I’m used to seeing old photographs of schools when they were new and pristine, set against the barren terrain that is indicative of fresh construction. And as my recent tour of Newark showed, it makes for an interesting contrast with contemporary images, where the landscape is overgrown and the school itself may be in various stages of decay. But what about the first stages of life?
A great find I made was a series of construction photographs taken of Columbia High School over a roughly three-year period, from 1925 until 1927 when it was completed. Except for the vintage cars, machinery and external scaffolding, it looks like any typical construction site; mud, wood, concrete and workers standing around. The photos were probably intended for utilitarian insurance record-keeping purposes, but today offer a rare look at the creation of a school building.
The following photographs are courtesy of the Newark Public Library.
This first photograph is merging of two shots taken at the same time in March, 1925 from the roof of the Fielding School, a grade school that had been built in the 1910s. The view shows the plot of CHS, encompassing the front entrance on Parker Avenue all the way to the area of the athletic field. A number of the houses in the distance still exist.
June 19, 1926, a cornerstone laying ceremony was held. James Betelle was in attendance, who, according to the program, was honored with the “Accceptance of Stone”. This rendering of CHS is a rare look at the entire front facade in plan view. This program is part of CHS’s archives.
January, 1927. The framing for the pitched roof and iconic central tower are taking shape. The house positioned awkwardly in front of the building remained there throughout construction. My guess is it was used as an command center for the contractors.
February 3, 1927. It’s a month later, and the eastern elevation is taking real shape. The cloistered row of windows on the first floor were the industrial shops (finished view). They have sadly since been cut away for one of the modern additions.