James Betelle, Where Are You?

The Search for a Lost Architect

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It seems as though this masterly architect built his own career on an architectural plan—with everything in its proper place and dovetailing, with no part out of harmony with the other. — Fortune Story Magazine, October 1929

The Ghost of New Rochelle High School

July 5th, 2007 · 59 Comments · Architecture, Diary

New Rochelle High School

Referencing New Rochelle’s French heritage, New Rochelle High School was rendered in a French Gothic style infused with provincial chateau elements.

My first exposure to New Rochelle High School was a series of photographs in a 1932 article on school architecture written by James Betelle. While I had been pretty familiar with the traditional English Gothic and Neo-Classical designs of his schools, this one stood out as unique; it had a style unlike any other. Towers, dormers, finials and ornate sculptural details combined to create an edifice almost implausibly grand for a public high school. I had to see it.

Recently I arranged for a tour with a New Rochelle town official. She, along with NRHS’s Principal, were interested in my research into the school’s history–a sad chapter in its past had meant the loss of much archival information, so hopefully I could teach as much as learn.

My first stop was New Rochelle Town Hall, where I was granted access to an 8-foot tall file cabinet stuffed with plans and blueprints. Most of the material dated from the mid 50’s and on. In one drawer I did find an original Guilbert & Betelle blueprint, but it was in poor condition.

NRHS Rendering

Woodrow Wilson was the original name for the school, but a scandal erupted in 1926 when it was rejected by a new school board, which favored calling it New Rochelle. A plaque in the front hall dedicating the school to Wilson was created as a concession.

The most interesting find was a series of early renderings and floor plans of the school. In these drawings, the overall proportions are the same, but the clock tower details are a bit different, featuring larger windows with elaborate Gothic tracery. More importantly, they give a better sense of what the original structure looked like before the complex maze of additions were added.

NRHS from Lake Huguenot

New Rochelle High School viewed from Lake Huguenot. The lake was originally an ice pond, and more recently was reconfigured to accommodate athletic fields.

Unlike most suburban schools, which tend to be crammed in densely populated town centers, NRHS is situated at the rear of a massive plot, fronted by the man-made Lake Huguenot and public park space. When I first drove up to the property, I was taken by air of civility this arrangement presented.

The myriad additions to the school are mostly in the rear of the building, which helps it maintain the classical profile. As I made my way closer to the school, however, a curious feature came into focus.

NRHS main path.
In front of the building, where once was a landscaped lawn and curved driveway now sits a semi-circular addition. It’s nearly impossible to see from the street because it’s built partially below grade with an earth-mound formed in the front as a means to obscure it. The roof of this structure is an open plaza, with a straight path leading to the main entrance.

NRHS front

The towers of NRHS poking up from behind the earth-mound. This addition is reminiscent of prehistoric long barrows.

The plaza is a slab of angles rendered in concrete. It’s a rather barren and uninviting space, and has the effect of diminishing and isolating the once focal entrance, reducing it to almost an afterthought. That you have to go up a set of steps to enter the front doors, but down a flight to get to the side tower doors is disconcerting.

NRHS Main Entrance
Nevertheless, the plaza is a good location to comfortably view the details of the facade. In keeping with the French Gothic aesthetic, Betelle used an ogee arch motif over most door and windows. The central clock tower is the most ornate, with stacked reliefs of monkeys, owls and other wildlife adorning the window treatment. The tower pediment railing is decorated with seashells and fleur de lis, protected by surly gargoyles.


New Rochelle High School FireApproximately 7am on the morning of May 17th, 1968, a disturbed student set fire to the school. Students, teachers and others stood on the lawn staring at the conflagration, stunned by the mass of flames and smoke. The fire raged until being doused about 2pm, but it simmered for days. The blaze completely gutted the original building. 40 years later, it is still a sharp memory to witnesses I spoke with.

Amazingly, most of the main facade was spared. The brickwork, copper and carved stone details appear to be in excellent condition. The beauty of the facade is tempered the moment you step through the front doors, however; nothing remains of the original interior. It is an entirely modern structure, hastily built after the fire to get its 3,000 students back into the building.

The transition from red buff brick and cut limestone to cinderblocks and steel is jarring; you immediately feel the scope of the loss. From within the building, the stately facade suddenly feels like a Hollywood backlot set–a beautiful exterior masking a utilitarian interior.

Entrance Comparison

NRHS’s main entrance, as seen in 1929 and 2007. Note the ground level was raised to accommodate the front addition. The original doors and windows were lost in the fire of 1968.

New Rochelle High School AuditoriumAnother loss to the fire was the original auditorium. Designed to be accessible to the community (as many were at the time), it featured a handsome entrance with carved detailing similar to the front doors. This is the only photo of it I have found, but an early rendering gives a sense of what that facade looked like in context.

NRHS was actually constructed in two phases. The first, completed in 1926, comprised the bulk of the finished school, but the front facade was only the middle portion with the clock tower. The two wings containing the side towers were added in 1931. These additions were part of the original plan, and as such blend near seamlessly with the original structure.

A curiously modern element are the large shed dormers. The second floor of the wings were double-height rooms for music and art, so the windows provided valuable natural light. Another interesting feature are the windowless oriels that were probably intended for recessed performance platforms.

NRHS left wing

One of the 1931 additions. The decoration on the left-hand window enforces the French Gothic motif. Copper gutters following the curvature of the downspout is another nice detail.

I wandered the grounds for a while, taking lots of pictures, but the sad truth is, there wasn’t much beyond the front facade to study. Nearly everything else of the exterior was either lost to the fire or simply demolished to accommodate additions (a few tantalizing bits do peek out).

While I lament not being able to walk the original halls or see what surely was a grand auditorium, what remains of Betelle’s New Rochelle High School has been treated well and continues to sit proudly on Lake Huguenot. I’m glad I saw it.


Additional photographs can be found at my Flickr page.

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59 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Frank DiSalle // Jul 8, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    A wonderful job!

    A great remembrance for me… I didn’t go to the High School, but I had seen and been in it before the fire, which took place while I was in the Army.

    Thanks again

    Let me know if you plan to do anything on Fort Slocum

  • 2 T Plez // Jul 31, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    I never looked at “the high school” quite this way before.
    How ironic that I went on the French exchange trip back in 1981 and marveled at the cathedrals then came back to NRHS and didn’t even notice what was right there in front of me all the time.

    Seeing the picture of the building burning really made me think, especially in light of the modern acts of violence committed by “lost” students.

    Thank you for a very interesting look back.

  • 3 Kevin // Sep 7, 2007 at 9:07 pm

    great website! I graduated from NRHS in 1980 and always marvel at the structure of the building! I remember every fourth of July going to the high school for fireworks and what a spectacualar even that was with the grand tower as a backdrop. The building is mezmerizing to me to this day whenever i pass it. I do remember back in 1978 on the 10th anniversary of the fire, a film existed of the blaze and we all huddled in the classroom to watch…. I remember it well that film.. the fire, the smoke, the people staring in disbelief… I wonder where that film is today?? Someone was shooting the blaze as it was happening! i would love to see that again.
    thanks for a great site!!!

  • 4 Jeff Krieger // Oct 26, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    What a wonderful article. I entered NRHS the year following the fire. I can vividly remember watching the black smoke from Albert Leonard JHS. Next came split sessions,the Vietnam War, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. NRHS is still a magnificent site and home to many memories!!!!

  • 5 Kevin Foster // Nov 3, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    this website is wenderful.
    I have lived all over the U.S. and tell people
    about my high school and how it looks and i always get the “ya right”. this has help alot.
    Thank you.

  • 6 Rick Gross // Dec 29, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    I have the same memories as Jeff Krieger. We watched from the Albert Leonard Junior High Athletic fields as the boilers exploded sending large black billows of smoke skyward. The split sessions hosted by the two local junior high schools, the trailers of temporary classrooms in the back of the school. It was quite a remarkable school for its day. It had a planetarium, indoor pool, and tennis courts on the roof of one of the wings. The library was built in front and that is the “hump” that is in front of the school. At the time (late 60’s early 70’s) the new auditorium was state of the art. Great memories from a ’73 graduate.

  • 7 Steve Weintraub // Dec 30, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Thanks for the first-person recollections, Rick (and others), they really help give shape to the events of 1968.

    For the sake of clarity, the pool, tennis courts and planetarium were parts later additions, not the original Guilbert & Betelle structure.

  • 8 Barry D. Hargan // Jan 31, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Interesting. I was in the high school building at the time when the fire in 1968 first broke out.
    I was also heavily involved with the Drama Department. All of our costumes were stored in the attic above the auditorium. I was standing outside the side doors to the auditorium when the roof to the auditorium caved in around 10:00 a.m., bringing down the clock wall (opposite the side door and window walls) which also brought down into the auditorium inferno all of our lockers which were attached to the wall on the opposite side.

    We got a week off from school. Then we resumed classes at Albert E. Leonard Jr. High School. Of course, first period we were busy discussing the Great Fire when all of a sudden the fire alarms went off! We fled into the halls only to smell smoke and burning wood (deja vous). Along came the sirens and the fire trucks again. They caught the same distubured youth setting fire to the lithograph room of Albert E. Leonard! This time he was arrested.
    He was institutionalized. He eventually was later charged with murder in another matter and eventually committed suicide or was killed from what I heard on the grapevine.

    Barry D. Hargan, President and CEO
    Barry Hargan and Associates LLC

  • 9 Barry D. Hargan // Jan 31, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    Correction to Rick Gross from Barry Hargan, Class of ’68. The high school did not have a planetarium at the time of the fire. The Planetarium was under construction at the time of the fire. An ambitious undertaking.

  • 10 victoria // Feb 7, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    I can belveva that a kid fire new rochelle high school that is bad.

  • 11 John Taylor Thomas // Feb 15, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    So poorly written that it is difficult to follow.
    Even many photo blurbs are nonsensical.

  • 12 Bill Day // Feb 20, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Thanks for a very intersting article about New Rochelle High School. I graduated NRHS in 1976
    ( we were special because we had little Liberty Bells on our tassels ).

    I enjoyed learning more of the background on the old school. I wish there was a link to more photos of the interior before the fire.

  • 13 Liz Huggins-Thompson // Feb 21, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Hey Bill, – always wanting to poke around a little further, huh. Sounds like a good project for you.
    I remember reading that newspaper article at breakfast ( I was 5 yrs old). I remember feeling outrage and disappointment.

  • 14 Angela Cestone-Brooks // Feb 22, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Although I attended St. Gabes HS, the fire at NRHS greatly impacted my family…my dad, Joe Cestone, was Asst. Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds for the city and was one of the head guys responsible for the re-building project…very tough times for him and all of us! WOW! What a trip down memory lane!!!!!

  • 15 G.John P.Chasse' // Feb 22, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Im from New Rochelle,and remember the big fire of 68.I was 12.

  • 16 Gudrun K. Bruk // Feb 23, 2008 at 8:53 am

    I graduated from NRHS in 1959 and was one of the skaters on the lake in front of one of the most beautiful architectural marvels in Westchester. Thank you for the nostalgic trip down some magnificent hallowed halls.

  • 17 JVolkBlum // Mar 2, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Its important to note that the student responsible for the blaze was mentally disturbed. He started the initial fire as an act of protest against the Vietnam War . Unfortunately the situation escalated to such an extreme level.

  • 18 LEROY PAGE // Apr 1, 2008 at 8:34 pm


  • 19 Cathy M. Maurelli // May 4, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    I remember the day New Rochelle High School was set on fire on May 1968…My first class was Law and Economics..When I was in front of the school and seeing our beautiful school burning down I started to cry..We had to attend school at Albert Leonard Junior High School…The day of graduation was very sad in front of the twin lakes overlooking at our High School that was once the most beautiful school in the New York area that one person could do so much destruction.

  • 20 Helen Kozlow Garufi // May 7, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Jeff and Rick brought back the good times I shared with them during my years at NRHS (class ’73). I was just a 7th grader at Holy Family when the fire occurred and I remember thinking my future school is burning to the ground. The spirit of the students and faculty could never be dampened for those of us living the experience or preparing for the future. We became stronger.

  • 21 T.J. Perrotti // May 12, 2008 at 10:58 am

    I graduated from NRHS in 1981. Though I have to admit that I’ve long since forgotten most of my calculus and ancient mythology, I have clear memories of having fun during “free periods” … playing hockey on the south lake during winter; talking with friends on “the bridge”; grabbing a sandwich at the awesome deli around the corner.

    Fun memories. I’ve always admired the architecture of the building. I’ve since moved away, but have been very pleased to see an aesthetic sense of character and proportion fundamental in the recent (2004?) additions.

    Thanks for the research and a wonderful article!

  • 22 Liz Huggins-Thompson // May 12, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Hey, Perotti, did you have “Snake Lips” Dryer for Math?

  • 23 David Pribish // Aug 18, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    I graduated NRHS in 1968 – the year of the fire. I recall fire depts coming from as far away as New Jersey to fight the fire. Fire destroyed the interior and left shell of building standing. One benefit of fire was the remodeling and refurbishing of the school which it did need.
    When we were transferred to Albert Leonard, that kid who started the fire was in a couple of my classes and cops had a undercover guy tailing him at school. He was caught setting a fire at Albert Leonard.

  • 24 Barbara Cowen // Aug 18, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    Thank you the wonderful article. I was in 11th grade when the fire devastated the high school. The day before the student who set fire to the school set a fire in the mimeograph room. When we were outside I noticed a sundial on the corner of the auditorium building. The next day I stood and watched as the auditorium burned watching this sundial that I didn’t know existed until the day before. For those of us who were there the memories are so clear. There are also happy memories of the high school, ice skating on the lakes, fireworks on the Fourth of July and of course graduation, all taking place in front of that beautiful building.

  • 25 Ruth Sikes // Sep 18, 2008 at 9:43 am

    Enjoyed your history of NRHS. As the chair of NRHS ’55 reunion committee, we’ve watched the school physically change (gone is our blessed Senior Court and the football field area has been halved in size). At our 50th reunion we toured the school and found many new facilities and terrific improvements. The school holds a fond place in our hearts and provided us with a wonderful education.

  • 26 John Chasse // Sep 23, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Did not go to NRHS,but remember the fire very well.

  • 27 Linda Peterson-Wollowitz // Oct 12, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Also a 1959 graduate of NRHS (but I didn’t find Gudrun K. Bruk in our yearbook which I still have and cherish) it was a true treasure for us. The Senior courtyard was the envy of all the other classes and the large front lakes of all other high schools. The changes may have been a necessity, but the beauty has been diminished as a result..yet I still love to visit it!

  • 28 Olivia Bowles-Kymer // Oct 19, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Thanks for a great trip down memory lane. Though I graduated in 1981, NRHS is one of my fondest memories. My Dad, George L. Bowles was the supervisor for the Building and Grounds of the HS. The 3 years I spent there getting an excellent education and seeing my Dad, teachers and friends everyday will always hold a special place in my heart. I have live in Northern CA and I am amazed everytime I visit New Rochelle how much the HS has changed the past 27 years. The school still stands proud and tall!

  • 29 Albert C. Adabody // Oct 21, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    I graduated from N.R.H.S. in 1950

    Sad there was a fire.

    All those that remember how it was
    before the many changes might agree.

    All memories are relative to time.

    Actually I feel all the changes in New Rochelle
    have not been an improvement.

  • 30 Mike Praete // Nov 10, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    I lived a couple of blocks from the High School. At the time, I was in Albert Leonard and would catch the bus at Eastchester and Webster. The morning of the fire we could all smell the smoke and were just hearing the first rumors of the fire. By the time we got to Albert Leonard the whole school was talking about the fire. It did not take long for me and a couple of friends to decide to cut school and go watch the fire. I remember very clearly standing in the parking lot and watching the school burn. A very strange, exciting, and sad day. Also the only time that my father did not get angry that I had cut school. I bumped into him in the parking lot. The following year we had split sessions in A.L. and I went to school in the afternoon and did not get home until after 5pm.

  • 31 Michael James // Nov 11, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Very informative article, kept my interest. The 3 years I spent there, (9th grade in 1979 was in Isaac young Jr high) held many fond memories of friends near and far. Thank you for the history lesson about the building.

  • 32 perrotti, Thomas Sr. // Nov 25, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Fine Article…As a lead Detective brought back many memories, and long hours worked on the fire investigation. Ending for the purp was tragic.

  • 33 Wendy Segal Greene // Dec 6, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Wow..that really brought back memories..I was an alumna of NRHS, circa 1946 – egads!! The twin lakes were precious to all of us – so were many of the teachers (i.e Harry Haigh – band and orchestra,) “Pop” Burke – drama,) Loretta Coons (VP) etc.

    We did not attend Albert Leonard (where my mom, Anne Kahan Segal) had been PTA prez during my sister’s time there. Instead we all satyed in our elementary schools for 7th (yea Daniel Webster and Mrs. Flaherty (sp.?) who’s husband taught Spanish at NRHS.)

    Incidentally, Mr. Praete, was your dad (or mebbe, grandpop?!)Arthur?? Our HS class..

    It was a wonderful trip – miss the twin lakes where my eldest son, as a 2 year old was pulled on aa sled while I skated – the other two missed out) but am so grateful to the wonderful Dee Danielson who forwarded this to me….ah, memories!

  • 34 Harold Crocker // Feb 7, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Adding to what Barry D. Hargan stated so vividly above, I was also in the building that morning in the breakfast program downstairs in the kitchen area, where my mom was the cafeteria director. If you remember, we were already on split shifts due to the new construction. (Do you remember the portable classrooms on McKenna field, and our games were played at IEYJHS for a couple of years?)Pete Caputo and Frank Agresta were there when the alarm went off at around 7:20 am. We had a number of alarms previously including the one the day before. I ran out to see where they were headed, but was chased out the front door near the offices. The main fire was set in the construction area above the cafeteria on the library side, next to the elevator shaft that was under construction, This is where it spread up directly to the roof area and continued to spread. My locker was also under the auditorium and when it collapsed I lost everything that day, all my books, regents notes etc., as did many of our classmates. I remember the efforts of all the staff and firemen as they tried desperatly to stop the fire and remove valuable records and equipment from the school that day. It was one of the saddest moments of our lives.

    We did have the week off, as schools were reorganized and split sessions instituted in the jr high schools, and the person responsible was caught starting up a fire at Albert Leonard. (if I remember, there was a plant from the police academy disguised as a new student that followed the suspect around)

    I was fortunate enough to come back to NRHS to teach and coach, and there was a special clock on the wall in the main office with the time that the fire alarm went off, which reminded everyone of that sad day.
    The rebuilt high school with the new additions is still one of the most beautiful schools in the US.
    Thank you for the article and the responses.

  • 35 Rich Santoro // Mar 12, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    I graduated in 1975. I also remember the fire too. In fact, I watched the school burn with my mother from across the street by Forest Ave. So sad. Yeah, even to this day, I brag about the beauty of that building. A Masterpiece if you ask me. I still have my yearbook….The Very first two pages is NRHS in the day time and the very last two pages is it at night. Breathtaking!!

    Thanks for sharing your photos. I really enjoyed them.

  • 36 Unknown // Jul 16, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I got to nrhs now, 2009. The years I’ve been here it’s been discusting and unkept. Full of drugs, violence, cutters, pregnant people, everything. Some school..

  • 37 E. Backstrom // Aug 15, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Interesting article. My mother graduated from NHRS in 1951. As a kid I remember my folks driving around the wrecked building after the fire. My mother was upset about the fire. Years later as a former draftsman, I “practiced” visualization on the few photos that my mother had. Your web site showed me that I had come close. By the way, you have two photos of the fabled auditorium. The traditional one in the inset on the start page, and the one from 1928 of the Scholarship Club on your flickr page. They’re standing on the steps of the “public” entrance.

  • 38 Joseph Summo // Nov 22, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Only the auditorium and third floor of the building was lost in the 1968 fire. The basement and first floors were just renivated. I had seen the original walls behind new brick when the building was renivated again in the early 90’s

  • 39 Burton Evans Jolley, Jr. // Dec 2, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    I have seen this article before but probably not in its entirety. On this occasion I took the time to read it thoroughly and notice each of the comments that followed. I graduated in 1951 with a sensationally honored class and am very proud of them and our school. I lived closer than anyone has ever lived to the school, directly across Clove Rd. from the auditorium. The public entrance was to our right and the several side doors opened on to a grassy area in front of my house. I never saw the school after graduation until after the millennium when we were kindly allowed to revisit our original house. I was astonished to see the changes in the landscaping, new buildings, roadways and athletic fields. It sure was different from those fences we as Junior Highers used to hop to see the Purple Wave play football. I was there when the three high schools merged and actually did all my five years there at NHRS. I so remember the Senior Court, the winter wooden outside grey running track, the 2 cent, mostly horror, movies shown at lunch time and all of those fairly unique high school sororities and fraternities we had. I know from some book collections of graduates, that many folks have always remained in that wonderful school district but don’t forget that those of us who have travelled near and far still have the fondest memories and were equally as hurt by the damage that demented soul forced upon us all.

  • 40 Susan Klein // Jan 11, 2010 at 12:48 am

    NRHS Class of ’72 graduate here; another voice added those above who watched the fire of 1968 from the hill behind Albert Leonard as a 9th grader. Split sessions and classes in the cold portables followed for 10th and 11th grade; as I recall, classes did not begin for 10th grade until the afternoon, which made for some lovely sleeping-in (great for teenagers), doing homework in the mornings, and watching daytime t.v. before school. The fire was undoubtedly traumatizing as we all seem to have such vivid memories. Thanks for the interest on the architecture, and the post.

  • 41 Juan Ayala // Dec 22, 2010 at 3:16 am

    I only went to NRHS for my freshmen year. I am recently in Texas but the schools here can’t be compared to NRHS. This is a beautiful school and I am very glad to be apart of it. I hope i live to see that school more time.

  • 42 Michael Rones // Dec 28, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    I graduated from NRHS in 1979. I was in Roosevelt Elementary in that yr 1968 and I remembered taking the school bus up North Avenue and passing the highschool and seeing parts of the school all burnt up.

  • 43 maxgames.me // Mar 11, 2011 at 4:21 am

    remember the fire very well.

  • 44 Glen Fosina // Apr 28, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    I was in the class of 1983 grew up across the Street on Parcot Ave , My Mom Stated that our clothes on the clothes line in the back yard were black from the heavy smoke from the fire. I was and still very proud to say I attended such a great school with excellent Teachers ( My friend and neighbor Bobby Pendorf RIP) and Fred Todora ,Coaches/ teachers Crocker,Yacone, Kiernan, Cap , Damico, Bailey and the best Asst. Principle/Councilmen Don ZACCAGNINO Mr. Zack as we called him ,Mr. Jay Sommer was National Teacher of the year even though I never had him.

  • 45 Linda Peterson Wollowitz // May 25, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    So pleased to see the photographs of the school that I knew and loved. As a 1959 graduate I was privileged to be part of all its beauty and when I returned to our 50th anniversary party, it was a shock to witness the changes. Not the beautiful school of my lifetime.

  • 46 Bill Di Dio // Jul 6, 2012 at 8:38 am

    I can remember this sad day like it was yesterday…I had graduated from NRHS in ’66 and was catching up on the local news through the Standard Star newspaper. In Vietnam back in those days, we didn’t have the luxury of the Internet or cell phones, so getting hometown news was ususally about a week late. It was just another piece of miserable news in a year that has haunted me for the rest of my life.

  • 47 AGF // Jul 6, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Wonderful important piece! Time still erases the ability to reconstruct the past. Glad to have someone so talented trying to put things together before they are lost forever.

    I was a student at Roosevelt Elementary School at the time. A Classmate told us that the high school was on fire. Nobody believed him until we went outside and, from the multi-tiered back of the elementary school we could see plumes of smoke. It was a horrible day. Most of us had experienced the fire in Roosevelt. I’ll never forget the sight of Dr. Mason opening the fire doors to the stair case revealing smoke behind her. Those memories were fresh as we watched the smoke fill the sky.

  • 48 Laura Fullman // Jul 23, 2014 at 7:26 am

    Wow, this was quite a phenomenal read. My father was a graduate of NRHS 69′ so he told me the story of the fire and now he had to go to Albert Leonard Middle School. It’s astonishing to see the architecture of the building before and how nicely it was built back. It’s kind of sad that the original building couldn’t be to this day but at least the new design is quite identical. Great read, I’ll have to share this article with my dad!

  • 49 Fran Delfico // Jul 23, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    I graduated in 1975 from NRHS. My brother was in NRHS at the time of the fire. I too remember going with my parents and seeing the fire. It was horrible. I remember it like it was yesterday. NRHS is one of the most beautiful schools I have ever seen. I have been to other high school in local cities and you can’t compare. The kids in NRHS should visit other local high schools to appreciate the beautiful and well kept school they are in. I am PROUD to say I attended NRHS.

  • 50 Michele Colabella (Easton) // Sep 13, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    I graduated from New Rochelle High School in 1976. Still very proud to have been a part of the school. Every time I visit New Rochelle (now a Florida resident), you will always find me walking the school campus. M

  • 51 Carol Wood // Sep 16, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Thanks for the pictures and article. I like your comment about it being like a Hollywood set now (……or a Potemkin Village)
    Definately NOT the school I graduated from in ’64.

  • 52 Linda Rodman Forman // Aug 17, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Thanks for re-posting. I take great pride in being a NRHS alum. Class of ’72. My dad, Walter,graduated in ’42 and my uncles, Harold and Jerry, before that although I think that the h.s. was actually located where today’s City Hall is situated. Uncle Jerry was a big jock and my dad played in the band with Director Harry Haigh. Maggie Weinstein taught them and was a favorite teacher of theirs even though she terrorized my sister and me! And probably my cousins too- classes of ’62’ ’67 and ’70. Fond memories of fireworks as a child and many happy memories. Long live the Class of ’72! …. Linda

  • 53 Ellen Kachalsky // Aug 18, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    Like Jeff Krieger, I remember watching the fire from Albert Leonard; the smoke and flames could be seen that far away, and then the next year we had split session, the portable classrooms taking up the track and field in the back, and the new underground library up front. Since I walked from my home on Elk Avenue, I came up to the front door on the walkway between the twin lakes. I loved that view!

  • 54 Arthur Librett // Aug 19, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    just one correction at this time….the lakes remain and the athletic fields are still in the rear of the school.

  • 55 Joel Feinberg // Aug 21, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    The individual who burned the high school down, also burnt down the Jewish Community Center, in downtown Yonkers. I believe that their were thirteen deaths, from that fire.

  • 56 Steve Weintraub // Sep 2, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Arthur – A chunk of the lake was filled-in in front of the school to accomodate two new athletic fields.

  • 57 Riki Evans // Oct 25, 2016 at 10:12 am

    I graduated NRHS in 1067, the last raduating class of the original building. Ice skating every winter on te two front lajes, July 4th fireworks over the lakes and the sight of the school along the main road was always awesome, especially to guests who always asked, “who lives there!” The fire made front page news in the Charleston, West Virginia newspaper. I was in shock abd tears for ages.

  • 58 Angela Lore Barone // Aug 27, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    Love these old photo’s. I remember the fire. my husband and I just returned from spending 6 months in Savannah,Ga. He was stationed there after his tour of duty in Vietnam.When were returned to New Rochelle the fire was in progress. We both graduated in 1962 I remember I didn’t want to leave NRHS loved my 3 years there.

  • 59 Andy B // Dec 10, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    I graduated NRHS 1965, was overseas when I heard of The fire in 68. The first place I stopped at when I returned home, was The burned school. Sad to see.

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