The 20th Century was ushered in by some wonderful events; L. Frank Baum had written the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the first radio signal was sent across the Atlantic Ocean, the Kodak Company’s introduced the Brownie Camera, and Syracuse was evolving into an industrial and economic hub of New York State.
The initial wave of European migration had already participated in the remaking of the infrastructure necessary to sustain the economic growth of the community; And the city’s landscape was dotted with buildings and monuments; all reminders of who the early arrivals were and how they served their newly adopted city.
With that backdrop, the needs of a burgeoning population, including the need for good educational facilities, were frequently the center of political and social discussion. In those early years, the secondary education program was housed in a centrally located high school, originating with The High School (1854-1871), the Syracuse High School (1871-1907) and the Syracuse High School Central and North (1907-1908). The latter became known as Syracuse Central Technical High School (1960-1975). Central High School as was commonly referred to, stands for us a reminder of the storied beginning of our beloved North High School.
After reaching agreement on the need for a second High School in the northern section of the city, the former site of the areas penitentiary was selected and land located between Mary and Pond Streets was purchased at a cost of $25;000. A mostly yellow brick building highlighted by lower level courses of red brick standing firm on a granite stone foundation was constructed at a cost of $261,000.
As one might expect, projects then as now are prone to generate controversy. There were objections to the site that included, the development of a playing field area, the concern for the quality of education programming and the desire of students to continue their education with their close friends and associates at their present Central location. The conflicts ran their course and North Side High School opened in 1908. Board action established two separate high school districts, Central and North and the dividing line between them was the Erie Canal. In April 1909 the Board renamed the schools, North High School and Syracuse Central High School. A gymnasium was added to the east side of the building in 1927.
With a large geographic attendance area to draw from, North initially was a very cosmopolitan high school, having a very strong German influence with contingents of Irish, French, and Italian nationalities. The changing immigration patterns influenced the make-up of the School’s attendance area and in later years would reflect a more Italian based student body.
The academic, social and athletic programs of Syracuse High School were essentially mirrored at North. As a separate identity became clearer, a fierce rivalry and competitiveness surfaced between the schools. North High School always exuded a strong sense of fellowship, devoid of snobbishness, and unrivaled in loyalty.
High quality, dedicated teachers, including returning graduates, served the student body over the years. They were challenging, approachable and fondly remembered for creating a unique and wonderful learning environment that strongly influenced the careers and successes achieved by the thousands of graduates.
Over the years, four talented principals provided the leadership: William Dodge Lewis (1908- 1910, Marshall Downing (1910 –1940), Walter McIntosh (1940 – 1951), Dr. Jesse Ross (1951 –1964). Henry Shoudy served as the School’s Vice – Principal for many of the school’s later years.
Many prominent men and women graduated from the school and led illustrious careers locally, nationally and internationally. It is not widely known but, proudly stated by Dr. Jesse Ross, North’s last Principal, “that North, to that point in time, had graduated more men and women that went on to professional careers than any other city high school “
As the North High School Hall of Fame (2010) commences to honor the distinguished graduates, the alumni and the community will be able to personify and appreciate the enormity of the statement.
The school building was torn down in 1965 to make way for the Bishop Harrison Apartments, but the unique spirit that incubated in 1908 transcended the demolition, it transcended time. The feeling of oneness, of being a “Windy Hiller”, a North High alumnus is alive today….it is strong and it will live on…..because our children know the lore and share the admiration we alumni have for having had the North High School experience.