A history of Lafayette Street School naturally begins with its founding in the year 1848. The school was originally known as the Fifth Ward Grammar School, being one of four schools first erected by the city of Newark. It is also one of the very few Newark Schools having been built before the official creation of the Board of Education in Newark, NJ three years later.
The original building’s foundation stone with inscription is enshrined in the wall inside the front entrance of Lafayette Street School.
An enlargement of the original school building took place in the year 1909. This was necessitated by an ever – increasing school population and rise in immigration into this predominantly residential part of the city of Newark. Industry only made its appearance in the “Ironbound” community afterwards, and began to change the farmland and homesteads comprising much of the topography into an active economic sector of the city.
With the original seven classrooms accommodating 309 pupils in the year 1848 giving way to first an addition to the building, and then in the year 1911 the construction of a new building with a magnificent Gothic-like architectural structure compatible with the 1909 addition, the school building contained forty classrooms. Incorporated into the new structure was a concert-style auditorium housing an extraordinary Tiffany styled skylight seating six-hundred people, plus two gymnasiums and special departments. The old part of the structure was removed in the year 1911 in order to accommodate the new school with an annual enrollment of approximately 1,200 pupils and a faculty numbering sixty-five teachers. As all the new construction was underway, not once was Lafayette Street School closed, a distinction that would later be recognized by the state of New Jersey and bestow Lafayette Street School the Honor of being named the oldest continuously functioning school in the State! Other features of the school were its playground on the roof for older students and a lunchroom Cafeteria servicing 150 pupils on a daily basis.
The naming of Lafayette Street School is directly related to the street on which it resides, but more poignantly it also honors the Marquis de Lafayette for his individual assistance during the Revolutionary War and his outstanding services leading to the final goal, American Independence.
Lafayette’s influence has touched the lives of many people and has certainly spanned the generations, imparting wisdom, values and those characteristics most prized in our society- Honesty, Integrity and Responsibility!