Broadway Elementary School, built on a raised lot behind the E & M Market. The first three grades were on the first floor, and grades four through six were on the second; the playground was in front of the school, which was demolished after centralization. The River Street School was of a similar design. Photograph from the 1960s. Board of Education Report, Oct. 3 & 4, 1928
See also: Regional Public Schools
The first school was built in 1838 in the Pines, on the Old Military Road; it belonged to District Number 4 of the town of North Elba. The school was said to be on the site of Henry Reynolds' "mansion" on Pine Street, the largest house north of Albany during the early part of the century. The first teacher was Mary A. Miller, and the second was Mary Elizabeth Wise; 1 another early teacher was Mrs. Gabriel Lathrop Manning. 2 In 1843, a second school was built in the center of the village on a small lot just east of the Berkeley Hotel deeded to the town of Harrietstown by Pliny Miller. In 1854, the school was moved "out toward the Algonquin on Lake Street, where it became generally known as the school-house on the hill." In 1870, "the two school districts were consolidated and the school 'on the hill' was moved back to the center of the village again." 3
Van Buren Miller was an advocate of higher salaries for teachers, and he "secured the passage of a law giving the taxes on a large area of wild lands to the school district, and then merged the two existing districts into one. [...] The outcome was the building, in 1870, of a new school-house opposite the Berkeley." 4 Annie O. Miller taught for many years in the Main Street School. This new school consolidated the two earlier schools. It soon proved inadequate— the old school building was moved to Academy Street, and used for a while in conjunction with the new building, which required constant enlargement until, in 1910, two new large brick school houses were built at opposite ends of the village. 5
The first private school was opened in 1905 by a Mrs. Decker; two years later, she sold out to Ernest H. Baldwin, the brother of Dr. E. R. Baldwin. The Baldwin School opened in 1908, and in 1909 moved into a new, brick building. 6 This school was primarily attended by the children of doctors and the wealthy. 7
In 1921, the village had three school houses. 9
In 1925, a new school was built on Petrova Avenue at a cost of $650,000. 10
In the early years, all students graduated with the same type of diploma; specialization did not appear until 1925. All students were required to take English and Civics classes. Rural schools in this period were typically one-room affairs covering grades one through eight, after which they attended high school in Saranac Lake, for which they paid tuition. 11
The first parochial school was run in an old farm house near the church in which the Sisters of Mercy lived. St. Bernard's School was built in 1925 to accommodate 300 children as an elementary school, grades one through eight. In 1959, it was changed to grades one through six. In the early 1960s, a small kindergarten was added. 12
The first parochial high school, Pius X, opened in 1959, initially for grades seven through ten; the first class graduated in 1962.
Early Saranac Lake school days
Mrs. Buckingham taught five grades at the Algonquin School
Now that schools are once again in session, perhaps many of our local senior citizens are reminiscing about their own days of many years ago. Some recent letters from William "Ed" Rice, an 82-year-old former resident of Saranac Lake shed some light on a couple of long-gone edifices of education that once served the village.
Ed is a retired school teacher living in Middletown. He retains sharp recollections of his school days.
The old Algonquin School was sandwiched between the Henry Leis home and Mr. Eppie's bar and bowling alley on Algonquin Avenue. It was a small, wood frame building with one classroom and one teacher to handle all of the first five grades. The students faced the entrance door while the teacher's desk was off to one side together with a blackboard and a pot bellied stove.
Out back was a "his" and "her" comfort station of the Chic Sales variety. Mrs. Buckingham was the lone teacher to serve all five grades and maintain discipline. She could not even leave the school at noon, because many students carried their lunches. More astonishing prior to Ed's time, the school had eight grades and still only one teacher!
Upon completion of the 5th grade the students were transferred to the Main Street High School which was located where the Hotel Saranac stands today. Mrs. Danforth was the 6th grade teacher, and Mrs. Starr was junior high principal. Classes began at 8:40 a.m., and the noon break was from 12 to 1:15 p.m. All students had to go home for lunch, which, in Ed's case, meant a mile-and-a-half trip to reach 205 Lake Street. Others who lived near him were Henry Leis, Joe Thompson and George and Herb Clark. Ed wrote that "we kept a fast pace."
There was no transportation system, and the winter snows were often deep, yet school was never closed because of weather. Lake Street and Algonquin Avenue students used the old wooden foot bridge as a shortcut to Main Street, while a single horse-drawn snow plow attempted to clear the village streets.
An unusual event took place in study hall when Ed reached high school. Some junior boys had swiped some senior class ribbons, and the senior boys were determined to recover them. A fight broke out, and the principal, a Mr. Strickland, ordered the rivals to cease and return to their seats. They failed to obey. Strickland took off his glasses, approached the battle zone and once again called for a cessation to the hostilities. The fighting continued. Strickland returned to his desk, put on his glasses and walked out of the study hall. He left the school and never came back. Mrs. Eileen Benham was appointed to fill the vacancy, and she had no problem in maintaining discipline.
Ed graduated in the class of 1924, which was the last class to graduate from the old Main Street High School. Mrs. Benham went on to serve as principal in the new Petrova School. Many, can remember her driving an air-cooled Franklin car from her home on Pine Street. Ed spent the summer as a bellhop at Knollwood Club and, after stints at George L. Starks and Walton & Tousley hardware stores, he went on to Oswego, where he earned his teaching degree.
Howard V. Littell held the office of superintendent of schools at both the old and new schools except for the time he served in the Army during World War I. He was a stern disciplinarian and had the habit of dropping in on a class without any warning. Most students cringed, hoping that they would not be called on to answer during his visit. Whenever a teacher couldn't handle a "wise guy" the miscreant wound up cooling his heels outside of Littell's office. After a brief seminar in the inner sanctum a subdued student returned to his class. Needless to say, H.V. Littell was greatly respected by both students and faculty. Many of us had a favorite teacher, somewhere along the line, who helped us over the hurdles while some other teachers are remembered for their oppressive attitude. For sheer longevity of dedicated service it would be hard to beat "Me" Benham and "Maggie" Seymour, who not only taught us but also our mothers and fathers, our aunts and uncles for two generations.
The high school which Ed Rice attended on Main Street was not the original school on that site. As early as 1870, a smaller school was built there but an increasing number of students soon out-grew the building's capacity. The structure was moved one block to the rear on a side street, which of course took the name of Academy Street. In September of 1890, President Benjamin Harrison came to Saranac Lake to dedicate the new High School. Twenty years later two new brick grade schools had been built, one on River Street and one on Upper Broadway.
In 1922 St. Bernard's Parochial School came into being on River Street. In addition to these, a small private school known as the Baldwin School on Pine Street was operated by Dr. E. R. Baldwin's brother in the house at 34 Pine St., presently occupied by the Robert Hagar family.
Well beyond the limits of our personal memories, we must rely on "Donaldson's History" to inform us that the first school to be built in what was to become Saranac Lake was located in the pines at the end of River Street in 1838. Here Mary Miller, a granddaughter of early settler Capt. Pliny Miller, taught a handful of children.
Although the Broadway School has completely vanished from the scene, the River Street School has survived to become an extension of the North Country Community College campus. Also on River Street, the original 1922 wood frame schoolhouse was replaced with a modern brick building in 1924 at St. Bernard's, and a second brick structure has since been added to handle the student overflow.
The former Petrova High School was converted to an elementary facility to serve the needs of the ever-increasing number of grade schoolers, while nearby a brand new high school has risen from a marshland.
Perhaps the most fitting of all these changes, however, has to be the resurrection of an educational institution on the same site that was once occupied by the old Main Street High School. Presently, the Hotel Saranac serves as a training center for students of Paul Smith's College while next door on Church Street, a brand new dorm nears completion to house members of this college complex.
Saranac Lake can well be proud of its education history. Here we are a century and a half after that little schoolhouse in the pines, and we are still growing. What do you suppose Ed Rice would think about all of this?
Malone Palladium, January 25, 1872
Saranac Lake Grade School.
It may be observed that this School is in session during nearly the whole of the colder part of the year, thus enabling students employed during the summer season to avail themselves of two terms each year. Our first winter term closed Jan. 17th, 1872. The succeeding term will commence Jan. 31, and continue fourteen weeks. The marked success which has attended this School of late may be greatly attributed to the interest taken in its welfare on the part of parents and citizens of Saranac Lake and vicinity. The people of Saranac should be highly commended for their worthy example in this respect. Students from abroad, anxious for improvement, will be welcomed among our number, and will meet here with a congenial class of students, who by their close application and constant effort have won for themselves high place in the opinion of their teachers and observing friends.
Tuition and board at very reasonable rates.
For particulars address ENSINE MILLER, Saranac Lake, N. Y
Franklin Gazette, April 14, 1893
The students of the academy and grammar departments of the Saranac Lake Union School have issued the first number of The Mountaineer, a monthly publication which will be continued through the school year. It is filled with original matter entertainingly written, under the management of a corps of student editors, who have shown excellent taste and judgment in their work. Francis H. Slater is editor-in-chief; Nathan M. Skelly, business manager; Blanche M. Baker, treasurer; Nellie M. McNulty, secretary; Fannie Taylor, Bessie Hale, Bertha R. Baker, Hattie Bryant and Mina H. Woodruff complete the editorial staff. The object of The Mountaineer is to furnish Information relative to Saranac Lake Academy, to give Its students an opportunity for practice and experience in writing and to encourage a wider knowledge of the subjects taught by the school. Saranac Lake, surrounded as it is by the varied beauties of the Adirondacks, furnishes a fertile and interesting field for the students who will contribute to the pages of The Mountaineer, and we notice that several of the contributory in the first number have availed themselves of the abundant material which nature has spread so lavishly about them. School publications of this kind should always be heartily encouraged and we hope that the students of Saranac Lake Academy will continue in the work which has certainly been well commenced. We should like to see Franklin Academy follow In the same line.
Malone Palladium, March 15, 1894
Principal Goddard of Saranac Lake academy has introduced the trial by jury scheme into his school with great success. Parents and guardians have made many complaints because their children were punished, while other children were the ones in fault. This worried the professor, and he determined that when a serious breach of discipline occurred a jury of twelve boys and girls should hear all the evidence in the case and decide upon the kind and amount of punishment. Majority rules, and when a tie occurs the professor votes. Chateaygay Record
Malone Palladium, April 12, 1894
RALPH BAKER has resigned his position as principal of the intermediate department of the Saranac Lake union school. He will enter Union College in September.
Malone Palladium, January 25, 1894
The union school at Saranac Lake has been admitted to supervision by the regents of the University of New York.
Malone Gazette, July 5, 1894
Miss CHARLOTTE C. MERRILL, who graduated from the normal school on Tuesday, was on Wednesday appointed as a teacher in the Saranac Lake union school. Her salary will be $400...—Telegram.
Malone Palladium, June 26, 1902
The sixth annual commencement of the Saranac Lake High School occurred last Thursday evening. Following are the members of the class: Maud Jackson, Mary Liscomb, Eleanor McMaster, Raymond McManus and Carroll Ferry.
Malone Palladium, May 21, 1903
A special school meeting if to be held at Saranac Lake on Monday, June 8th, to vote on the question of raising $10,000 for the purpose of erecting an addition to the school building, which has been found to be too small for the present needs of the village. The number of students is constantly increasing, there being at present 720 scholars enrolled.
Malone Palladium, August 8, 1903
The contract for the new addition to the school building was let Saturday night, by the School Board, to Branch & Callanan for $9,985. This includes the foundation and framework. The building will be brick veneer and the work commenced Tuesday morning.—Saranac Lake Enterprise.
Malone Palladium, July 20, 1905
Uniform examinations for teachers of the first commissioner district of Franklin county for uniform, elementary and academic certificates will beheld at the Saranac Lake High School on Aug. 10-11. All teachers holding temporary licenses and desiring to teach in the future are required to attend these examinations. Teachers will furnish themselves with pen and ink, compasses and rules for drawing. Uniform paper must be used, and may be purchased of the commissioner. The examinations will be held by School Commissioner ADDIS K. BOTSFORD, of the first district.
Malone Palladium, August 10, 1905
Malone Palladium, August, 1906
At the annual village school meeting at Saranac Lake, held last week, W. E. Trombley was elected to succeed himself as trustee for a term of three years, and Dr. J. C. Russell, a well known physician of that village, was elected as trustee for two years, to succeed Tuffield Latour, whose term had expired.
Malone Palladium, September 27, 1906
The recent school census of the village of Saranac Lake shows the number of boys to be 385 and the number of girls 440.
Malone Palladium, April, 1908
Prof. I. M. Gast, of Fairport, Monroe County, has been engaged as principal of the Saranac Lake school for the balance of the school year. He entered upon his duties last Monday.
- 1Seaver, Frederick J., Historical Sketches of Franklin County, Albany, NY: J. B. Lyon Co., 1918
- 2Donaldson, Alfred L. A History of the Adirondacks, New York: The Century Co., 1921, pp. 238, 269. (reprinted by Purple Mountain Press, Fleischmanns, NY, 1992)
- 3Donaldson, Alfred L. A History of the Adirondacks, New York: The Century Co., 1921, p. 238. (reprinted by Purple Mountain Press, Fleischmanns, NY, 1992)
- 4Donaldson, Alfred L. A History of the Adirondacks, New York: The Century Co., 1921, p. 220. (reprinted by Purple Mountain Press, Fleischmanns, NY, 1992)
- 6ibid., p. 238
- 7Duquette, Ruth, "Saranac Lake Schools", unpublished manuscript D946, Adirondack Research Room, Saranac Lake Free Library
- 8Duquette, Ruth, "Saranac Lake Schools", unpublished manuscript D946, Adirondack Research Room, Saranac Lake Free Library
- 9ibid., p. 235
- 10Duquette, Ruth, "Saranac Lake Schools", unpublished manuscript D946, Adirondack Research Room, Saranac Lake Free Library
- 11Duquette, Ruth, "Saranac Lake Schools", unpublished manuscript D946, Adirondack Research Room, Saranac Lake Free Library
- 12Duquette, Ruth, "Saranac Lake Schools", unpublished manuscript D946, Adirondack Research Room, Saranac Lake Free Library