Brooklyn’s Erasmus Hall has the distinction of being one of the oldest secondary schools in the United States. The school began in 1786 with funding from Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Aaron Burr, and Robert Livingston. In 1896, became the property of the city and was used as a public school. Gradually, a larger campus grew up around the original building, which sat empty for a time after Erasmus Hall High School closed in the 1990s. The original building is a New York City Landmark and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
There are few schools in the United States that can claim to predate
the signing of the Constitution. But Erasmus Hall Academy in Brooklyn traces
its history back to 1786. Not only does the school have a long history, it also
has a distinguished one. Among the men who provided funding to found the school
were a number of the Founding Fathers: Alexander Hamilton, Chief Justice John
Jay, Aaron Burr, and Robert Livingston.
The school, which began as a private school for young men, is the
oldest secondary school in the state of New York. The first students at Erasmus
Hall lived in the building in addition to attending classes there. The school
began to admit girls in 1801. Until well into the twentieth century, Erasmus
was one of the country’s most prestigious secondary schools.
In 1896, the original building was donated to the city and it began to
be used as a public school. In 1905, the city began building a modern school
building complex around the original structure. The campus, which was designed
by Charles B. J. Snyder, was built in the Collegiate Gothic Style, which gives
the school the appearance of an Ivy League campus. At one point during the
decades-long expansion of the campus, the original building was moved and wings
that were added later were demolished.
Though the building was added to the National Register of Historic
Places in 1976 and was named a city landmark in 1966, it fell into neglect and
was in danger of being condemned or demolished after the school’s closure in
1994. The public rallied to save the building, however, and enough funds were
raised to repair the damage. Currently, the campus, now known as Erasmus Hall
Educational Campus, has reopened and is home to five separate small schools.
The fate of the original building is uncertain, although a number of people
would like to see it restored and to see its history promoted.
Erasmus Hall produced a number of acclaimed graduates over the years,
including Clive Davis, Barbra Streisand, Eli Wallach and Mae West, among many