Clear Stream Avenue School




The Clear Stream Taxpayers' Association (Taxpayers), a grassroots activist group, was organized in 1921. We have them to thank for demanding that a school be built in Clear Stream. Considered at the time to be "a growing town adjoining Valley Stream," the Taxpayers mission was to fight for improvements: their own fire department, gas, electricity, road maintenance, a train depot, and a plumbed water system. The most significant fight the organization had on its hands, however, was for a school to be built in their section of the West End. Up until then, students had to walk to District 13's Wheeler Avenue. A school committee was immediately formed. 

Historians or lovers of local history are in luck. The Taxpayers, in addition to having a president, vice president, treasurer, and secretaries (corresponding and recording), also had their own publicity department—hence, no shortage of newspapers reporting on their activities. The Taxpayers were a highly vocal, angry, aggressive, and successful group. There were no issues they were unwilling to tackle. Arthur Hendrickson, the second Taxpayers president (future president of District 30 BOE; co-owner of Hendrickson Brothers; and 1929-32 mayor of Valley Stream), was a passionate and indignant activist. He was "outraged that small children had to walk two miles to school in all kinds of weather—if grown-ups don't do it, why the kiddies?" 

Clear Stream tries to incorporate

In 1922, the first of three attempts to incorporate the Village of Valley Stream was underway. In September of that year, the Taxpayers prepared a petition to incorporate Clear Stream. The community wanted to break from Valley Stream—they felt the governing body did not adequately serve them. Residents of Valley Stream were shocked by the Taxpayers chutzpah, as Clear Stream would "be taking property which rightfully belonged to Valley Stream." Clear Stream set out to annex the territory from Merrick Road to Dutch Broadway, extending east to Lynbrook. The Taxpayers meetings were held at Joseph Buscher's Park Inn Garage on Merrick Road. The Clear Stream incorporation never happened, of course, but their efforts paid off in most of their other undertakings. "The harder they work, the more pleasure they seem to find in anything they set out to do," reported the March 20, 1923 issue of The Outlaw, the local Valley Stream paper. 

In March 1923, the officers of the school committee met with Wellington Mepham, the District Superintendent of Schools, and shortly thereafter, District 30 was formed from sections of Districts 13, 24, and Elmont's District 16. The District 30 BOE members included Arthur Hendrickson, George Lindner (his property housed the first Clear Stream fire truck in 1927), George Hoffman (owner of Hoffman's Park Inn on Central Avenue and Merrick Road); William Fare (father of District Music Director, Arthur Fare; and grandfather of Mayor Edwin Fare), and William Reisert (son of Frederick and Anna Reisert, owners of a 270-acre farm south of Sunrise). 

Common vs. Union Free 

District 30, when formed in 1923, was a Common School. Within a month of its existence, however, it was changed to a Union Free School. A Common School was an elementary/middle school that did not provide students with a local high school to attend after graduation from eighth grade. If you attended a Common School and wanted to go to high school, your school board had to pay tuition and transportation for you to attend classes at a nearby school. South Side High in Rockville Centre was the school of choice for Streamers pre-1925 (they had an excellent athletic department with many team sports). A Union Free School, on the other hand, combined two or more Common School districts for the purpose of providing students with a high school education in their hometown. District 24's Brooklyn Avenue School has been Union Free School since at least 1911. The old eight-room wooden Wheeler (it sat to the left of the present day school), changed from Common to Union Free in 1923, same as Clear Stream. 

Conselyea family

Once the Taxpayers accomplished the feat of forming District 30, the members tackled finding suitable property on which to build their school. In the summer of 1923, two acres were purchased from John Conselyea, a member of the Springfield (Gardens) family. The cost was $5,000. Upon the recommendation from the Albany BOE, District 30 purchased an additional two acres from Conselyea for another $5,000. (The Conselyea surname is familiar to many. They were descendants of Dutch settlers, who in the 19th century owned a pond and gristmill in Rosedale's Brookville Park.) The modern-day street address of those land purchases is 60 Clearstream Avenue—where the present school stands today. 

With the school property purchases squared away, the school committee focused on the logistics of building a school. $100,000 was allotted for construction, the money borrowed on the credit of the district through bonds. The loan was paid in annual installments from property taxes collected within the school district. In no way, however, was it possible for the school committee to have the building ready for the Fall 1923 school year.

The house that Buscher built

Buscher, the owner of the Park Inn Garage, was also the Taxpayers treasurer. Buscher, at his own expense, erected a wood-frame, four-room, 50' x 60' house at modern-day 27 South Terrace Place, located just south of his garage. The intention was to use the house as a temporary school until Clearstream Avenue was ready for occupancy. It took but a month to construct the "Little Framed School." Buscher, at the time, was one of the largest property owners in Clear Stream.

The Little Framed School opened in September 1923. Three teachers and a principal were hired. There were 126 registered students. The teachers were Celia Clark, Norma Coats, and Bernice McNamara. The principal, George Coats (Norma’s father) and his family were from Olean, New York, about 75 miles south of Buffalo. A celebratory dance was held that month at the Park Inn Garage. 300+ people attended the festivities, according to The Outlaw. The Square Club, a KKK-affiliated service organization, donated their usual school gift—a bible. Hot dogs and soft drinks were served. 

Principals Coats and Wall

Principal Coats was not a popular principal, and in 1925, he was accused of “ungentlemanly conduct…not fit to teach children…injury to a mother and daughter...” Despite complaints, his salary was increased to $2,500 a year and a motion was made that he “be given full charge of the school house [60 Clearstream Avenue], the grounds, and all the employees.” Six months later, however, the district’s second principal, Fred Wall, replaced him. In 1928, at a dinner hosted by the Valley Stream Exchange Club (an early Chamber of Commerce), Principal Wall spoke. He was "decidedly in favor of pretty teachers," and felt the "old time school marms" cost the school too much money. "I don't think you are getting your money's worth out of schools," Wall declared. By 1929, there were 11 teachers, and annual salaries ranged from $1,350 to $1,850.

Finally, in the Fall of 1924, the new brick schoolhouse opened, although only the four classrooms on the first floor were finished. The architect of the building was Wellington Spaulding; his associate, Frederic Weidersum. Spaulding was also the architect of the 1907 Brooklyn Avenue School, the 1924 Wheeler Avenue School, and the 1925 Franklin School. In addition, Spaulding designed churches, firehouses, and other schools. By the end of the year, the second floor of Clear Stream was completed for $15,000; and the PTA first made its appearance. The Little Framed School remained open until at least 1927-8. It was much needed additional flex space for the students, teachers, and administration, as the new brick school was in double-session. In 1929, Weidersum struck out on his own and designed Central High and all the post-WWII public schools in Valley Stream.

In 1928, two four-room wings, a small gym, a lunchroom, and a bicycle room were added for another $100,000. This was around the time the Little Framed School shut down. From 1923-1929, Clear Stream taught students from first through eighth grades. When Central High School opened in 1929, the seventh and eighth graders from districts 13, 24, and 30 were no longer educated at the primary schools. They attended Central High in the afternoons.

In the thirties, Clear Stream shared a dental hygienist, nurse, and physical education teacher with Wheeler Avenue. The PTA organized and supervised a cafeteria that was taken over by the district later that decade. In 1956, a kindergarten and combo auditorium/gymnasium were added; in 1958, a kitchen. The other two District 30 schools: Shaw Avenue (named after Alex Shaw, the District Superintendent of School Grounds) and Forest Road, opened in 1951 and 1953.

Gaming den raid

Perhaps the most scandalous event connected to Clear Stream happened in 1932. By then, the Little Framed School was a gambling den. Prohibition was still in effect. The den was busted and 14 men and women were arrested. In 1949, the Knights of Columbus, Saint Therese Council 2622, moved into the building. The K of C converted the school’s cloakroom into a bathroom and moved the back entrance. They vacated the building in 1965, when they moved to 825 W. Merrick Road, the previous home of The Lodge (restaurant, cocktail lounge, catering hall, and meeting space). The South Terrace building was demolished that year. In 1967, a new house took its place.

For many of us, it is difficult to imagine everyday life a century ago. Fortunately, the historical society has many oral history recordings that describe forgotten Clear Stream—the outpost that once upon a time, wanted to strike out on its own. One of my favorite Streamers was Daniel Clifford Strauss Houlihan, who in 2001, recorded his memories for the society. Dan, who lived on Montague Street, also wrote a memoir in 1998, and included in this piece, are excerpts from his book.

Congratulations, Clear Stream on your Centennial! We’re happy you decided to remain a part of Valley Stream!



Source Links 

Public Education in Valley Stream, New York during the twentieth century (W. Stris)

1932-09.14, Incorporation attempt (VS Record)

2001-11.22, Daniel Houlihan (VSHS oral history outline) 

2015-10.14, VS Sanitarium (Herald) 

2017-02.09, Park Inn Garage, 1 of 2 (Herald)

2017-02.23, Park Inn Garage, 2 of 2 (Herald)

2017-11.24, The Lodge (Herald)