Erasmus Hall High School – Brooklyn, New York - Atlas Obscura
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Brooklyn, New York

Erasmus Hall High School

A Collegiate Gothic quadrangle that surrounds an 18th century secondary school whose financing came from the likes of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, among others. 

Erasmus Hall High School is the name of a complex that includes the remains of the oldest secondary institution in the state of New York, Erasmus Hall Academy. 

Founded in 1786 by Dutch settlers, the school, built in the Federal style, remains on the campus, tucked away within a larger quadrangle.

The school has a storied past. Future duelers Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were among its early benefactors. The Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church, which is just across the street, donated land for the school, and its doors officially opened in 1787 with a class of 26 boys. The school went coed in 1801 and enrollment steadily increased.

Over the years, additions were put on the building to accommodate increasing enrollment as Brooklyn’s population boomed because of immigration and a new law mandating secondary education. To combat overcrowding, the Board of Education drew up plans for a series of buildings at the beginning of the 20th century. The new buildings were built in phases over four decades in the Collegiate Gothic style, creating a quadrangle around the original school. Though all the buildings complement one another, the later buildings lack the same level of ornamentation of their predecessors. 

The buildings comprising the quadrangle themselves have a number of interesting features, including large, ornate Tiffany stained glass windows depicting local history and celebrations of education.

Today the original academy’s facade shows some wear, but efforts are underway to restore the building to its former glory. While the building no longer operates as a school, there’s a museum inside that displays artifacts from its storied history, and the structure has been given historical landmark status.