As you drive through Garden City, you will come upon a large,stone, gothic hulk of a building. When I first saw it, my jaw immediately dropped, and I had to take pictures and learn more. What I found out is that it was a boys’ school, built in 1879, and known as St. Paul’s School for Boys. This school, along with the Cathedral of the Incarnation and St. Mary’s School for Girls, was erected in the same year, by the same person, and all were intended to be pillars of the community. The trio was constructed by Cornelia Stewart, the widow of Alexander Turney Stewart, the multi-millionaire who founded Garden City.
In 1897, the headmaster of the all-boys college preparatory and science boarding school stated that the aim of the school was to “develop manly, Christian character, a strong physique and the power to think”. The building is in the shape of the letter E, and is 300 feet long with wings 170 feet deep. It houses 500 rooms, and is composed of brick and Dorchester stone. The building has wide hallways, parlors, a reading room and library, a gymnasium and infirmary, a clock-tower, a grand cathedral with stained glass and an organ, a chemical and physical laboratory and a great lecture hall which once housed the meetings of the St. Paul’s Congress (debate team).
The building was owned by the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Episcopal Diocese of Long Island). However, in 1993, the buildings surrounding the 48 acre campus were sold to Garden City for public recreational use, and have been used as such quite frequently. The main building, however, has sat abandoned and vacant for years, and is showing its age. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and was included in The New York State Preservation League’s “Seven to Save” in 2003 because of its unique architecture as well as its significance to Long Island history. It has been proposed that the building be sold to developers for private condominiums, which would most certainly result in the destruction of an historic structure. We must not let this happen---- the St. Paul’s School must be preserved for future generations.
If you wish to learn more about this wonderful structure and the efforts being made to preserve it, please visit the Committee to Save St. Paul’s website at www.savestpauls.org .
All photos courtesy Maureen Traxler and Ed Keating respectively.