Many of the children born in Jamestown 100 years ago (1916), were destined to be either a member of Jamestown High School’s Class of 1934 or Class of 1935. The Class of 1934 had the distinction of being the last class to graduate from the old Jamestown High School. The Class of 1935 had the distinction of being called the “Orphan Class” because they had no school building in which to attend classes. The new high school was built in 1934-35. This building is still part of the present day Jamestown High School.
There are photographs in the collection of the Fenton History Center that show the construction of the high school building. There is one set of photographs from a family that includes snapshots, nicely labeled, that show the demolition of the old school building. One of these includes a sign, that with a magnifying glass, can be read in the picture. From this we know that Beck & Tinkham, of Jamestown, were the architects. The John W. Cowper Co., Inc. of Buffalo, was the contractor. From other research, we know that it was it was part of the Public Works administration as the New York State engineer had to approve the plans. The estimated total cost was one million dollars.
The demolition began as soon as school was finished in June 1934. Construction was to begin on Monday July 20, 1934. The next year saw students of the high school split into two shifts. Classes were held in some portable classrooms and scattered in other places around the city, including the municipal laboratory. The Pretenders’ play was presented at Lincoln Junior High School, while the senior play was presented at both Lincoln and Washington Junior High Schools. The class motto of the Class of 1935 was “Triumph Over Difficulties” probably chosen before they knew how appropriate it would be for their senior year.
School was scheduled to begin September 9, 1935 and the new school building was ready for students, except for the auditorium and the gymnasium. These were finished in the next two months and on Saturday, November 14th, the school was formally dedicated and open to the public to tour. Robert H. Jackson gave the dedicatory address.
The senior annuals for the two classes include a number of interesting articles and photographs that document the history of the school and the activities of the orphan class. The senior annual from 1934 features histories of a number of the classes from the beginning class of 1868. The class of 1935 found that plans for a senior annual had not been included in the school plans, but the Senior section teachers agreed to work with the students to make a senior annual possible to commemorate their senior year as had many other classes before them. This insured that the Class of 1935 did not break the tradition of having a senior annual despite the demolition and construction during their last year of high school.
A second image of the demolition one week later can be seen on the Fenton’s Facebook page.