Yes…This is my senior year prep school graduation photo from DeVeaux! Laurie thinks that I looked like a young Clark Kent…aka Superman. I do know that I was about 6’ 1”, weighed in at around 205, (in decent shape from football, wrestling and track), and I still had a full head of hair! Man 'o man, those days are gone for sure!
The picture above is from about 1961 and I copied it from my Senior Yearbook. It shows the three interconnected primary buildings at DeVeaux School, a Diocesan School of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York.
The campus was deeded by Judge Samuel DeVeaux in the mid 1850’s and it was originally operated by the Episcopal Church as “The DeVeaux College for Orphans and Destitute Children”. From the 1870’s until 1950, course work included mandatory military training with cadets dressed in uniform in the tradition of the United States Military Academy at West Point.
This photo was taken from about the same angle as the previous picture. Laurie took this photo when she and I visited the then deserted campus back in 1980. At this point, the property was under the ownership of Niagara University and it was already in a sad state of neglect.
More on Judge Samuel DeVeaux… He was born in New York City in 1789. When he was 15, he went to work for a Land Office in Canandaigua NY and he also clerked in a local store. At 19 he moved to the Niagara Frontier and was appointed Commissary at Fort Niagara and later on he was the Postmaster for Leroy NY. He married a Canadian woman right in the middle of the War of 1812. After his first wife died, the judge married her sister, ran a store near the Niagara River and he acquired several large parcels of land. He went on to serve as school commissioner, Justice of the Peace, as a member of the Board of Directors for the International Suspension Bridge and as a key investor in the Lockport and Niagara Railroad.
When Judge DeVeaux died in 1852, he left a portion of his estate to the benefit of Niagara Falls and to the Episcopal Church to establish “DeVeaux College”.
This is the first of the primary buildings shown in the preceding photos. Van Rensselaer Hall was dedicated in 1857…and as you can see, it was an impressive structure for the time! I attended classes in this building and the school’s offices were centered here. The infirmary was also located on the third floor. This classic building has been torn down. Laurie and I took this photo in 1980.
The infirmary…ahhh…memories! At one point, I got sick and whatever it was settled in my shoulders. Between the pain and a very high fever, the school administration decided that I might have polio. They called an ambulance and 2 poor EMT’s had to carry me down from the 3rd floor! Prior to my current stay in the hospital for hip surgery, this was the only time that I ever spend a night in a hospital. The ambulance ride with sirens blaring was such an adrenaline ‘kick’ that I felt much better on arrival at the hospital…
This photo, also from our 1980 trip, shows Ambrose Chapel and Monro Hall, (1894) and Patterson Hall…the latter really an 1866 extension of Van Rensselaer Hall. All of these structures have also sadly fallen to the wrecking ball!
Dining at the school was an interesting experience… I think that the dining room was in Patterson Hall. In any case, the rule was that the first to finish his meal was the first to get seconds! There was never enough food on the table, (family style), for everyone to have a second helping… I became a very fast eater! We couldn’t pick up fried chicken to eat it. I got so I could strip all of the meat from a chicken breast with a knife and fork and then consume it in just a couple of minutes…
This view of the campus is from my 1961 Yearbook. The building on the left is one end of Schoellkopf Hall, the dormitory for the boys boarding at DeVeaux. You can see Van Rensselaer Hall across the square to the right… Shoellkopf Hall is still standing.
This is our photo of Schoellkopf Hall from 1980. During my senior year I was a dormitory Prefect, responsible for the students on half of a floor. My room was the first window on the extended portion of the building on the third floor. Prefects had rooms to themselves but most of the boarding students doubled up. The building housed 48 rooms. There was a student lounge in the basement with a TV. As you might imagine in the late 50’s and early 60’s, our favorite TV show was American Bandstand…as girls were a bit hard to come by at school!
I don’t know when this very depressing photo of Schoellkopf Hall was taken… The building is one of the few still standing on the DeVeaux Campus. It was built in 1926.
My graduating class consisted of 27 boarding and day students. I’ve lost touch with the entire group…with my last contact being in the early 2000’s. There never was an alumni association of any significance…
The members of my graduating class were as follows: Donald Phillip Alderman (Lewiston NY); Douglas Beale (Orchard NY); John Jeffery Bingenheimer (Lewiston Heights NY); Thomas Hewitt Combs (Batavia NY); William Edward Dunn Jr. (Lewiston NY); Edward Harold Fairchild (Bradford PA); Bruce Addison Penner (Oneida NY); Paul Henry Gross (Sanborn NY); Thomas Curry Kirkpatrick (Lewiston, NY); Jere Alan Krieg (Grosse Pointe MI); Robert Charles Kulak (Sanborn NY); Allan Chauncey Lyhford, Jr. (Mayville NY); Stanley Barron Mattison (Arlington VA); Robert John McGovern (Lewiston NY); John Clarke Newman (Lewiston NY); Richard Wilson Orser (Bay Village OH); Thomas Frederick Palmer (Ogdensburg NY); Eric Theodore Popp (Niagara Falls NY); Robert Wolfe Quine (Akron OH); Thomas Edward Reid (Niagara Falls NY); Walter Brayton Rogers, Jr. (Pittsburgh PA); Gary Howard Scott (Niagara Falls NY); Timothy Noel Southwick (Jackson MI); John Kay Strickland, Jr. (Lewiston NY); John Frederick Wildanger (Flint MI); Jonathon Jarvis Woolverton (Niagara Falls NY). I graduated under the name of David Jeffrey M. Thomson, as I was using my stepfather’s last name.
I lifted this photo from the Internet. It’s the old gym or auditorium. We held various events in this building, including the rather rare co-ed dances. You can see the old power plant just to the left of the auditorium.
We could go off campus on the weekends… There was one year when I went to the movies as many as 4 times per weekend! Friday night, Saturday matinee, Saturday night and then a Sunday matinee… I fell ‘in love with Doris Day, Sandra Dee, Annette Funicello, Debbie Reynolds, Ann Margaret and a bevy of others. We watched some TV, visited Niagara Falls itself, played sports, etc…and we studied too!
This photo was taken from my yearbook. It shows the new gym and pool as well as one of the faculty homes. The car in the photo looks like a Hillman…could have been Alec Pudwell’s. He was the school Chaplin.
Sports… Yes, we had lots to choose from. (Soccer, Football, Wrestling, Swimming, Basketball, Tennis, Track, Cross Country, Baseball and Golf) I lettered in Track and Football. Due to the size of the school, we played 6-man Football. Primary opponents were generally other private or small public schools in upper New York State such as Park, Pebble Hill, Harley, Nichols, Ridley, Allendale and Hillfield.
This photo shows the large expanse of land around the school. The property butted up to the Niagara escarpment and the Whirlpool Park to the right of this picture. Originally the school controlled over 300 acres but the campus was eventually whittled down to 51 acres.
As with many college preparatory schools, DeVeaux fell on hard times as public schools improved. I graduated in 1961, the Episcopal Diocese ceased operations at the school and in 1971, it sought another organization to accept the task of taking care of the historic structures. At one time or another, Niagara County, Niagara Falls, Niagara University, the Board of Cooperative Educational Services and the Niagara County Community College have owned or leased the property.
This is the oldest structure still standing in the DeVeaux School Historic District. This brick barn or carriage house was built in 1863 and there are stories that it may have served as part of the underground railway for runaway slaves. Recent pressure has forced the state to cover the roof with a plastic covering to prevent further deterioration.
In 2000, the state of New York purchased the campus and vowed to transform the 51 acre property into “DeVeaux Woods State Park”. The property includes 5 acres of rare old growth forest…with some trees over 255 years old. Unfortunately, most of the old historic buildings have been torn down and very little is left to mark what was once a vibrant institution for young men. I learned to study here, to win here, to accept responsibility and take accountability here. The school is gone, but the memories hold strong. This was the start I needed to be able to succeed in life, the business world and eventually to be able to retire comfortably here in East Tennessee.
Thanks to www.leroypennysavernews.com and Lynne Belluscio for much of the background information in this blog.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for this little historical venture down my memory lane!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave