Ceremony Set to Unveil Roosevelt School Historical Plaque

Roosevelt Elementary School and its predecessor might be gone, but the building will never be forgotten, as least if the Huntington School District’s Heritage Museum has its way.

Closed in January 1967 and eventually demolished to make way for the construction of Huntington Elementary School, which is now known as Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School, Roosevelt Elementary School served thousands of local students during its four decade long run.

Huntington’s School Heritage Museum will hold a ceremony on the site of the former elementary on Lowndes Avenue in Huntington Station on Saturday, May 21 at 11 a.m. Folks will gather on the basketball courts, not far from where the old structure once stood.

School Heritage Museum Curator Brian Hansen said a commemorative historical plaque will be unveiled during the ceremony to forever mark the spot where Lowndes Avenue/Roosevelt Elementary School once stood. The ceremony is open to the public and community members are welcome to attend.

Prior to the construction of Lowndes Avenue School (the forerunner to Roosevelt Elementary School), the district utilized a building on School Street between Lowndes Avenue and New York Avenue. It was alternately known as School Street School or Station School. The structure was later used as a U.S. Post Office and VFW Hall. It was also demolished during the Urban Renewal initiative.

Lowndes Avenue School was built in 1913 on a three acre site for $58,000. Like most elementary schools at the time, it served students ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade. The building was doubled in size to 16 classrooms in 1927 at a cost of $99,409. It was then renamed Roosevelt School in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt. The dedication ceremony was attended by Mr. Roosevelt’s widow, Edith and his fifth child, Archibald, who would later attend the school’s closing ceremonies in January 1967.

When Robert K. Toaz Junior High School opened in 1939, Roosevelt became a true elementary school, housing grades K-6.

Facing Lowndes Avenue between Winding Street and School Street, Roosevelt School was an imposing structure. As was common during this era, it featured separate entrances for boys and girls. The building was closed on Friday, January 27, 1967 after it had become badly outdated. All Roosevelt students were shifted to the sparkling new Nathaniel Woodhull Elementary School, which opened on Monday, January 30, 1967.

Roosevelt was demolished during the 1967-68 school year after the district sold it to the Town of Huntington for more than $400,000. Construction of the current building started soon after demolition. (Note: School Street was eliminated during Urban Renewal. If it still existed it would run through the Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School athletic fields to the south of the current building.)

During the Urban Renewal program, the town commenced eminent domain proceedings to condemn nearly ten acres of land and many homes west of Lowndes Avenue between School Street and Tower Street, in order to enlarge the school site. The $2.9 million cost of Huntington Elementary School was primarily funded by the federal and state governments through Urban Renewal related funds and special state aid. The building was designed to accommodate 1,000 students.

When Huntington Elementary School first opened in 1969, it was used as a junior high school. Toaz was closed that year for renovations after a fire badly damaged the auditorium and surrounding areas and so a large new wing could be constructed. The following year Huntington El, as it was affectionately known, began serving students ranging from kindergarten through sixth grade. It continued housing elementary grade level students through June 2010.Today it is used as Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School.

Huntington Elementary School was built not far from where the former Lowndes Avenue and Roosevelt Elementary Schools once stood. The structure was erected in 1968-69 as part of the federal government's Huntington Station Urban Renewal project.

Genesis of Huntington PTA
Tied to Lowndes Avenue/Roosevelt Elementary School

The PTA, as the Parent Teacher Association is widely known, has a long history in the Huntington School District. It has been active for nearly 90 years and worked tirelessly to improve the educational experience of all students.

The forerunner of the PTA was formed in 1923 at what was then known as Lowndes Avenue School. After the building was doubled in size in 1926/27, the school was renamed in honor of former President Theodore Roosevelt.

“The nucleus of the first PTA of Roosevelt School, consisting of about six parents, met together in Room 115 to discuss ways and means of providing free milk to a large number of undernourished children whose parents were economically unable to supply their children with the necessary amount of milk for good health,” wrote Roosevelt Principal Agnes B. Bailey in 1958. “This was about 1923.”

The parent’s milk campaign was the start of something special in Huntington. “At this time we were buying milk in quart bottles (retail price) and serving it in paper cups,” wrote Mrs. Bailey. “The front of our auditorium was the area used for this purpose.”

The group’s first organized fundraiser was a roast beef dinner prepared and served on the second floor of the old four-room School Street School. It was located across the street from the current Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School parking lot (the one with the basketball hoops on the south side of the building).

After a period of rapid enrollment growth, Lincoln School was erected on E. 9th Street adjacent to St. Hugh of Lincoln Roman Catholic Church in 1923/24. (Woodbury Avenue Grammar School was built at the same time.)

By 1925 the parents of Lincoln’s students had affiliated with parents from Roosevelt School to organize the district’s first PTA. “The first two years this organization included parents and teachers from both Huntington Station schools,” according to Mrs. Bailey.

By 1927 “the parents in Roosevelt School felt they could do more for our children working as a separate unit, so they withdrew and formed their own PTA,” wrote Mrs. Bailey, who served the district as a principal for 36 years, longer than anyone else.

“Our PTA over many years has contributed much to the welfare of our children,” wrote Mrs. Bailey. “I recall programs of free milk when needed, graham crackers with milk for all children, [and] the purchase of a radio. During the war, a program was set up to supplement family budgets; in some cases eyeglasses, tonsillectomies, and many other necessary and worthy causes.”

Mrs. Bailey was in a unique position to see the genesis and growth of Huntington’s PTA. Her career in Huntington began on September 7, 1921 as a fourth grade teacher at Lowndes Avenue School. The next year she moved to the eighth grade level. In 1924, only her third year in the district, she was elevated to principal of the school.

Known as a no-nonsense principal, Mrs. Bailey was stern looking in appearance. She ran the school with an iron hand. After 36 years as principal and 38 years in the district, the 65-year old Mrs. Bailey decided it was time to call it quits. She sent a letter to Superintendent J. Taylor Finley on March 23, 1959, announcing her intention to resign for the purpose of retirement, effective at the close of the school year in June.

“The parents of our PTA have always been cooperative with one primary objective in view – that of the welfare of children,” wrote Ms. Bailey.

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