Mystery landmarks

Throughout autumn, the New York Landmarks Conservancy celebrates the beginning of the new academic year and explores New York City’s historic public schools. To better appreciate New York City’s extraordinarily rich architectural heritage, the Landmarks Conservancy urges New Yorkers and tourists alike to take a walk past these New York City treasures, and visit for a two minute vacation on your computer, iPad, iPhone or smartboard as a “Tourist in Your Own Town” and guess the “Mystery Landmark,” both focused on public schools.

In Brooklyn, walk by Erasmus Hall High School at 899 Flatbush Avenue. Founded in 1786 as a private academy, Erasmus Hall High School became the first secondary school chartered by the State of New York. At the turn of the 20th century, the need for a larger school was met with an architectural design by Charles B. J. Snyder to build a series of Collegiate Gothic style buildings surrounding the original federal style building to form a quadrangle. Both the Federal and Gothic buildings were landmarked by the City in 1966 and the original building was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

With more than 1,700 schools and 1.1 million students, the NYC Department of Education is the nation’s largest and one of the oldest school systems. The Conservancy has long championed the preservation of New York’s historic schools with a special emphasis on those by the legendary C.B.J. Snyder, Superintendent of School Buildings from 1891 to 1922.

He believed that schools should be “civic monuments for a better society” and oversaw the construction of more than 350 “Snyder” schools during his tenure, many of which he designed. They offered light, air, beauty and dignity at a time when waves of immigrant children poured into the school system. Today, many of these buildings remain vibrant places of discovery and learning, others have been converted to new uses, and some await restoration.

Through the Landmarks Conservancy’s monthly series of “Mystery Landmarks” and “Tourist in Your Own Town” videos at, visitors to the website will discover many architecturally interesting public school buildings. The Conservancy will create a Facebook album with some historic school photos from its archives. Please feel free to send in favorite school pictures, and they will be posted too.

Through its unique financial and technical programs, the Landmarks Conservancy ensures that New York’s historically and culturally significant buildings and neighborhoods continue to contribute to the City’s economy, tourism, and quality of life.

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