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A Complete Guide to the Charles B.J. Snyder Schools in Our Neighborhoods

C.B.J. Snyder, Superintendent of New York City Schools 1891-1922

For those unfamiliar, Charles B.J. Synder was the New York City Department of Education’s Superintendent of Buildings from 1891 – 1922, and he is credited with designing over 400 public schools throughout our metropolis, representing one of the largest expansions of public education in American history. His revolutionary approach to school design used a unique H-shaped plan that created central courtyards, providing pupils with light, air, and places to play in neighborhoods severely lacking such necessities. The schools were also built in high architectural styles, as Snyder believed schools could act as “civic monuments” that would inspire better societies. While many of these schools are no longer standing (several have been demolished, while others have been repurposed/rehabilitated for uses other than public education), our neighborhoods still contain several gorgeous examples of the architect’s work. Explore the list below to learn more about the history of Snyder’s schools in Greenwich Village and the East Village.

Greenwich Village

P.S. 003 – the John Melser Charrette School

PS 3 Manhattan

490 Hudson Street 

Status – Extant Public School

Built in 1907 in the Beaux-Arts style

PS 3 occupies about half of an irregularly shaped city block that dictates the overall footprint of the school. It is a five-story Beaux-Arts style building with a mansard roof and both barrel and gable roof dormers. The school remained relatively unchanged over the years except for a 1916 addition that included an auditorium and rooftop playground. Additionally, the school has undergone several small scale upgrades and renovations over its lifespan. (Read more at Yukie Otha’s SoHo Memory Project about her experience attending the school)

P.S. 16 (Addition) (Now part of The LGBT Community Center)

The LGBT Center

208 West 13th Street

Status – Still extant addition but now repurposed as a community center

Main building built in 1861 in the Italianate Style

Synder’s Addition built in 1899 to match

Previously the 9th Ward Grammar School, the Food Trades Vocational High School, and the Food and Maritime Trades School. At its height in 1961, it served over 800 students. It was sold to the Lesbian & Gay Community Services Center for $1.5 million in 1983, and the community center has been located there ever since. Today, it has grown to become the largest LGBT multi-service organization on the East Coast and the second largest in the world. Other organizations that have been located here (or got their starts here) include SAGE (Senior Action in a Gay Environment), the Metropolitan Community Church (an LGBT congregation), the AIDS activist group ACT UP, and GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).

Former P.S. 95 (Now P.S. 721 – Manhattan Occupational Training Center)

250 Houston Street

Status – Extant Public School

Built in 1912 in the Simplified Collegiate Gothic Style

Originally constructed in 1912, PS 721 is a five-storey structure of solid load-bearing masonry walls with steel floor beams.This is an H-plan building typical of Synder’s designs and is styled in a simplified gothic manner, featuring castellated parapets on its cornices and pointed arches over the windows on the 4th and 5th storeys. However, water infiltration during the 1970s to the 1990s caused severe deterioration of the walls, flooring, and ceiling throughout the majority of the school’s cellar. It was renovated in the mid 2000s and now operates as the Manhattan Occupational Training Center for high-school age students.

East Village

[All information adapted from our East Village Building Blocks Website. Interested in learning more? Dive deep into our Block Finder here]

P.S. 15 – Roberto Clemente

333 East 4th Street

Status – Extant Public School

Built in 1906 in the Italianate style

“The five-story red brick Italianate building features terracotta plaques on the fifth floor at the top of each pier separating the four bays. In 1927, two tenements to the building’s east were demolished and in 1931 the Hope Chapel to the building’s west was demolished. As part of the WPA program, the original PS 15 which fronted East 5th Street and was built in the mid-19th century was demolished. In 1953 two alteration permits were filed for the addition of an auditorium wing and a wing with additional classrooms.”

Former P.S. 25 (Now P.S. 751 – Manhattan School for Career Development)

113 East 4th Street

Status – Extant Public School

Built in 1894 in the Dutch Colonial style

“The building currently serves as the Manhattan School for Career Development. Before the construction of the school building, the site was formerly occupied by tenements.

The Dutch Colonial style, light-colored red brick building features a unique design by Snyder. It has a square plan and a pitched roof with Dutch gables. The windows are surrounded by terra-cotta trim and bands span the facade. The same material is utilized as coping on the gables. The main staircase is composed of white glazed brick with rounded corners, wrought-iron banisters, and a skylight. The fifth-floor classrooms also have skylights. The third floor holds a 120-seat auditorium and print and wood shops. The original doorjambs, doorframes, and window sashes were solid oak and the ceilings were pressed tin.”

Former P.S. 60 (Now East Side Community High School)

420 East 12th Street

Status – Extant Public School

Built in 1925 in the Simplified Collegiate Gothic Style

“This is a five-story brick building erected in 1923 formerly served as P.S. 60. It was constructed just after World War I when construction stalled. The building has a utilitarian look and features projecting side bays with elaborate parapets, brick facing, molded banding, flat lintels, and quoins flanking the windows. The main entry porticos feature an elaborate entrance surround with a large segmental arch with spandrels, Ionic columns supporting an entablature, with oval decorated pediment and beast carvings.”

Former P.S. 61 (Now The East Village Community Elementary School)

610 East 12th Street

Status – Extant Public School

Built in 1913 in the Gothic Revival Style

“It is designed in the Gothic Revival style that was extremely popular for school design at the time. Thought to reflect the holy ideals of enlightenment and the pursuit of truth, the design in brick and limestone expresses these ideas through the use of Gothic pointed arches, quatrefoils, and owls, all typical of that design aesthetic. This is partnered with the Department of Education’s seal that is represented to the left of the main entrance and the old seal of New Amsterdam to the right of it to indicate that it was a public school in New York City. 

The E-shaped school was without a playground until the mid-1920s when the tenements on the adjoining lots were demolished and a playground constructed.  Few Snyder schools were built with playgrounds because of both space constraints and an educational program that did not include playtime or outdoor physical fitness. The playground was updated several times and the windows and entrances to the building have also been altered. In the early 1950s, PS 61 was the largest elementary school by enrollment.  The sheer number of students, coupled with the design that had teachers and students trapped in a maze of stairs, created much tension between the neighborhood parents and the school’s administration.  These struggles continued and likely worsened, as the city’s budget shrunk in the 1970s and 80s. Finally, in the early 1990s, PS 61 was closed.  The school building is now occupied by the East Village Community Elementary School”

P.S. 63 – the STAR Academy

121 East 3rd Street

Status – Extant Public School

Built in 1906 in the Baroque Revival Style

“This four-story symmetrical brick building features windows grouped in sets of four, quoins that echo the window surrounds, and a classical balustrade at the top. The south facade features columns in ascending orders on the central bay: Doric on the first floor, Ionic on the second, and Corinthian on the third. There is a gym on the fifth floor, a music room on the third, and an auditorium in the basement. Beginning in 1903, Snyder designed auditoriums directly connected to the street so that they could be used by the community without opening the whole school.”

Former P.S. 64 and Former CHARAS / El Bohio Community Center

350 East 10th Street

Status – Vacant Structure

Built in 1906 in the French Renaissance Revival Style

“Built between 1904-1905, PS 64 is a rare Snyder school in that it uses the French Renaissance Revival style and the building’s design was not repeated for any other school location, as was often the case with school designs. A local New York City Landmark, the five-story building is described in its designation report as featuring “keyed surrounds, slate-covered mansard roof, terra-cotta moldings and keystones, contrasting brick and stone materials, and pediments filled with fruit and foliage [that] resulted in a visually prominent school building. This distinguished structure and its distinctive plan and sitting in the middle of a crowded neighborhood of tenement buildings helped create a strong statement about the importance of education and the importance of the building itself in the crowded immigrant neighborhood. P.S. 64 was designed while Snyder was at his creative and inventive peak, and is an unusually intact example of a school building from this early period.” Edgar Yipsel “Yip” Harburg, who wrote The Wizard of Oz lyrics, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, the director of All About Eve and The Barefoot Contessa, and Sam Levene, who played Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls on Broadway, all graduated from this school.

In 1977, at the height of the city’s fiscal crisis when waves of drugs, crime, arson, and abandonment swept through the eastern stretches of the East Village, this building was taken over by several community groups and turned into the CHARAS-El Bohio Community Center. CHARAS was an acronym for the first name of the organization’s five Puerto Rican founders: Chino, Humberto, Angelo, Roy, Anthony, and Sal.”

Former P.S. 122 (Now The 122 Cultural Center)

150 1st Avenue

Status – Still extant, rehabilitated as a cultural center for performance and the arts

Built in 1895 in the Jacobean Early Gothic Style

“This four-story building originally looked out onto the First Avenue El train until the line was removed in 1942. The school was closed due to the City’s financial crisis in 1976. After the former P.S. 122 was abandoned, a group of visual artists started to use the classrooms for studios. The Department of Cultural Affairs bought the building from the Board of Education, and then leased it for $1 a year to the P.S. 122 Community Center, founded in 1980. An AIDS drop-in center, a day-care center, two theater companies, and artists’ studios occupied the site. The movie Fame was filmed here in 1979.”

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