Back in 2015 I was wandering around Cunningham Park in Fresh Meadows and somehow found my way onto the dirt bike trail. Understand, that trail wasn’t built as a way to get from one place to another, it was built as a recreational venue. So it meanders around in a convoluted path, and there I was like a rat in a maze trying to find my way out. After about 20-30 minutes I was finally ejected at Francis Lewis Boulevard and Horace Harding (the LIE) in front of St. Francis Prep.
Now, I didn’t attend “The Prep” as its graduates call it ( I was at Cathedral Brooklyn), but I have known quite a number of people who have and it’s almost as if I attended it myself. Cathedral basketball teams played (OK, they lost) to St. Francis basketball and handball teams. (Cathedral didn’t have a football team but The Prep has a longstanding rivalry with Holy Cross.)
As it turns out, St. Francis Prep has a rather interesting infrastructional history. The school was established by two immigrant Irish Franciscan Brothers as St. Francis Academy at #300 Butler Street in what is now called Boerum Hill in Brooklyn in 1858. It didn’t become St. Francis Prep, a preparatory school for college, until 1935, at the same time the academy’s college division separated to become St. Francis College, which is my alma mater. Unfortunately the Municipal Archives does not seem to have a photo of the original buildings on Baltic Street. The site is currently occupied by the School For International Studies at Baltic and Court Streets, a high school.
In 1952 St. Francis Prep moved into this school building at #186 North 6th Street between Bedford and Driggs Avenues. The building had formerly been an academy associated with what had been the St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church just across the street. That building became condominiums several years ago. When the Prep moved out (see below) #186 became home to Boricua College, which in turn moved to #9 Graham Avenue at Broadway in Williamsburg a couple of decades ago; 186 was converted to residences. Thus both buildings formerly associated with St. Vincent’s are still in place, but neither is associated with a church any longer.
In 1974 the decision was made for The Prep to move again, to Fresh Meadows, into the building formerly occupied by Bishop Reilly High School and constructed in 1962 as one of just four coeducational Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn (which includes Queens). (I’m told that at Reilly, boys and girls occupied separate classrooms.) St. Francis Prep purchased the building and absorbed Reilly’s enrollees, thus becoming coeducational itself, in the true sense. A number of Brooklyn Prepsters had their commutes from Brooklyn lengthened considerably, but toughed it out for their senior year.
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