2007-06-21 / Top Stories

Remsen Avenue Public School Marks Its Centennial

Teacher Elaine Rowe (standing, right) and students look through Can-arsie Courier archives.
Teacher Elaine Rowe (standing, right) and students look through Can-arsie Courier archives. By Dara Mormile

A century ago when Theodore Roose-velt was president, George McClellan was the mayor of New York City and Bird Coler was the Brooklyn borough president, Public School 114 - the Ryder School - opened its doors at Remsen Avenue and Glenwood Road.

Fast forward to 2007 when pupils from the graduating class began celebrating the centennial of their school. One class, along with its teacher Elaine Rowe, spent the year researching the school's history to create unique books with collages of photos and articles. Students used the Canarsie Courier 's archives, including late historian John Denton's "Little Old Canarsie" columns, to enhance the project.

The original schoolhouse, a one-room wooden structure next to Grace Church on East 92nd Street near Avenue J, was erected in the late 1800s and was destroyed in a fire a few years later. According to Denton, students and teachers temporarily used the Harms family's property for the re-mainder of the school year. The school reopened in 1907 at its present location, 1077 Remsen Avenue, which, at the time, was called School Lane and known as the little red schoolhouse. It served students in grades 5A-8B.

One fifth grader, Kamisha Williams, shows off book compiled of historical facts on her school.
One fifth grader, Kamisha Williams, shows off book compiled of historical facts on her school. Denton recalled that the first principal of P.S. 114 was Dr. Theodore Bar-ringer. Alex Fichandler, who played the piano as classes marched in the auditorium each morning to salute the flag, succeeded him.

Current principal Maria Penaherra-ra brings students together in a similar fashion, playing various styles of music over the public announcement system Friday mornings.

"It sets a tone to help them start their day and their mood changes," she said.

Denton's 1913 graduating class consisted of 25 students who were given their diplomas by the principal on the auditorium stage when Canarsie's population was about six thousand.

Public School 114 circa 1907.
Public School 114 circa 1907. "It's interesting to see how different Canarsie was," said fifth grader Kami-sha Williams, one of the students who researched the school's past. "I liked reading that our school once won first place in so many science fairs over the years."

Denton's columns noted that some students walked for miles to get to school. The Ryder School and Public School 115 were the only schools in the community at the time. However, there is some contention as to which opened first. Courier archives showed that The Ryder School was named after Captain Richard H. Ryder, a Canarsien who was a Union officer in the Civil War.

Other students commuted by horse-drawn wagons over dirt streets paved with crushed oyster and clam shells, which were easily obtained from nearby Jamaica Bay. Other modes of transportation students used included trolleys and boats. Denton recalled that some children took a ferry to the Can-arsie dock, which was about ten feet south of what is now the Belt Parkway, and then walked the rest of the way to school.

Today, students, who live within a few blocks, walk to school, while others arrive by car, bus and subway.

In the early 20th century, students frequented the Hager James Candy and General Store during their lunch hour. Now students can't leave the building during lunch. The current menu consists of pizza, tacos, tuna, hamburgers, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

After school activities in 1907 in-cluded fishing for boys, as Canarsie played a large part in the shellfish industry. Girls passed the time by sewing. Children also played simple games like leap frog and watched adults work on farms and at local stores. Youngsters spent time at Golden City Amusement Park, which extended from the shore of Jamaica Bay to Sea-view Avenue. The park was destroyed by fire in 1934 and its remnants were torn down to make room for the Belt Parkway five years later.

Today's students enjoy video games, watching TV and surfing the Internet. P.S. 114 students also get involved in the performing arts and attend a variety of after school programs.

The school has undergone many changes and transformations over the years. In 1981, City Councilman Her-bert Berman helped allocate over $400,000 to upgrade the school's playground. In 1999, the school unveiled a new $14.7 million wing dedicated to school librarian Sharon Ray Nudel-mann, who passed away the previous year. The school's basement was once a greenhouse, but in recent years has accommodated a variety of recreational activities.

One student envisioned the school's future."Maybe there will be an electronic blackboard in one hundred years," he said.

During the school's last anniversary celebration, for its "Diamond Jubilee," scores of alumni and their families, civic leaders, PTA members and staff celebrated with a wine and cheese party that included a display of memorabilia from former students.

This week, the 100th anniversary is being commemorated with an open house for families and students, who will be entertained by various shows, including a multicultural festival.

"This school is successful because it's a family school - literally," said Penaherrara. "We have staff and ad-ministration whose children and grand-children are currently students. It's almost as if attending this school is a family tradition."

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