Landmarks Preservation Commission ‘calendars’ historic school building in Jamaica

Public School 48
A South Jamaica school was calendared by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the first formal step toward landmarking designation.
Courtesy of LPC

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to “calendar” a school in South Jamaica as an individual landmark.

Calendaring is the first formal step in the designation process and the LPC will hold public hearings at a future date.

P.S. 48, now known as P75Q at Public School 48, The Robert E. school, located at 155-02 108th Ave., is a “highly intact example of architect Walter C. Martin’s use of the Art Deco style in the 1930s, and it represents a significant early application of the style on New York City schools,” according to the LPC.

Proposed in 1932 and completed in 1936 to serve a residential community that was developed on farmland south of Liberty Avenue after World War I. The school was built to replace Jamaica’s “colored school,” a one-story wood schoolhouse which was built in 1886.

Walter C. Martin served as Superintendent of Buildings for the Board of Education from 1928 until 1938, during which time he designed hundreds of new schools throughout the five boroughs, including 34 new elementary schools and five high schools in Queens alone.

Martin’s design for the three-story Public School 48 “imparts a sense of monumentality appropriate to a civic structure, anchored with strong corner towers and featuring vertical piers with stylized foliate capitals,” according to the LPC.

His use of the Art Deco style drew inspiration from industrial and commercial buildings and incorporated distinctive decorative treatment such as bi-color brick spandrel panels, bi-color terra-cotta plaques evocative of the importance of education and a granite entrance topped by stylized eagles that harbor bronze doors.

Prominent within the neighborhood of South Jamaica, Public School 48 served the historically diverse community for more than 70 years. Little has changed since its opening on May 4, 1936, and the LPC called the building “a highly intact example of Walter C. Martin’s use of the Art Deco style in the 1930s and it represents a significant early application of the style for New York City schools.”

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