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Mam'k Ave School Hits 100 (But Its History Goes Way Back)

Alumni and current students gathered at Mamaroneck Avenue School on Thursday, October 8  for the beginning of a year-long celebration to mark the school’s 100th birthday.The family picnic featured pizza, hot dogs, face painting, bouncy castles, a proclamation by Mamaroneck Mayor Kathy Savolt and a reason for the community to celebrate.

Dancers of all sizes kicked off Mamaroneck Avenue School's 100th birthday bash on October 8, 2009. The "dance floor" was set up outside the 2006 addition to the school.

Mamaroneck Avenue School kicked off its 100th birthday bash on October 8, 2009. The "dance floor" was outside the 2006 addition to the school.

NY Assemblyman George Latimer noted, “The Mamaroneck Avenue School community is really more like a big family,” If so, around 400  members of the big family showed up for the birthday party. Principal Carrie Amon called the school “a community treasure that embraces both children and their families,” and noted the school had been “a cornerstone of this community for the past 100 years.”

However, despite its advanced age, Mamaroneck Avenue School is a relative newcomer in the history of Mamaroneck schools.

Ny Assemblyman George Latimer, Assistant Principal Alice Borsella, Principal Carrie Amon, Mamaroneck Mayor Kathy Savolt, Mamaroneck Trustee John Hofstetter, and PTA Co-President Jennifer Vaccaro along with a current MAS show off the birthday proclamation on Thursday night.

Ny Assemblyman George Latimer, Assistant Principal Alice Borsella, Principal Carrie Amon, Mamaroneck Mayor Kathy Savolt, Trustee John Hofstetter and PTA Co-President Jennifer Vaccaro along with a current MAS student show off the birthday proclamation on Thursday night.

Three centuries before there was a village, there was a town. Modern history of Mamaroneck Town starts with the first known colonial settlement around 1661, when John Richbell purchased three necks of land from the Siwanoy Indians.  Forty-three years later, in 1704, the community was already looking to educate its children. That’s when Caleb Heathcote wrote to London expressing the need for a schoolmaster. Before the year was out, the Society of the Gospel in Foreign Parts sent Joseph Cleator to teach for four months in Mamaroneck, four in Bedford and four in Rye.

The first school building in the township was erected in 1733 and was situated at the corner of what is now Old Post Road and Orienta Avenue. Two additional public schools were built after the passage of a law in 1795 giving taxpayers responsibility for schools in New York State. The Weaver Street School opened in 1808, followed by another in 1816 built near the Sheldrake Bridge on a triangular piece of land bordered by Mamaroneck and Mount Pleasant Avenues.

In 1855, Mamaroneck had outgrown its school near the bridge. The old school was bought by a couple and moved off site to become their home. (That’s the tiny building that was relocated to Harbor Island Park in 1994.) A new, larger building erected on the site was known as the Depot School, since by then, the railroad was in operation.

The "new" Depot School in Mamaroneck Village was overcrowded by the 1900s.

The "new" Depot School in Mamaroneck Village was overcrowded by the 1900s.

By the early 1900s, the Depot School was overcrowded, and the community passed a $50,000 bond to pay for the land and building of Mamaroneck Avenue School at its current location. Construction was complete by 1909.

Mamaroneck Avenue School was built in 1909 with only two stories.

Mamaroneck Avenue School was built in 1909 with only two stories.

Mamaroneck Avenue School quickly grew to have the largest enrollment of any of the district’s four schools. In 1916, a second bond of $22,000 was passed to fund the addition of a third floor to the original building. In 1923, Mamaroneck Avenue School had 584 students out of a total enrollment in the district of 1,839 students. By 1928 another addition was necessary, the back building. And, in 2006 a new addition with 10 classrooms was built.

The front building got a third floor in 1923 and a "back building" was added in 1944.

The front building got a third floor in 1916 and the "back building" was added in 1928.

A special thank you goes to Mamaroneck Village Historian Gloria Poccia Pritts for providing the historical information and images for this article.

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11 comments to Mam’k Ave School Hits 100 (But Its Roots Go Way Back)

  • Gloria Poccia Pritts

    Beautiful article with many historical facts and the photos add so much to the report. Thank you.

  • I attended six years at this wonderful school during 1939, kindergarden thru 6th grade, and remember walking to school in all kinds of weather. The large dark wood cloak rooms with hooks and shelves, pull up desks and attached seats and large supply closets. Many happy memories and I still remember all my teachers’ names. I loved the kindergarten room bow windows with wood seats and storage for toys. Mrs Ferdon, teacher. Great additions and programs that were added since then. Great progress.

  • Lucy Barone

    Two of my children have graduated from MAS and one is presently in first grade. MAS school should be commended for providing such a wonderful environment where children can learn and be themselves. The faculty, parents,and the children themselves make MAS school the special school that it is. I am so proud to be a MAS parent. My children have gotten such an amazing education and are so well prepared for middle school and high school! Thank you MAS school !

  • Loretta P..

    MAS has always been the most integrated of all the 4 local elementary schools here. Used to be a magnet school in the older days.

    Question: a bit off the subject here but I am curious. Can anyone shed some light on why Mamaroneck Public Schools are referred to as Union Free School district.

    Are the Teachers in a union or not? I thought they were in the past? What does Union Free actually mean??

  • L. Podolsky

    Happy Birthday MAS! Looking forward to the next 100!

  • Rick Marsico

    To Loretta P.–

    School districts are created by state law, and state law creates several different types of school districts. Among them are city school districts, central school districts, and union free school districts. The different types of districts have different types of legal authority to operate schools. As you said, Mamaroneck is a “union free school district,” which means it has the authority to operate elementary schools and high schools, is governed by a school board of between three and nine members (our board has seven members), and has not been combined with other union free school districts to create a central school district. The term “union free” does not mean that the District does not have unions. In fact, we have several bargaining units, including, as you note, a teachers union.

    Rick Marsico
    Mamaroneck School Board

  • typical

    Thank you Rick : so typical of public sector obfuscation. So union free does not mean union free. I am not surprised, because I know that “children first” actually mean something else too.

  • Nancy White

    I attended MAS in 1968 for one year, when the 6th grade from Murray Ave School was bused to Mama’k Ave School. We had the entire third floor of the original building. It was a very controversial move, obstensibly because of over-crowding at Murray. Many people believed it was a back-handed way to integrate the schools.

  • Jeff Smith

    I attended “MAS” through 1973. A lot has changed. My first year in preschool was at Old Central School, now the Mamaroneck Town Hall, originally the High School. After “new” Central opened, we were rezoned to MAS just in time for Kindergarten. Readers may be interested to know that there were proposals to close two of the four MUFSD elementary schools (MAS and Chatsworth, I think?) during the early to mid-1970′s as population trends shifted and the children of baby-boomer’s aged. This was around the time Daniel Warren in Rye Neck closed, I think (now reopened if I’m not mistaken). Good thing these closures never happened! And why Rye Neck is not absorbed by Mamaroneck I will never understand (it goes with the territory of the Mamaroneck Village overlap in two towns, I guess; also very silly).

  • Loretta P..

    Jeff Smith – I remember that! Some of the schools even went to a combo or as they called it at the Murray Avenue School “Multi age” classrooms. This was most likely to combine the dwindling class sizes into one as you stated due to population shifts.

    I never thought that was a smart idea – quite frankly. While I was a big proponent of “Team Teaching” it was limited to one grade.

    The early years when foundations are discoverd and built upon are critical learning periods for our youth. The grades 2 – 4 have such an impact on learning that combining the grades I would think is detrimental to both the younger students – and to the advancement of the older ones.

    Murray also had classes called “self – contained” which meant they stuck w/ one teacher the whole time vs. three or four like Team teaching environments. I don’t know if this was a good idea either. They separated some of the kids and made them feel that something was amiss. I don’t think that was the case though, many of them were just as smart as the kids in the Team teaching classes.

    The one thing about Mamaroneck School district is that they tend to label students very early on; this is not a good way to promote self esteem nor is it an accurate assessment of the child’s capabilities. Many start off slowly and thrive by the time they get to middle school or high school. Some have just the opposite experience progressing quickly right out of the gate. Either way, labeling very young kids, in elementary school, is just a bad practice all around. I’m sure other school districts do it too and many far worse. Does not make it right or lessen the stigma attached for these kids…It would not be my preferred way of teaching.

  • Peter Herman

    Thanks for the article on Mamaroneck Ave. School. I am an alumnus, leaving in 1949 for Mamaroneck Junior High School. MAS was always a stepchild of the school system since it educated kids from “the wrong side of the tracks” as it were, at least from the Larchmont perspective. But it did represent the essence of American public education, with a very large proportion of the students the children of Italian immigrants and a significant African-American population.Unfortunately,this was the 1940s and expectations for many of these kids were not very high. I was lucky enough to get a reasonably good education and to be encouraged to aspire to college and beyond, but that was not true of many of my schoolmates. It is only recently that I have come to realize that many very qualified students of my generation at MAS probably did not get the same message and consequently either failed to realize their significant potential or had to struggle very hard to do so. I am now heavily involved in public education in a small town with some of the same issues and am committed to helping the children of my neighbors see what is possible for them