Thursday, August 18, 2011
The photo you see above is from the 1952 yearbook of the Manahattan Trade School for Girls (it was actually called Mabel Dean Bacon Vocational School by that point, but it was essentially the same school). It shows the school's third and final home, which opened in 1918 and still stands today on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 22nd Street in Manhattan. It has been a 6-12 school since 1992, but the original "Manhattan Trade School for Girls" lettering is still plainly visible on the façade.
But this building is not where I found the Manhattan Trade School report cards. I found them in a different school -- the old Stuyvesant High School, on East 15th Street. (I'll explain what I was doing there, and how the cards ended up there, in the Slate series next month.) And as it turns out, these two school buildings -- Manhattan Trade and Stuy -- were designed by the same architect, a fellow named C.B.J. Snyder.
I don't know much about architecture, and I'd never heard of Snyder, but he appears to have been an interesting guy. According to his Wikipedia page, he served as the city's school buildings superintendent from 1891 through 1923, during which time he designed over 400 structures (Stuy and Manhattan Trade were both built during this period), several of which are now city landmarks and/or on the National Register of Historic Places. Along the way, he pioneered a number of design innovations.
Snyder supposedly "preferred [to build schools at] mid-block locations away from busy and polluted avenues." He wasn't able to do that with Manhattan Trade, which sits right on a heavily trafficked corner. But the 10-story building is now nearing its 100th birthday and has been continuously occupied as a school the entire time, which seems like a fair measure of success.
New York Times metro columnist Jim Dwyer wrote a really nice piece about Snyder a few years ago. If anyone knows more about Snyder's work, I'd love to hear from you.