330 Ellery Street

Public School 52, 330 Ellery Street

Between Broadway and Beaver Street
Block 3133, Lot 10

Public School 52, 2011; Credit: Sarah Rosenblatt

Year Built: c. 1883
Building Type: School, Institution
Architect: James W. Naughton
Builder: Brooklyn Board of Education
Original Owner: Brooklyn Board of Education

History and Analysis

Public School 24 (1931) Credit: New York Public Library

Public School 52 is a three-story masonry building erected between 1882 and 1883. Built in a modified Italianate style, it was designed by James W. Naughton, the Superintendent of Buildings for the Board of Education of the City of Brooklyn. It was constructed to meet the educational needs of children in the surrounding neighborhood of Bushwick, which was becoming increasingly urbanized in the late-nineteenth century. Public School 52 was built at time when American attitudes towards public education were evolving and is an important reminder of the community-shaping role of the urban schoolhouse within the cityscape—and the on-going commitment to public education by the people of Brooklyn.

The idea of a public school system in Brooklyn, fully support and maintained by public funds, developed slowly from the initial establishment of free, public elementary schools by the Dutch settlers of the New Netherlands colony. The first school in Bushwick was established in 1662, and a second school was subsequently erected to meet the needs of the rural residents of Bushwick Cross-Roads, a few miles east.[1] After the American Revolution, the New York State legislature set aside 40,000 of public land for sale in 1789 to provide funds for public education in townships throughout the state, including Bushwick.[2] In 1815, a new schoolhouse, Bushwick District School 2, was erected near the intersection of Stanwix and Noll Streets. Known colloquially as the “Hill School,” it was officially renamed Public School 24 after the town of Bushwick was incorporated into the City of Brooklyn in 1855 and it fell under the jurisdiction of the Brooklyn Board of Education, which had been established seven years earlier.[3]

During the mid-nineteenth century, Brooklyn became increasingly urbanized and was transformed into a densely populated and rapidly industrialized city. By the end of the 1850s, public schools began to acquire a readily identifiable character, particularly after Samuel B. Leonard was elected Superintendent of Buildings. During the 1870s, Leonard frequently designed in the Rundbogenstil manner, a German-inspired variant of the Romanesque Revival that is characterized by an expressive use of brick and ample fenestration. Concurrently, changes in teaching methods and educational philosophy began to inspire new ways of thinking about the interior planning of schools. Earlier methods of instruction required large, undivided assembly spaces with smaller ancillary classrooms, but by the 1870s, educators began to prefer more specialized instruction and this shift in emphasis required more classroom space. Newer buildings, such as Leonard’s Public School 24 (1873), which replaced Bushwick’s “Hill School,” also took advantage of important advances in fireproof construction and sanitary facilities. Now demolished, Public School 24 stood on the corner of Beaver Street and Arion Place, formerly Wall Street.[4]

Increased school enrollment was the result of further development and urbanization in Brooklyn at the end of the nineteenth century—between 1874 and 1884 there was an increase of over 17,000 students in the city. To help deal with the influx of new students in the Eastern District, the current building was constructed as a branch primary school for Pubic School 24 in 1883-84.[5] The building was designed by James W. Naughton, an architect who had replaced Leonard as the Superintendent of Buildings for the Board of Education in 1879. During his ten-year tenure, Naughton was responsible for the design and construction of over 100 schools and more than two-thirds of all public school buildings erected in the City of Brooklyn during the nineteenth century.[6]

Like other aging educational facilities, P.S. 52 was eventually discontinued as an elementary school in 1945. The building was sold for $27,050 to a client of the Kalmon Dolgin Company for use as a manufacturing space.[7] The school’s third-floor classroom was removed from the building in 1981 and is now in the collection of the New York State Museum in Albany, where is on view and has been restored to a circa 1920s appearance.[8]