The Lansing Street School: Eventual First Home To Jefferson Community College
Constructed in 1904, the Lansing Street School came at a time of tremendous growth on the city of Watertown’s north side. Schools such as Pearl, Cooper, and Mead Street schools had recently been constructed within the last twenty-five years while older, antiquated schools such as the Bradley Street School, built in 1824, was being sold off having already been replaced.
The growth of the city overall would grow from 21,000+ in 1900 to over 32,000 by 1930, putting an incredible strain on the school district’s resources and making planning a tenuous exercise. Lansingdorp, a community developed at the end of World War I in the area and named for Secretary of State Robert Lansing’s family who lived on its farmland, would see a the government build over 100 houses near the Lansing Street School. Fortunately, most of this growth happened during one of the more prosperous times in the city as schools would be facing a number of issues within their first twenty years.
As cited in the Watertown Daily Standard’s May 6, 1924 issue, the Mead and Lansing Street schools were found to have a number of issues by a committee from the North Side Improvement League (NSIL). At Mead Street, the building was declared–
–an eyesore to the city. The building is an unsanitary condition and is a fire trap. Narrow stairs lead from the upper story tot eh floor below and about 150 children are kept on the upper story. Coal was also piled within two feet of the wooden floor in the basement.
Conditions were similar at Lansing Street, were 372 students in a school that wasn’t even full-time, attended, with one class taking place in the basement. 75 students who lived in the vicinity were forced to attend the new Cooper Street school due to the overcrowded conditions. Three days prior, the May 3, 1924 edition of the Watertown Daily Standard would note of the Lansing Street School–
We were told at certain times of the year, it was necessary to lay board to the class room so the children would not get their feet wet. A drain pipe ran through the room and there was always a noise. Certain odor always permeates the room. And yet, it is in the room very young children must spend an entire year.
A petition consisting of 500 signatures was gathered, seeking expansion of the school to include four additional classrooms at the cost of $40,000. The school was in one of the fastest growing sections of the city and should have an addition to accommodate more pupils and additional grades should be made so that the pupils might attend there until they were ready for high school, some on the committee believed.
The school would ultimately be vacated in 1962 with students transferring to Starbuck and Cooper. In 1962-3, the school would be renovated at a cost of $20,000 for use as the temporary home to Jefferson Community College. In 1966, an estimated cost in excess of $300,000 was attributed to remodeling it for the Jefferson County Vocational Technical Center.
Once again, the school would be vacated once new facilities for the Vo-Tech Center were completed on outer Arsenal Street where they operate today as BOCES. As for the Lansing Street School location, it would be used as a storage facility for a few years and house the home to the building and grounds staff. In 1979, the Watertown Daily Times would report–
The Watertown Board of Eduction Tuesday night will act on a recommendation from the building and grounds committee that the former Lansing Street School building be demolished.
The generally deteriorating condition of the building has created safety concerns and forced the relocation of the building and grounds staff to the former Cooper Street School.
The Daily Times would note the conditions within the building earlier, with bricks around windows crumbling and floors deteriorating despite the building only being 75 years old. In April of 1979, the school would be demolished, leaving behind a storage building and repair shop behind that would soon follow.
Today, the space where the Lansing Street School once stood remains a vacant lot. Aerial views from Google maps still show the outline of where the building was.
During the early years of the 1900s, the Lansing Street School, on the corner of Lansing and St. Mary Streets, was one block from the old St. Mary Street pool that was located between Burlington and Addison Streets, on the right hand side as you’re going up the hill. Part of the foundation wall is still visible, though the area in general is pretty overgrown.