Fort Hamilton H.S. opened 80 years ago
Fort Hamilton H.S., on Shore Road between 83rd and 85th Streets in Bay Ridge, first opened on Sept. 8, 1941, which means that for the current school year the community and alumni should be happily celebrating its 80th anniversary.
Sadly, while the school celebrated its 50th, 60th, 65th, 70th and 75th anniversaries with souvenir journals, open houses and events in the girls’ gym and auditorium open to past graduates, parents and supporters, it sure looks like it won’t happen this year.
According to a spokesperson for the FHHS Alumni Association, and with COVID-19 still lingering, the principal has put the brakes on any similar celebrations.
Nonetheless, here are some historical tidbits about the founding of the school that was made nationally famous by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, a Fort Hamilton graduate.
The school was originally meant to be all-boys but it was co-ed when it opened. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, known as “The Little Flower,” came to Bay Ridge on Sept. 23, 1940 to set the cornerstone, which included a small copper box time capsule.
Also present for the event were students from Bay Ridge and New Utrecht high schools, and Brooklyn Borough President John Cashmore, who reportedly said, “No student should be given a diploma until he passes an examination on the federal Constitution and has taken the oath of allegiance.”
Other VIPs in attendance were Dr. Harold G. Campbell, superintendent of schools; Special Sessions Judge Matthew J. Troy, and William R. Crowley, Brooklyn member of the Board of Education.
The school was constructed on the former site and surrounding grounds of the historic and famous Crescent Athletic Country Club. Previous landowners were members of the Van Brunt family. When the school opened, it had a penthouse on the roof of the three-story building where the band practiced so classes and neighbors would not hear the musical blasts and blares.
While the first principal, Dr. Augustus Ludwig, and his staff were making plans for a formal dedication ceremony, the Japanese Imperial Force attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, plunging the nation into World War II. Preparations for the ceremony were scrapped and future graduates joined the U.S. Armed Services; five were killed during the war.
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