Landmarks Holds Public Hearing for Designation of Samuel Gompers High School in the Bronx

Samuel Gompers Industrial High School building. Image Credit: LPC.

Multiple people spoke in support and highlighted the building’s art deco features and connection to the city’s industrial history. On November 15, 2022 the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing for the designation of the Samuel Gompers Industrial High School as an individual landmark. Gompers High School is located at 455 Southern Boulevard in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. 

Gompers High School was designed by William H. Gompert and Water C. Martin. The building is in the medieval revival style with art deco details, including two six-story towers at the building’s front featuring arched windows and terracotta reliefs. The high school was the city’s first vocational high school, named after Samuel Gompers, the first president of the American Federation of Labor, which would eventually become the largest federation of labor unions in the country. The school featured auto, milling and forge shops and included classes for electric light and auto transmission. Art within the school includes panels and reliefs of skilled labor. For more of CityLand’s prior coverage, click here.

While the Samuel Gompers Industrial High School closed in 2012, the school building is currently home to three smaller high schools: Mott Haven Community High School, Health Education and Research Occupations High School and New Visions Charter High School for the Humanities II.

Four people spoke in support of the designation at the public hearing. 

Samuel Brooks, an alumni of Gompers High School, local resident and President of the Mott Haven Historic District Association voiced his support for designation, and shared some of his experience as a student at the school.

Three landmarks and preservation advocates also spoke in support of designation at the hearing. 

Andrea Goldwyn, Director of Public Policy at the New York Landmarks Conservancy testified in support. She discussed the building’s medieval revival and art deco accents and features. She also stated, “Like so many New York schools, Gompers creates a connection with New York’s history and is an inspiration for students. This impressive building is a neighborhood landmark and an important designation for a Bronx community underserved by landmarked protections. We hope it will be the first of many more.”

Kelly Carroll, board member of the Art Deco Society, testified and highlighted the building’s specific art deco details. Carroll discussed Walter C. Martin’s contributions and how “strict adherence to simplicity” allowed for the creation of a beautiful building like Gompers High School. The Art Deco Society recommended identifying the primary style of the building as art deco. She also asked if the WPA mural “Power” by Eric Mose still survives in the school’s library and if so was it possible to investigate ways to protect this work as an interior landmark in the future. 

Lucie Levine, Preservation Advocacy and Community Outreach Manager of the Historic Districts Council, discussed the “striking and tangible link” the school represents to the city’s educational and industrial history. According to Levine, “both Gompert and Martin’s design are legible in this facade, which makes the building particularly striking and allows passersby to read the passage of time built into the environment.” Levine noted that the Historic Districts Council appreciated Landmarks’ focus on the Bronx as a part of its Equity initiatives to find other potential landmarks and historic districts. 

All three advocates encouraged Landmarks to continue to designate other school buildings citywide. 

Landmarks Chair Sarah Carroll stated, “I want to thank everyone for participating and supporting this designation. The research team and the agency have devoted resources to studying the Bronx and the research team has done an extensive district-by-district survey in the Bronx and this of course was at the top of that survey as well as the top of a school survey the research team has done. . . it seemed like an obvious place to start. It is a striking monumental building in a district that is striking from a distance . . . it is a wonderful school building and the first of other buildings that we will be bringing forward as the result of our extensive surveys.” 

Landmarks will vote at a later date.

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)

LPC: Samuel Gompers Industrial High School (LP-2666, November 15, 2022).


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