Original Jamaica HS building receives city landmark status

Original Jamaica HS building receives city landmark status
Photo by Caroll Alvarado
By Rich Bockmann

The building that housed the original Jamaica High School more than 100 years ago earned a spot on the city’s landmarks list last week.

With its red-and-tan brick facade, contrasting decorative features and eclectic mix of design elements, the Dutch Revival-style building was a statement that Jamaica — then a town in the unconsolidated county of Queens — looked toward the future with optimism and aspirations of growth, according to the city Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The building was designed by prominent Brooklyn architect William B. Tubby, who had earned a reputation for his historic revival-style designs implemented in homes and institutional buildings across the region, including 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 Landmarks Preservation Commission Chairman Robert Tierney. “It also shows how serious the town was about educating its children, even as it was on the verge of being absorbed into the city of New York.”

Built in 1896 — two years before Queens would be consolidated as one of the five boroughs of New York City — the ornate schoolhouse, at 162-02 Hillside Ave., was originally known as PS 47 and replaced a smaller building with a simpler design.

Tubby chose the Dutch Revival style for his Jamaica schoolhouse as a nod to the town’s earliest European settlers and he incorporated features such as a stepped gable, stepped and arched windows and a tall, hipped roof accentuated by “witch’s hat” dormers and high chimneys.

The school originally served students in primary and high school grades, and it operated solely as a high school until 1927, when Jamaica High moved to its current home in the Georgian Revival-style building that sits atop a hill about six blocks away.

That building received its landmark status in 2009.

The old school house became a vocational school shortly after Jamaica High departed, and now it serves as the home to the Jamaica Learning Center, an alternative high school.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.