2nd 3rd Arsenal Street School To Occupy The Same Location
Completed in 1916, the “new” Arsenal Street School replaced the former school, built in 1857, in the same location. The new school would actually be the third “Arsenal Street School” in its location. The original school was built in 1821 as a Methodist church on what was then known as “Madison Square,” but it would be expanded upon several times before being replaced with the former school in 1856.
In the March 10, 1914 Watertown Daily Times, it was reported—
CITY MUST OR STATE WILL
If the people of Watertown do not appropriate the money for building a new school house in place of the dilapidated Arsenal Street School building, the state will erect one for them and make them pay the bill. That seems to be the determination of the state department of education it has the power to do it. The board of education will ask the common council to submit to the taxpayers the question of issuing bonds for $60,000 or $65,000 to do the work.
The following month, a committee from the common council would investigate and see the conditions of the current Arsenal Street School and conclude that, yes, indeed, it agreed with the inspector of the state educational department, who condemned it several times in the prior year, and recommended the school be replaced. In April of 1915, commissioner of the board of education, Stuart D. Lansing, would warn the city was facing a calamity it may face years to recover from as he declared the Arsenal Street School “A fire trap.”
The Daily Times would note the following issues, “The walls of the old school are weak, the floor is not secure, the windows are narrow. There is no system of ventilation in the building,” along with the fire trap issue.
Construction would begin by the Charlebois Bros. in late June of 1915 after plans developed by Addison F. Lansing and David D. Kieff were approved. The new school was expected to be completed by the following fall and be able to accommodate 768 pupils, 48 to a class. During July, the old school would be razed with some notable names found etched in its beams and walls: Elon R. Brown, once the majority leader in the state senate and F. Kirby, who started the Kirby Syndicate and eventually consolidated his business with F. W. Woolworth.
By late August, the foundation of the new building was being laid and the decision was made to apportion students to Boon, Mullin, State and Academy Street Schools. Bricklaying would begin the following month with hopes to have the school completely enclosed by winter time. The school would be finished in time for its opening on Monday, September 18, 1916 with an enrollment two persons shy of 400.
From a 1924 study on the Watertown City School District by Columbia University, the new school would face some of the same problems as the previous school–
Arsenal Street School – a school with a new attractive exterior architecture but crowded by nearby dwellings. No play space is available. Basement windows show limited lighting for classrooms in the basement.
Indeed, the school was in a busy area; the Sears Department store was located next door on Arsenal Street by 1948 and St. Patrick’s School, completed in 1923, was located across the street.
The school would be home for K-6 grades, but when the city school district decided to consolidate some of the classes with the construction of the new Harold T. Wiley school in 1971, the Arsenal Street school was phased out and put up for auction. Later that same year, it was sold to Mobile Gas and torn down in 1972 to make way for a gas station and car wash which today is operated as “Valero.”