New Deal Haverstraw: Haverstraw Public School

What is known as Area 15 in the latest Village of Haverstraw Comprehensive Plan, today includes the Benim Scholastic Academy,  Haverstraw Elementary School, and the BOCES Hilltop School. The Franciscan Sisters-Peace,  Saint Peter and Mary’s Church, the Haverstraw Community Center and Garden, the Knights of Columbus Lodge, playing fields, a fire training facility, and municipal parking lots. Located in the center of the Village, for years this was the heart of our community.

By the end of the 1870’s, the inland clay pits of Derbyshire, BJ Allison, Eckerson, and Archer were tapped out, some of the pits becoming local garbage dumps. In the early 1880’s, when the NJ&NYRR and later Erie RR bought much of the old properties, certain parcels were left undeveloped around the new terminus.

At the same time, the Eckerson Estate, one of the largest in the Village, was in probate. Tenants on their holdings were being evicted, horses were being repossessed, and many of the smaller parcels were going to tax auction. The large parcel on Lincoln Street remained in the Eckerson family and was undeveloped after the railroad completed their terminus.

The community soon after improved the Lincoln Street field creating what was later known as the circus lot or Eckersons field. This was the home field of the Haverstraw High School and was used by a loose organization of baseball and community clubs and was maintained by them for over 60 years.


By 1930, the School on Hudson Avenue was showing signs of wear and tear. After numerous additions it was determined that it would need replacement and a committee was formed to find a suitable site for a new school. In 1935 a massive fire destroyed the school and funding was sought to replace the building.


The committee found several sites including the Eckerson property north of Lincoln Street and east of the railroad. Since the property still had no clear title, condemnation proceedings would begin. These parcels along with several scattered around the old clay pits would become the new school opening in 1937. For the several years the school was under construction, classes were held throughout the village.

The School was constructed with the aid of federal Public Works Administration funds. The PWA provided a $270,000 loan and $227,143 grant for this construction, with the balance paid by UFSD#1 with a total cost of $841,696. Construction and site work began in 1935.

Markham Field was built north of the school, the property also being bounded by the Erie on the west and Saint Peters School on the east. By 1950, the Erie would cease operations and those parcels became available, many at tax auction. The parcel northwest of the field was owned by St Mary’s Church, the property being sold for construction of the Haverstraw Elementary School later in the decade.