Fort Hamilton HS opened 80 years ago
Fort Hamilton HS, on Shore Road between 83rd and 85th Streets in Bay Ridge, opened on September 8, 1941, which means that for the current school year, the community and alumni should happily celebrate its 80th anniversary.
Unfortunately, as the school celebrated its 50th, 60th, 65th, 70th and 75th anniversaries with souvenir journals, open houses and events in the girls’ gymnasium and auditorium open to former graduates, parents and supporters, there seems like that won’t happen. This year.
According to a spokesperson for the FHHS Alumni Association, and with COVID-19 lingering, the director has put a hold on any similar celebration.
Nonetheless, here is some historical information about the founding of the school made nationally famous by the Secretary of the Treasury. Janet YellenFort Hamilton graduate.
The school was originally intended to be for boys only, but was coeducational when it opened. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardiaknown as “The Little Flower”, came to Bay Ridge on September 23, 1940 to lay the cornerstone, which included a small copper time capsule.
Also present at the event were students from Bay Ridge and New Utrecht High Schools, as well as the Brooklyn Borough President. John Cashmorewho reportedly said, “No student should receive a degree until he has passed an examination on the Federal Constitution and has taken an oath of allegiance.”
Other dignitaries present were Dr. Harold G. Campbell, superintendent of schools; Special Sessions Judge Matthew J. Troyand William R. CrowleyBrooklyn member of the Board of Education.
The school was built on the former site and surrounding grounds of the historic and famous Crescent Athletic Country Club. The previous owners were members of the Van Brunt family. When the school first opened, it had a penthouse on the roof of the three-story building where the band practiced so that classes and neighbors wouldn’t hear the musical explosions and screams.
While the first director, Dr. Augustus Ludwig, and its staff were preparing for an official dedication ceremony, the Japanese Imperial Force attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, plunging the country into World War II. Preparations for the ceremony were scrapped and future graduates joined the United States Armed Forces; five were killed during the war.