Old Jamaica High School now a landmark

Photos courtesy of the Landmarks Preservation Committee

When the first Jamaica High School was built, residents and community leaders wanted the building to “express refinement, public spirit and taste of that community.” Now, centuries later, the site has been deemed a landmark.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) named the 19th century, Dutch Revival building a landmark on Tuesday, June 25. The commission said the building went up in 1896, when borough residents began to both realize the importance of higher education and enforce education laws.

The Hillside Avenue site originally was home to a combined grammar and high school named P.S. 47. However, the school became overcrowded and the grammar school was moved elsewhere, morphing the building into Jamaica High School. It remained as such until 1927.

The three-story building was designed by William Bunker Tubby, a prominent Brooklyn architect who was known throughout the city for his historic revival style designs, particularly the Pratt Institute library and five Carnegie libraries in Brooklyn.

“The fact that such a distinguished architect was selected to produce a highly original, distinctive building underscored the prosperity and growth of Jamaica,” said LPC Chair Robert Tierney. “It also shows how serious the town was about educating its children.”

Tubby gave the building a distinctive design for Jamaica’s growing population, which is said to have expressed the town’s optimism about its future development. At the time, schools were changing from simple structures to “civic monuments,” said the LPC.

The building’s Dutch Revival style features red and tan bricks. “Unusual” elements of the school include stepped and arched windows as well as a tall, hipped roof accentuated by “witch’s hat” dormers and high chimneys, according to the LPC.

In 1927, Jamaica High School moved out of the building to a new site on Gothic Drive, also a city landmark. The original site became a vocational school, and now serves as the Jamaica Learning Center, an alternative high school.