Demolished: Landmark Flatbush District #1 School

Demolished: Landmark Flatbush District #1 School
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Flatbush District #1 School Building in 1931. (Photo: Brooklyn Public Library)

A landmarked Church Avenue school building — which was constructed when Flatbush was still an independent village — is no more.

The Flatbush District #1 School Building, a designated New York City landmark, located at Church and Bedford Avenues, was demolished by the City for public safety reasons in the last two weeks.

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Former site of Flatbush District #1 School. (Photo: Sarah Crean)

The District #1 school building, constructed between 1878 and 1894, was located at the southwest corner of Church and Bedford Avenues, right next to Erasmus Academy. It was permanently sealed around 2000.

The building was designed by John Culyer, a “locally prominent civil engineer and landscape architect who was the chief engineer and superintendent of Prospect Park,” according to the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Culyer designed the original H-shaped portion of the school building in the Rundbogenstil, or round-arched style, which was then the prevailing style among the new Brooklyn schoolhouses, the Commission notes.

Cuyler was also the architect of the Flatbush Town Hall on Snyder Avenue.

According to sources within the City, an Emergency Declaration was issued last September by the Department of Buildings ordering that the building be demolished due to public safety concerns because of its condition.

The City-owned former school was vacant and in poor condition at the time of its landmark designation in 2007, sources told us. At that time, a nonprofit organization was to rehabilitate and occupy the building, but the plan fell through. Efforts to find another use for the building were not successful.

The demolition of the school building raises serious questions about the future of the landmarked 18th Century Erasmus Academy Building — located within the Erasmus campus next door — which is also managed by the City, and is steadily deteriorating as well.

Residents have started a petition, pressing the City to save the Erasmus Academy Building before it is too late.

The Flatbush District #1 School Building was a physical connection to the time when Flatbush was a growing village still independent of Brooklyn. It was selected as a Building of the Day in 2011 by Brownstoner, who had this to say about its history:

“The…[building]…is an endangered remnant of Flatbush’s proud educational history. This school is a descendant of the first Flatbush school, widely believed to be the first school in Long Island, founded by Flatbush’s Dutch settlers as early as 1659, which was near this location.
[By the 1870s, Flatbush] was growing by leaps and bounds, changing from a rural agricultural town to a suburban destination, due to its place on the important Flatbush Turnpike, and later, the Flatbush trolley line and railroad. As town life came to Flatbush, the need was seen for civic buildings such as the Town Hall and a large school….
Culyer was a thoughtful architect, and as a Board of Education member, was well read in the philosophies of educators of the time, and designed an airy school building, with lots of windows and light, high ceilings, and wide hallways….By 1916, the building was officially called the Flatbush School, and it was again overcrowded.”

Following Flatbush’s annexation into the City of Brooklyn in 1894, the District #1 school building was renamed Public School No. 90, and remained open until 1951.

From 1954 to 1967, it housed the Brooklyn Branch of the Yeshiva University Boys’ High School, and from 1968 into the 1990s, the Beth Rivkah Institute, a private girls’ school.

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Ruins of Flatbush District #1 School earlier this year. (Photo: Kevin Walsh/Forgotten NY)

This is what remains of the Flatbush District #1 School, today, March 2nd. Thank you to the reader who alerted us about the building’s demolition.

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Photo: Sarah Crean

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