Monday, September 16, 2019

DeVeaux School – Niagara Falls NY (Update)

This post is focused on personal history and on a rather narrow audience…those who ever attended DeVeaux School, a college preparatory school that was located in Niagara Falls New York near the whirlpool in the Niagara River.


This is an old aerial photo of the DeVeaux School Campus.  As you can see, the 51 acre site included a significant number of buildings from different eras in the school’s history.


This is Van Rensselaer Hall.  Dedicated in 1857, this was the first structure on campus.  During my time at DeVeaux, it included the kitchen/dining hall, infirmary, offices and classrooms.

The property was deeded by Judge Samuel DeVeaux in the mid-1850s as the DeVeaux College for Orphans and Destitute Children.  Until the school’s closing in 1971, it was operated by the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York.  I was part of the graduating class of 27 boys in 1961.


In 1866, Van Rensselaer Hall was expanded and it was later named Patterson Hall after the second president of the school.  In 1894, the building shown above was added.  This Gothic style building was attached to Patterson Hall and it featured a new enlarged chapel (Ambrose Chapel) that occupied the entire second floor.  Our study hall was on the first floor.  During my time at DeVeaux, the bells rang every 15 minutes during the daytime and early evening, sounding out each hour through the day.
 
Judge Samuel DeVeaux was a major investor in the Lockport and Niagara Railroads and he was also heavily involved in the construction of the Whirlpool Suspension Bridge in 1847.  The region still bears his name today.


This is Schoellkopf Hall as it appeared in 1980.  This was our dormitory and it was completed in 1929.  I lived here for 4 years.  At the time, the school catered to grades 7 - 12.

For almost 80 years, students received mandatory military training with the students/cadets dressed in uniforms.  That ended in 1950 when the uniforms were replaced by coats and ties.

During the twentieth century, the demand for prep-school education declined.  When the Episcopal Diocese ceased operations here in 1971, they searched for another organization to take over the property and the care of the historic buildings.  Over the years the property has been owned or leased by Niagara County, the City of Niagara Falls, Niagara University, the Board of Cooperative Educational Services and Niagara County Community College.  The current owner is the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.  The property is now called DeVeaux Woods State Park.

So much for preservation!  Van Rensselaer, Patterson and Monro Halls were all torn down ca. 1994.  Fortunately Laurie and I visited the closed campus in 1980 so I had one last look at those historic structures.



The 1994 demolition of the main school buildings left this handsome brick carriage house as the oldest structure remaining on the property.  It was built in 1863 and it is rumored that it may have served as part of the ‘underground railway’ for runaway slaves.  Pressure from preservationists forced the state to cover the roof with a plastic covering to prevent further deterioration and to enable eventual restoration.


As this subsequent photo shows, preservationists and the government didn’t get the job done in time to save the building.  Mother Nature took over in May of 2018 and damaged the structure beyond repair.

…and anther one bites the dust!


This is a photo of the old gym at DeVeaux School.  It looks like something out of the 1920s or so.  When I attended school here it was used for special events such as a rare co-ed dance.  We had a nice new gym for our indoor sports that featured an Olympic size swimming pool and other facilities.



A fire overnight on September 5, 2019 brought down the old gym, one of the 2 remaining older structures remaining on the former DeVeaux School campus. 

At this point in time the old gym or auditorium was being used as a maintenance shed.  Going, going, gone… If you look back at the photo of the destroyed carriage house, you’ll see Schoellkopf Hall, built in 1929 and the only relatively old building remaining on what was our campus.


Classmates and DeVeaux graduates… I’m sorry to report that his “comfort station” is being or has been built ‘in the style’ of the carriage house to replace that last truly historic building at our school.  The campus that we knew as students is almost totally wiped out.  Somehow, given the lack of caring/preservation, this 'commemorative' structure seems fitting.

Thanks to Gary Scott, Class of 1961, for alerting me to the story about the fire.  It motivated me to create one last post about this institution that was so important in our formative years and which established the foundation for the remainder of our lives.  Given the sad fate of our former school, it’s a good thing that we have our memories. 

After my first post about DeVeaux and with the advantage of the Internet, many in our class managed to find each other, holding our fifty-fourth and fifty-sixth year class reunion.  The fifty-eighth reunion was planned this year but it was cancelled due to some health issues.  The good news is that a few of classmates are still planning to get together.  

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

44 comments:

  1. Nice to think about your old stomping grounds

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  2. Big Daddy Dave:
    "Thanks for the memories", as Bob Hope used to say.
    I really appreciate the effort that you and your wife went to put these into your blog.
    Seeing the historical buildings in their former state, before they were demolished, brought back memories from days in the fifties, when we were at DeVeaux. It is too bad that there are few interior shots of the buildings (but maybe there are???). Revisiting our classrooms/chapel/dining area/study hall/bathrooms/gyms/dormitory areas would be worth seeing, again, if photos were available; other than in our yearbooks.
    Our baseball diamond, soccer field, and all the other open areas are in my mind. Since I lived only a block away from the campus, I have many memories of using the area for sports, golf, and exploring the woods along the fences w/ the Indian gravesite (?) during all seasons of the year.
    I even coached a litttle league baseball team, one summer, during my college years, where the old football field was located.
    The fifties were a magical time and DeVeaux years definitely added to the fond memories, which I recall of my life in Niagara Falls. I would like to thank Gary Scott for his mentioning the recent fire.
    Now, that I know that there is a "comfort station" on the grounds, any future visit to my old home town, the former DeVeaux School grounds, and current DeVeaux Woods State Part, will afford me 'relief', if necessary.
    Thanks, again, BDD.
    Erik Popp, class of 1961, and one of the 27.

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  3. reach out to me if you are interested in a lot of scans from 1919 of the Deveaux School. I am in the middle of a massive scanning project by a Stoughton, Massachusetts resident and he happened to teach at Deveaux for a while.

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    1. Is the former student anyone there 1956-60?

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    2. Don Prosch class of 1970 & interested in any & everything about DeVeaux.

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  4. My father was a student there in 1919. I would be interested in seeing the pictures.

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  5. Do you know where I might find records for the DeVeaux College for Orphans and Destitute Children? 1860 in particular.
    Thank you

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  6. JnickM, I suspect that the Episcopal Dioceses for Western New York, the area that included the school, would have any records if they exist. That's my best guess. Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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  7. Thank you so much I greatly appreciate it! You stay safe as well.

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  8. Deveaux Campus was Occupied by Niagara University Students who stayed over night at the Dorm, and I attended Deveaux School back in 1976 through 1977...

    The Deveaux Campus was officially Closed Down on June 27,1977, that was the Year I Graduated Deveaux Catholic High School...

    The UnderGround Railroad entrance was located in the Basement of the Old Deveaux College Building that was built in the early or mid 1800's...

    Doug O'Grady walked through the "Old UnderGround Railroad."

    I only went 1/4 of the way, because it's the old UnderGround Railroad that was built way back in 1820, and I didn't trust those old UnderGround Walls, and Support Beams...


    The State of New York Shut the Old Deveaux Campus down because the Buildings were unsafe, and the Old Deveaux College Building was falling apart back in the Year of 1977...

    The Main Support Beam of the Deveaux College Building was sagging down and ready to cavein..


    The Old Gym was the half round building that was built around the year 1860, it just burnt down in the year 2020, along with the Old Garage Barn, when they use to Keep Horses, then later kept Cars in the Old Barn Garage that was built in around the time of the mid 1800's...

    There was an old Car in the Old Barn Garage back in the year of 1976...

    The "Old Barn Garage" just got destroyed by high winds in, around the year of 2019...


    The Memories of the Old History of The Deveaux College Campus will be forgotten, they old buildings are all gone now, and there is nothing left, of the past history of Deveaux College Campus...

    Now's it's just a Empty Park where people walk their Dogs, and Play Baseball...

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    1. The only records left, are at the Niagara Falls New York Library on Main Street Niagara Falls New York 14305...

      I'll never forget the Old Niagara University College Girls that stayed at the Dorm on the Deveaux Campus, there was never a dull moment when they were around, that was way back in the School Year from September 11, 1976 till I Graduated in June 27, 1977...

      The Niagara University College Girls stayed on the Deveaux College Campus until June 25, 1980, That's when their Dorm Closed Down and the PhD College Students went back to the Dorms at Niagara University College Campus...

      I use to have a Blonde Girlfriend who attended Niagara University in Niagara Falls New York back during those years of 1976 and 1977..

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    2. M. - Thanks for the history lesson, several items I wasn't aware of despite spending 4 years at DeVeaux. Girls in my old dorm...what a thought! Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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    3. Don Prosch class of 1970. Please contact me.

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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. This is Robert LePome who used his Step-Father's name of Kulak for his 4 years at DeVeaux. I graduated in 1961 but visited the old campus every 10 years through 2001. It was not until 2017 that my former classmates were able to locate me and all who attended enjoyed our 56th reunion. It was held in Nashville.
    Similar bad luck with my SUNY at Buffalo law school class of 1968. It is the only class since the founding of the law school which did not have a class photo. I attended our 50th class reunion. My former classmates made sure I would attend by putting me on the reunion committee. The 3 years at law school were not close to the fond memories of my time at DeVeaux.

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  11. Hello all! I work in the estate sale/auction business here in Richmond, Va, I was going through some paper collections and I ran across a Deveaux student named Humphrey Nolan and his 1912 school diary. Also are some letters written on Deveaux letterhead stationery dated 1915-16. If anyone is interested in this collection, please let me know! Cheers! Rob Martenis

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    1. Rob, I put out the word on the materials you found to my mailing list... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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    2. Not sure who may get this, but I graduated in 1970 & would love to talk to anyone about this. Ignore the reply as below & email is gyrospace@bellsouth.net. I revisited DeVeaux in 2015. Loved this place

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    3. I want all to know that the Deveaux items of Humphrey Nolan have been safely sent to one that has seen to their proper home. Thanx! Robby Jay

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  12. This bog was delightful. I would love to see inside photos. The building would be wonderful beautiful condos. Hope it is save from destruction. ~! Darcy Swenson

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  13. My late father attended De Veaux, graduated class of 1956. I used to enjoy perusing his yearbooks.

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  14. Carl, I just missed your dad...as I started at DeVeaux in 1957. Thanks for stopping by. Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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  15. Thanks for this. Your two posts are about the best online history and updates I can find online for the campus. My Mom grew up at DeVeaux in the 30s and 40s when her father was chaplain, senior master and headmaster. I think it's still her favorite place from her life. She's seen it once in the last 15 years, and that was enough. Whirlpool rapids, at least, is unchanged. Fun to see the comments and tales from all you who knew it after 1950.

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  16. My dad and Uncle attended..dad graduating in 1954, Uncle in 1952..

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  17. I attended DeVeaux 1970-71 as one of nine girls at the school. It went coed that year to try and build up enrollment.It wasn't enough to keep the school open and they closed. I lived behind the woods next door to the asst. headmaster, Mr. Gillette. When I was younger I loved going into the bell tower when his son would play the chimes. I just moved back to the area and it saddens me to see what's happened. My husband and I took a state sponsored walk through the woods and it was quite surreal sitting in the auditorium of the science building.
    Katherine Dillon

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    1. I graduated in 1970 & probably know some of the people you did. If it is the same Gillette, he was a math teacher when I was there.

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  18. Katherine, I never knew that DeVeaux went co-ed. It is sad about the campus and the loss of those historic buildings. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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  19. Hi there! Me again! Well, I just checked in to see if there were any replies to my comment of February 27,2021. Thank you Big Daddy Dave for acknowledging my comment. I want to be clear about this group of letters and diary. I am not looking for any compensation. I just want to pass these items to one that would give them the home they need. Just sayin'! Cheers! Rob Martenis in Richmond, Va.

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  20. Rob, if you have no replies from anyone more closely connected, I'd be interested in seeing the diary & letters. My grandfather entered as a cadet in 1912 & eventually became headmaster until DeVeaux went civilian. There may be overlap as there was with the photos from Stoughton Historical above. Reply here if you're willing, & I'll look for a way to get in touch outside of Blogger comments.

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    1. Good morning Stu! So sorry to have taken this long to get back to you as I was unaware of your comment until today. My email is choodot43@aol.com and the items are staring at me! Cheers! Rob

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    2. Stu and Robby... Glad that my post connected you two! I found long lost family via my blog site so you just never know what might happen when you post something... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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    3. Thanks, Dave, and thanks again for providing this forum & the updates on the campus.

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  21. Stu, Glad to see the thread continuing. Thanks for getting back to Rob and hopefully, you can work out the details. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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  22. Hi - Doug Griebner, class of 1960. Now in Sacramento, CA. This site is great - I always wanted to get together with old classmates, but it never happened. This is great. Anyone else have memories of Morison Brigham, Proc Martin, Ken Anthony, Adrian Kallas, John Stebbins, George Reed, or other "masters"? Or of traditions like the Senior Walk? Sneaking out to smoke?

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    1. Doug Griebner, Keith Williams here and I'm sure you remember my brother Kent(60). I only attended one year but have fond memories of DeVeaux and the class of 1960 as well as my classmates (64). Both Kent and I are on FB so if you wanted to reach out to Kent that's where you could fine him. All the best to you and Thanks you Dave for maintaining this wonderful site! Cheers!

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    2. Hi Doug, Sorry but I'm not on Facebook. My email is dandlmyers@gmail.com. Are you the Doug Griebner that was on the wrestling team with me and that signed my 1060 yearbook with "Dear Stinky"? Kent's yearbook comment began, "Dave, Thanks for slapping me on the back every morning, it woke me up". Have you checked out all of the Deveaux posts on my blog site. Lots of photos of old guys from the class of 1961. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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  23. Hi Doug, Dave Myers (Thomson) here...class of 1961. Proc Martin tried unsuccessfully to teach Latin to me... I fondly remember Ken Anthony, probably the best teacher I encountered while at DeVeaux. My math skills were wasted when a new teacher was assigned to teach me algebra in the second part of my freshman year. I never had the other teachers you mentioned. The class of 61 has had a couple of reunions, starting in 2015. There were 9 of us in attendance at that one which was held near Knoxville TN. In addition to myself, there was Don Alderman, Bill Dunn, Tom Reid, Gary Scott, Jere Krieg, Jon Woolverton, Ed Fairchild and Tim Southwick. The second event, held a couple of years later in Nashville, included Bob Kulak (LePomme) and Christian Haller...who didn't graduate with us but was part of the class in 1960. Tim Southwick passed after the first reunion and Ed Fairchild passed soon after the second one. Both Eric Popp and John Strickland have had contact with the class but didn't attend the reunions. In my 1960 yearbook, your Senior comments to me read "Your armpits and other areas almost got rid of me during wrestling class". Ahhh...such fond memories! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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  24. My grandfather Max Zimmerman attended in the early 30s. I have a pillow and photos of him on the baseball and basketball team. He was a 2 year captain and a hell of a ballplayer.

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  25. DeVeaux boy Jack Marsh here, class of 1967. Had good years and experiences at DeVeaux, 8th grade through 12th. Thank you for putting together this blog. Brings to mind many positive memories. If anyone wants to connect, I live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I’m easy to find on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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  26. Hi - I just added a poem to the Niagara Falls Poetry Project website called "Chimes of De Veaux" by Ada Elizabeth Fuller, written in 1919. Hope you don't mind, I used one of your pictures (with credit) and linked to this blog in 2 spots. See the poem at http://niagarapoetry.ca/2022/03/27/deveaux/

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