Architecture around Buffalo: Public School No.46
By Lucas R. Watson, Features Contributor
Founded in 1838 — just six years after the incorporation of the City of Buffalo — the Buffalo Public School District became New York State’s first free public-school system funded by local taxes. In the near–two centuries since, it has founded various public schools, some of the most notable being Lafayette High School, Fosdick-Masten High School Park (known as City Honors today) and various others, all renowned for their striking and beautiful architecture. Interestingly, today's building is known as the oldest public school building in Buffalo still in use.
Public School No. 46’s land was donated by a French man named Monsieur Louis Stephen LeCouteulx de Chaumont in 1839 in an effort to promote organized education. Monsieur LeCouteulx arrived in Buffalo in 1804 to get repaid for loans he had made to finance the American Revolutionary War. He became the first permanent Roman Catholic in Buffalo and became one of the most prominent citizens of early Buffalo. In part of one building, he established the very first drugstore in the country and later the Holland Land Company, which surveyed and owned most of the region and also appointed him a local agent for selling land in and around Buffalo. To entice Catholics to move to the village, he donated a plot of land in 1829 on Main and Edward Streets for Buffalo’s first Catholic church and school. He is the namesake of the St. Louis RC Church in Buffalo (Michael Riester). This triangle-shaped lot between Elmwood Avenue, Virginia Street and Edward Street has been in continual use, and it serves as a home to multiple public schools since its layout.
Public School No. 46 was built in 1888 by H.H. Little, whose work can still be seen around the City of Buffalo in houses, buildings and even in his family’s mausoleum in Forest Lawn Cemetery. The school building is a two-and-one-half story, five-bay brick structure with a two-story, one-bay, half-hip roof wing extending from the south facade. It also has a two-and-one-half story, one-bay, gabled roof wing attached to the north facade. The rectangular plan with a hip roof features the Romanesque Revival style, which differs from the Richardsonian Romanesque style with Medina sandstone adorning the other side of the building. This building is fraught with details, and it is one of the more beautiful and hard to miss buildings on Elmwood Avenue.
During its history as a school, the building housed the Veteran’s High School for veterans resuming their education after World War II. The school remained at this site until 1949 when the program was discontinued. During a seven-year vacancy, the building was vandalized, and in 1953, the north wing was damaged by fire, but the building was eventually remodeled in 1955 and reopened as temporary quarters for Public School No. 36. Since then, it has stayed as an educational institution, now as the Adult Learning Center for those wishing to get their GED.
To wrap up, I would like to say that my first year writing for The Griffin and the student body about the various buildings, hidden gems and rich history this city has to offer has been a pleasure. I encourage every single one of you to explore, see what the city has to offer and experience the rich culture that Buffalo can offer you: there is so much more than what meets the eye.
I look forward to continuing Architecture Around Buffalo for the foreseeable future, and I will miss writing for all the readers over the summer. I can’t wait to share even more new gems and hidden bits of history and architecture across Buffalo to share with all of you. I thank all of you for the opportunity and support since starting this weekly column in the fall.