Warren County Historical Society Presents …
The Digital Version “REWIND”
April 1, 2017
The Old Ridge Street School
By Dr. Fred G. Fielding
The following article was taken from a page in the June 12, 1936 issue of The Post-Star. It is copied here as it appeared on that date. The newspaper was in a very fragile state and incomplete. The original article was continued on a later page, but the continuation was not included.
The author of the article, Dr. F. G. Fielding attended the school which he describes. The school was later replaced by another building further north on Ridge Street, the site of the present firehouse on Ridge Street. “Dr. Fielding’s article which follows, describes the old school and its methods, indicating the progressive spirit of education in this community.”
The original Ridge Street School described here stood on a plot of land just about opposite from the Queensbury Hotel’s parking lot. Mrs. Newman’s house and the Paramount Theater were just north of the Ridge and Maple Street intersection. The street called Sumner Place does not exist today as it was eliminated during Urban Renewal in the 1960s for the Kamyr building, today the site of Women’s Health Care Institute.
In the fall of 1870, if one were to walk down Ridge Street from the north, the city block between Sumner Place on the north, and Maple Street where the Paramount Theatre now stands, on the south, would have been occupied by the following places: On the corner of Sumner and Ridge stood a small, red brick house, and next to that on the south was a large white, colonial house owned and occupied by Hiram Holley, who ran a grocery store on Warren Street where the State Chocolate Shop is located at present. Next south of that was a large lot and house owned an occupied by Senator W. W. Rockwell. This house was built of unpainted red brick. Senator Rockwell’s was known for the beautiful trees, especially the soft maples, which filled the grounds and went back toward a very well kept and extensive garden. We young boys at the time used to know it particularly on account of the presence of some grapevines which were very handy.
Next south of the Rockwell place was the Ridge Street School lot and next south of that lot was the block of land owned and occupied by Mrs. Newman. The house was a small one and a half story wooden structure. The original school lot and the Newman lot occupied the ground where Charles Dix now lives. Next south was a rather large property owned at present by Dr. M. L. Haviland. It was occupied at that time by a gentleman named Holbook and his sister. Next south of the Holbrook lot and coming to the corner of Maple and Ridge, the plot of land now occupied by the Paramount Theatre was owned by Mr. Wilcox, grandfather of Harley Atwood.
The Ridge Street School was built about 1864 or 1865. The building consisted of an unpainted brick structure two stories in height containing two school rooms, one on the first floor and one on the second. Both floors were alike. This structure was built of a so-called “Benedict” brick, and we would find on the face of each brick the name “Benedict” stamped in the structure of the brick. The original roof was shingles, afterwards changed to slate. The building stood sideways toward Ridge Street.
On the north end of the building was a hallway extending across the building six or seven feet wide. One half of the hallway was occupied by the stairway leading to the second floor, and the other half by a runway leading from the head of the stairs across the building from east to west so that the children might enter the schoolroom itself by one doorway and leave by the other one. Between these doorways in the schoolroom was a teacher’s platform raised one step above the level of the floor and occupied by the teacher’s chair and desk. On the corner of her desk was the well-remembered box of white chalk for use on the blackboard. In the corner of this room next to the hallway partition toward Ridge Street was a small bench on which stood the galvanized pail and tin dipper, from which all the students regardless of sanitary precautions “wet our whistles.” The water was pumped from a well in the front yard. Next to the bench was a pile of wood for use in the large, round high stove which set between the pile of wood and the first row of seats.
The seats and aisles ran north and south, with windows in the side of the building both east and west. Here were three rows of desks the length of the building with twelve or thirteen desks in each row. (The Plank Road School is said to have had desks made by local carpenters. In 1872, however, the desks were made by an equipment company.) Between the windows and across the width of both ends of the room were chalk boards made of slate, and at the bottom of each line of blackboard was a narrow bench on which pieces of chalk and erasers wer placed when not in use. One of the favors which some good boy might always be assured of obtaining was the privilege of gathering up the erasers and going outdoors to stand and beat the chalk out of them.
There was no flag and only a few maps, and scarcely any other equipment. A report from the teacher or assignment of work from her might be on the blackboard behind her desk. The dictionary and Encyclopedia Britannica were noticeable by their absence. The teacher was supposed to have the knowledge of the world in her head and to give it to us as we needed it.
About 1875 or 1876 the interest in this school had become so graet as the attendance had increased to such an extent that it decided at one of the school meetings, which were held annually, to buy the plot of land owned by Mrs. Newman next south of the school. This land and house were accordingly purchased. The partitions in the lower portion of the house were torn out and the space on the lower floor was made into two fairly good sized rooms for the use as we called it, for the “infants.”
Glens Falls has always been fortunate in having public-spirited citizens who would take hold and do the schoolwork of the city, and among those it seems to me no one deserves more credit than Dr. Buell G. Streeter, the father of our present Dr. Fred B. Streeter who is at present living on Maple Street. Dr. B. G. Streeter was elected trustee of the Ridge Street School in 1870 or 1871, and continued to hold that position until the Union Free School District was started in 1887, and at that time he was elected on the first Board of Education for the Union Free School District. Mr. Streeter was, as I remember him, a man of great enthusiasm and personal magnetism. He was as greatly interested in the conduct and development of this school as a boy would be killing snakes. It was his almost daily, certainly weekly, custom to appear in one or both of the school buildings where he would listen to the school work being conducted and frequently giving the youngsters short talks. He was interested also in getting the best teachers that the school district could afford for this school.
Boys Attended College
Dr. Fred Streeter and his brother, Frank Streeter, both were graduated from Union College, and were among the first boys to go from Glens Falls to a school of higher education. This shows a bit of the interest taken by Dr. Buell Streeter in hight education when at so early a period he sent his sons to be graduated from a college of belles-lettres before taking up their life work. Both Fred and Frank Street taught here for one year when they came back from college.
This article was prepared by Stan Cianfarano, Warren County Historian, for the Warren County Historical Society.