DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, Flatbush

Erasmus Hall, named for Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus, presents two historic buildings in one location at Flatbush and Church Avenues. Its white clapboard  Federal-style building, constructed in 1787, housed the private academy instituted by the Reformed Dutch Church across the street. The first class numbered 26 students.

The older building isn’t visible from the street, however, since it is surrounded by the Gothic, fortress-like Erasmus Hall High School, constructed in 1905. The original academy was funded by several Founding Fathers, including Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr (who didn’t agree on much else). The academy became a high school in 1896: it can boast famous alumni such as entertainers Barbra Streisand, Beverly Sills and Neil Diamond. The historic academy, known by students and faculty as  “the white house” can usually be glimpsed from the iron gate guarding the high school.

The “new” school, which resembles a European fortress, contains eclectic stained glass windows, including some Tiffanys above the front entrance.  The interior was completely renovated in the early 2010s.

In 1994, after years of poor academic scores, the huge Erasmus Hall High School was divided internally into five smaller high schools, each concentrating on a different academic area. The five schools have separate administrations and faculties, and hold classes in different sections of the large building. However, they use the common lunchroom, gymnasia, library and auditorium at separate times during the day. This division created no changes on the exterior of the building. –wikipedia

The statue of Erasmus in front of the historic building was dedicated in 1931 and was recast from the original 1622 work still displayed in Rotterdam, Netherlands. The inscription on the base reads:

Desiderius Erasmus, the maintainer and restorer of the sciences and polite literature, the greatest man of his century, the excellent citizen who, through his immortal writings, acquired an everlasting fame.

The old academy building is one of FNY’s holy grails, as I’ve never been by when the gate is open and I assume a shambling figure with a camera would be set upon by guards during school hours. Someday…

9/18/15

 


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4 Responses to DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, Flatbush

  1. TopThom says:

    Shamefully, NYC is allowing this fantastic piece of history (the white house) to deteriorate into oblivion….in another few years they’ll be taking a wrecking ball to this historic location…Thom, class of 1965

  2. Larry says:

    I graduated from Erasmus in the mid 50’s…At that time, the original little Academy building was in good shape and contained some offices…Needs repair now…..

  3. Miriam says:

    I graduated from EHHS in 1978. It saddens me to see this piece of scholastic history in total disrepair. There are so many famous alums that graduated from this beautiful school. Where are their donations to help revitalize this How could there not be more of an uproar with the NYC or NYS dept of Education about this Academy Building. What can be done to move the process along? Feeling Disheartened in Upstate NY. 🙁

  4. Miriam says:

    I graduated from EHHS in 1978. It saddens me to see this piece of scholastic history in total disrepair. There are so many famous alums that graduated from this beautiful school. Where are their donations to help revitalize this building? How could there not be more of an uproar with the NYC or NYS dept of Education about this Academy Building. What can be done to move the process along? Feeling Disheartened in Upstate NY. 🙁

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