An Unexpected View

by Don Friedman on August 4, 2016

I was up on a rooftop in the Bronx yesterday and I saw something interesting:

IMG_1717

I was looking at a boring building – a 1950s warehouse turned offices – but that art-decoish dome caught my eye. The neighborhood of Crotona Park East is an ordinary residential area and I wasn’t expecting an architectural refugee from Gotham City. It turns out to be an ordinary building living inside an extraordinary exterior: it’s Junior High School 98* and was built circa 1930 as one of the first wave of purpose-built junior high schools in the city. This was shortly after  C. B. J. Snyder retired, after having designed hundreds of New York schools in the Collegiate Gothic and Colonial styles. It’s a beautiful building and has been favored by photographers since it was completed. (And yes, the second link lists one of the cross streets adjacent to the school as “Suburban Place.” It’s a one-block street running from Crotona Park to Boston Road. The Bronx once had high ambitions.)

The first forty years of the twentieth century were a high-water mark for New York in terms of the quality of public architecture. The nadir was probably the 1970s, when publics schools were being built that not only looked like prisons, but also were shoddy and uncomfortable. Quality architecture is now, again, a goal in school and public building design…but none of the new buildings have anything to compare to that dome on 98.


*In the lingo of the New York City public schools, Brooklyn is “K” and the Bronx is “X”, so when I was a student I would have abbreviated this school as JHS98X.

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