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Franklin High, 1935

Franklin High, 1935


I visited the former Franklin High School last night. It now houses several different schools. School #58 had an expedition and a teacher friend invited us to come by. I was very impressed with the student displays on hydrofracking and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

I was also struck by the beauty of the building. Franklin was built in 1930 on 23 acres at Hudson and Norton. Back in 1930, Rochester had 325,000 residents and Kodak employed 23,000 people. When it was built, Franklin was the largest school east of the Mississippi, with 500 rooms and a mile of hallways. At one point, Franklin had 4,100 students.  Check out this Life Magazine spread on the school, which includes a bizarre boys shower picture.

They just don’t build schools like this anymore. Marshall, Jefferson and Charlotte are also beautiful schools, loaded with big windows, wood and decorative features. I’m encouraged that the modernization plans already under way in some schools are preserving many of the historical features. These schools are community treasures.

The Auditorium

The Auditorium


Students lost in World War II. Memorial outside the auditorium.

Students lost in World War II. Memorial outside the auditorium.


Benjamin Franklin quote near main entrance.

Benjamin Franklin quote near main entrance.


Benjamin Franklin quote near main entrance. Unfortunately, metal detectors detract from beauty.

Benjamin Franklin quote near main entrance. Unfortunately, metal detectors detract from beauty.


Links of the Day:

– Buffalo’s bishop lives in an 11.500 square foot mansion with nine bedrooms and six bathrooms. Some are wondering if he’ll sell the million-dollar place, with Pope Francis living so simply.

– On the $350 family rebate check, a Buffalo columnist writes, “The only group it’s still acceptable to single out are the childless”

– When the power goes out, you could be issued a small credit on your bill.

– Developers of the complex that will house Costco in suburban Syracuse claim they will add tens of millions of dollars to the tax base and generate millions more in sales tax revenue. Here’s the problem with this kind of math when dealing with this kind of sprawl: The new roads and infrastructure will eventually have to be replaced – at a cost to taxpayers. Furthermore, the sales tax figures assume people wouldn’t spend that money anyway in Onondaga County. Sprawl is a Ponzi scheme.

Meanwhile, Costco is scouting sites in Albany. I wonder where it’s looking in Rochester.

A Jersey cow in Syracuse sold for $170,000.

12 Responses to Beautiful Schools

  1. March 28, 2013 at 9:21 am Ginny Maier responds:

    I’ve always wondered why that school was so big! Nice photos, Rachel.

    I was also glad to see the opinion piece on the rebate checks. I’ve been a little shocked that this hasn’t caused more of a furor than has. Enough people who are happy to get the check that they are willing to put up with the terrible policy it represents, I guess. I wonder if there is a cause that we could encourage people to put their rebate checks toward – something promoting equality or good government, maybe?

  2. March 28, 2013 at 9:47 am RaChaCha responds:

    Good for Rochester rehabbing schools while respecting their history. I believe they’re consciously modeling the program after Buffalo’s Joint Schools Reconstruction project, funded by $1B in NYS funding, and, in one aspect, is the largest historic preservation project in Buffalo’s history.

    I like the “London in the Blitz” article in that Life issue.

  3. My children attend World of Inquiry, School 58 and I have to admit I was a little apprehensive when they announced that their swing space would be on the Franklin Campus while their home building on University was being renovated. Now that they are there, I couldn’t be happier. It’s a gorgeous building with fabulous architecture – their auditorium, while less opulent, could be compared with the Eastman Theater. Much more character than the circa-1975 suburban block building I attended as a child. I recognize that it’s not all sunshine and roses in RCSD, but as a middle class parent living in the city, I feel fortunate that we connected with a great school community at 58.

    • I am a teacher at WOIS and I also love the architecture and the auditorium. While waiting for each student to get their school portraits, I had the students go around the room and find as many college names and crests on the walls as they could. It was exciting for them to see the names of universities on the walls!

  4. I regularly link to that article (and I think I’ve linked to it in comments here). That article should be on every city school board and council member’s desk 24/7. “What have we done wrong? What can we do to fix it?” should be a note attached to it.
    As for the showers, co-workers of mine have told me that right up until the mid-70’s all swim classes for men were done nude (i.e. no swimsuits).
    Along the same lines, if everyone scrolls up a page to what is the full page picture of a class of Rochester kids doing a “Nazi” salute they will see proof that until our involvement in WW2 all Americans did that salute during the Pledge of Allegiance. it was changed during the war for propaganda reasons, much like how “under God” was added to the pledge during the Red Scare days of communism.
    So in the 1940’s we had nude swimming in class without horror stories of rape and molestation, a picture of a group of students naked and showering in a national magazine didn’t cause a furor, the now “Nazi” salute was just something you did for the flag and students ran the massive Franklin campus (according to the article).
    Today? Gym is optional in many schools, but there is day care in school for student’s kids. Students can dress inappropriately without question (sexually, pants down at their ass, drawers showing, you get it). A European soccer player had his career ended for doing what is an open hand version of the ‘black power’ symbol because ‘it just HAD to have a Nazi related meaning’. And Franklin, much like Rochester, is a mere shadow of it’s former glory.

    So how long until ‘white flight’ or some other lame excuse pops up in here for why it’s like that today?

    (Franklin also was the high school for a large % of teens in East Irondequoit for decades as there was no high school in that district until 1957 when Eastridge opened. The rest went to Webster I believe)

  5. March 28, 2013 at 8:11 pm Theresa Jordan responds:

    I love my years at Franklin. I graduated in ’88. It was so somber because it was such a fulfilling place and the teachers, the deans, the principals, and even sentries cared for the students and played a positive part in a lot of student’s lives, including mine. Thank you.

    • January 13, 2014 at 11:17 pm Kim Halter responds:

      Teaching at Franklin offered as great opportunity to mold superb talent. Filling the auditorium for assemblies and talent shows gave my students a chance to shine for all to see and hear. I look back on those days with fond memories. The murals in the auditorium and the iron work in the stairways was always a joy to take in every day.

  6. March 28, 2013 at 9:17 pm theodore kumlander responds:

    I worked in some of the oldest schools in the city. the buildings were so beautiful it was pleasure to go to work everyday, except for Edison Tech which looked and felt like a prison.

    it is surprising that modern buildings are so sterile and unimigitive.

  7. March 29, 2013 at 9:22 am Orielly responds:

    Interesting to compare.
    Today new schools are rarely 3 stories, (three stories are far cheaper to build than one spread out for the same square foot)

    Franklin’s classrooms are large, high ceilings, built to last. The gym and pool are quite small for the size of the intended school population compared to schools today.

    A quick look says designers and school leaders of that day put their money on long lasting, lest expensive building techniques(3 stories). They invested in the learning side and down played the sports side. Oh it was there, not just on the relative spend scale of today.

    I don’t think Franklin has upgraded their sports facilities much besides whats outside..perhaps I am wrong on that. Then again I don’t think they have 4000+ students using that building today as they did in the past. And that may say something also.

  8. March 30, 2013 at 4:36 pm Mike Hoag responds:

    I know that’s an old picture, but I sure wouldn’t recommend sitting down on the floor of any mass-use shower like that!

  9. March 30, 2013 at 8:00 pm Joyce Barasch responds:

    I graduated from Franklin in 1960. There were 499 in my graduating class. People usually got along fine even with variations of races and religions. What a wonderful time to be a student. So sad it had to change. Great building, great teachers, great educational opportunities.

  10. I really enjoyed this article – I recently relocated to Rochester and am now teaching band at Franklin for IATHS. I can’t wait to start and explore the beauty of these buildings. There is a lot of history here and I am looking forward to exploring more of the campus.

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