Philip Schuyler High School – It’s Temporary

Last time we talked about how Albany developed its first “cosmopolitan” high school, Philip Schuyler, which opened in 1934. But we hadn’t gotten to the bottom of how it came to be in the old Public School 14, instead of in a new high school building. Confusing, because in all the years leading up to its opening, it was intended to be built on the site of the old Albany Penitentiary, somewhere behind the already-built Hackett School. And yet, that plan appeared to go away with hardly another mention.

The old Albany Penitentiary, opened in 1846 and once considered state of the penal art by putting prisoners to work for their upkeep, closed sometime around 1931, and looked like a good site for a new educational institution. As plans for a cosmopolitan high school progressed, the old penitentiary was razed, starting at the end of 1932. “Razing of the building by the Coyle Wrecking company will give work to approximately 90 unemployed men during the winter. Officlals of the company have declared dynamite will not be used on the job.” Whether that was to accommodate concerns of neighbors or just to make the job take longer in the depths of the depression was not explained.

But the clearing of the old pen was for naught. In 1934, it was decided to put the new high school in the old elementary school, School 14. Why? Money.

“The new South End senior high school will be called the Philip Schuyler Senior High School. That name also will be carried when the permanent senior high school is built on the site of the old penitentiary. Mayor Thacher made the selection of the name today when he approved the plans of the Board of Education to make School 14 a full fledged senior high school instead of an industrial and vocational high school as originally planned.

“‘The Philip Schuyler Senior High School, in its location at School 14, will be only a stop gap until we can get money to build a modern senior high school on the penitentiary grounds,’ the Mayor said. ‘For the time being this school will relieve congestion at Albany High School and at the same time give South End students the same facilities in study and curriculum as prevails at the Albany Senior High School. This will be a high school in every sense of the word. The only thing temporary will be the building. As soon as the modern school is built, School 14 will revert to a large elementary school and this will permit closing three South End grade schools which are out of date.’ … The mayor said he did not know how long it will be before it will be possible to build the modern structure on the penitentiary site, but he will not consider School 14 as a permanent high school under any condition.”

Well, that never happened. A three-story addition to School 14 was part of the plan, Philip Schuyler remained Philip Schuyler until 1974, when the high schools were merged and moved into the new school on Washington Avenue.

Photo from the Flickr archive of the Albany…The Way It Was Facebook group.

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