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