Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Originally Central Grammar School, then Girls High School, now Brooklyn Adult Training Center
Address: 475 Nostrand Avenue
Cross Streets: Macon and Halsey Streets
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant
Year Built: 1885-86, addition, 1912
Architectural Style: High Victorian Gothic Revival
Architect: James Naughton, addition by CPJ Snyder
Other buildings by architect: (Naughton) Boys High School, Bed Stuy, PS 9 Annex, Prospect Hts. (CBJ Snyder) Erasmus HS, John Jay HS
Landmarked: Yes, individual landmark (1983)
The story: The story of New York City’s secondary education program was made manifest right here, in this building. Brooklyn, as a separate city from Manhattan, prior to 1898, had always had public schools at what we now call the elementary level. The Dutch, and then the English, recognized the value in educating its youth. But as the years and the city progressed, the idea of a public secondary education began to percolate in the halls of educators, as early as 1849. It wasn’t until 1878 that legislators agreed to spend public monies and the Central Grammar School was chosen to be Brooklyn’s first newly built “high school”.
Central Grammar was housed at Livingston and Court, in the old Board of Ed building, until this building was completed, a few years later. Even before the ink on the plans dried, it was obvious that there were too many students, and it was decided that the girls would move here, while the boys stayed downtown until A boys high school could be built. James Naughton, the Superintendent of Building for Brooklyn’s schools, designed this building, as well as the forthcoming Boys HS, along with at least another 100 school buildings during his twenty year tenure. The school is a fine example of a mixture of Victorian Gothic and Second Empire styling. The dramatic central tower with its Mansard roof and belfry can be seen for miles and are a hint of the quality of the architectural detailing that went into this building.
Bedford was an up and coming well-to do-community, with its now famous streets of fine row housing just going up when the school was being finished. This school was a focal point of pride, and the residents were eager to send their best female students here. The school expanded in 1891, when Naughton doubled the size of the building, where the rear parking lot now lies. The New York Times illustration below shows the school in full splendor. In 1912, the old auditorium was torn down and another new addition added by another prolific school architect, CBJ Snyder. His Collegiate Gothic addition complements the Naughton school, but remains quite distinct. A large fire destroyed the 1891 addition, leaving the original school building, the Snyder addition, and a large parking lot.
Over the years many influential women graduated from Girls High School. Graduates include Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, as well as Shirley Chisholm and Lena Horne. The school officially closed in 1968, merging with Boys High School in a new building on Fulton and Stuyvesant Avenue, now called Boys and Girls High School. This building, in typical New York fashion, was closed and empty for several years, before being re-opened as the Brooklyn Adult Training Center. They hold classes for GED, computer and job skills and other programs. GMAP