An apartment house rises out of this 1893 school

In the late 19th century, New York City went on a public school building spree, constructing several handsome new schools across Manhattan to educate all children, but especially those of the poor and working classes.

One of these schools, completed in 1893, was a spectacular romanesque building that resembled the Dakota—trimmed with brownstone and brick and tricked out with arched windows and gabled roofs.

Public School 35 (above, in 1920) occupied the northwest corner of First Avenue and 51st Street (the former site of the 18th century Beekman mansion) for the next 70 years.

What was it like attending school here?

One New York Times letter writer summed it up this way in 1987: “My fellow-students, although by no means an assemblage of miniature angels, had been cautioned by hard-working parents to derive maximum benefits from the free education denied their European-born parents.”

By the 1960s, PS 35 was no longer. For the next few decades it was a mostly empty neighborhood eyesore. The old school even did a stint as a homeless shelter for women.

In the 2000s, however, this striking building took on a new role: as the lower-floor facade of a 20-story condo designed by Costas Kondylis.

The interior walls were knocked out and a modern apartment tower was built inside the facade. (Above, before the apartment building was started).

Don’t give too much credit to the developer, though, for preserving the facade. The school earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Presumably the facade of PS 93 couldn’t be totally leveled, so the sleek condo building now rises inside the school—a curious mix of old and new New York on a Turtle Bay block.

[Third photo: NYPL; Fourth photo: Turtle Bay Association]

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4 Responses to “An apartment house rises out of this 1893 school”

  1. Marilyn Says:

    Gorgeous building.

  2. David H Lippman Says:

    Fantastic reuse.

  3. Greg Says:

    Being listed on the National Register of Historic Places is a nice honor and comes with tax benefits, but it doesn’t confer any sort of protection from demolition, unfortunately. It’s not at all like being a city landmark. The developer elected to keep the facade. How much credit he should be given for that is up for debate.

  4. mary stewart Says:

    I went to school at PS135. I loved that school. There was a lot of varnished wood inside and the school smelled liked wood. I shudder to think how much was torn out. I got a good education there too. I went there in the 40’s.

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