplated (of course, many years later
the additional acres would provide useful spots for those wonderful
additions and the infamous temporaries).
By February 1923, all issues related to title of the land had
been resolved, and the specifications for bids on construction were
May, taxpayers approved (“unanimously” per the Long
Islander, although the vote was actually 86 for, 1 against) an
appropriation of $250,000 for the High School building.
This amount is curious, for the estimate would have been derived
in consultation with the architects, based on their plans and their
expert knowledge of construction – yet within months, the estimate
ballooned upward by 40%. Either
the Board had expanded its requirements following the appropriation, or
the architects had been unaware of the cost of their design.
Regardless, the Board chose to proceed with it as it was, rather
than seeking a less expensive design in line with the appropriation.
In November 1923, the
December the general public got its first glimpse of the future High
School when the Brooklyn Eagle
published an architect’s rendering (above).
The caption rounded the cost up to $350,000, and it disclosed
some details that had not been published locally: there would be 12
regular classrooms, a gymnasium, a commercial classroom, a room for
drawing, a chemistry lab, and a “manual training” room.
few days before the picture appeared in the Eagle,
300 High School students, teachers, and officials had marched from the
old school to the site of the new school.
After speeches by a representative of the Board of Education and
by each of the four High School Class Presidents, ground was officially
broken by one Mr. John Hahn, reportedly given the honor because he was
among “the oldest residents of the village present” at the ceremony.
In reality, he was a prominent citizen, a successful insurance
broker and real estate agent who 15 years earlier had worked with other
local “movers and shakers” trying to build a trolley line between
Hicksville and Amityville. Per
the data recorded on the 1925 State Census, the supposedly aged Mr. Hahn
was only about 62 years old at the time of the groundbreaking.
2 months, the foundations were poured, and the first floor’s masonry
work was in-progress. As the
building took shape, someone – it is not clear who, whether architect
or Board member – looked things over and decided that an additional
staircase, not part of the specified design, should be added to the
building, and all parties agreed to the change.
the increased appropriation, money for some items – as often happens
today – had to come from other sources.
Among these items was the flag pole; the Charles Wagner American
Legion Post agreed to undertake its funding.
One of the Post’s fundraisers for this purpose was a theatrical
production staged by the Ladies Auxiliary, whose members were tutored
for the occasion by a highly-regarded actor of the day.
on the building progressed so quickly that on April 26, 1925, the
cornerstone had to be laid earlier than first planned (i.e., part of the
construction would have had to be delayed if the cornerstone was not in
place by May). At this
point, the second-level floor and walls were taking shape.
The rapid pace continued over the summer, so that by September,
the new High School was ready to accept students.
this awkwardly-retouched 1925 picture (note the painted-in clock)
illustrates, the exterior of the finished building differs only subtly
from the design originally presented.
Differences include the lack of cupolas on the wings, slightly
larger windows on the front facade, a more prominent tower, and a more
massive character over all. Although
the net effect is less delicate than the original concept, it is still
setback occurred at the very end of the school’s first December.
According to the Long Islander, cold weather caused “every pipe” in the school to
burst. The report
contemplated only the anticipated plumbing bills.
It did not mention any resultant water damage, nor any liability
to be assumed by the architects or contractor, for failing to ensure
that the pipes were adequately insulated from cold weather.
for a changing
example, although High School students in
the school sparked further development of
the High School momentarily brought
familiar murals in the auditorium (including Early Hicksville, right, which depicts Robert Williams’ land
purchase of 1648) were not part of the original building.
They were painted in 1936 by Joseph Allen Physioc, as part of a
Works Progress Administration project.
One can learn more about the building’s “New Deal Murals”