BFS
BFS Turns 150
BFS-ca-1888

Our 2nd expansion,1888: Part 3 of Our Buildings, Our History

A front view of  NYMM’s Schermerhorn properties ca. 1888,
showing the eastern side of the Brooklyn Meeting House

The second expansion of BFS occurred in 1888 with the purchase of the two vacant lots at 112 and 114 Schermerhorn, just east of the Brooklyn Meeting House, the open space seen in the photo used in the first article in this series on the creation of the Brooklyn Meeting House and Brooklyn Friends School. This 1888 expansion laid the ground for still later expansion and it occurred almost simultaneous to our first expansion with the one-story building in 1886. This 1888 expansion gives an example of how our school has always relied on people of real integrity who sometimes were Quakers and sometimes were not.


At the Property Meeting’s May, 1885 meeting that saw our extension first broached, it was also decided that the Property Committee would investigate whether it was possible to purchase the two eastern lots adjacent to the Brooklyn Meeting House at 112 and 114 Schermerhorn. A month later, the committee recorded that that those two undeveloped lots could not be purchased at that time. Based on later developments, this writer would surmise that the neighboring owner, who was likely not a Quaker, was simply unwilling to sell in 1885. 

So the two lots at 112 and 114 remained undeveloped and vacant a year later when the decision was finally made to build the one-story extension for the school in 1886. In September, 1886, the Property Committee was once again considering the purchase of the lots and approached the owner for a second time. On this occasion, the owner indicated he might consider selling at a fair market price of $10,000 coming to $5,000 for each lot. The committee felt the lots should be purchased, making clear that the lots were desired for a playground for the school’s children and also to prevent future usage of 112 and 114 that might prove detrimental to New York Monthly Meeting’s property which then still consisted of the lots 102 to 110 Schermerhorn, at that point comprising the Brooklyn Meeting House and Brooklyn Friends School’s one-story extension.  Two months later, the committee reported that the owner of the lots refused to sell yet again, but that he did agree to give first offer to New York Monthly Meeting if he ever decided to sell those two lots. 

Things came to a head one year later, in December of 1887, when the Property Committee recorded that someone had made an offer to the owner of 112 and 114 Schermerhorn, of $12,000 for both lots, but the owner of the lots and his agent kept their word to the Quakers and so approached the Property Committee. It was an urgent situation and the Property Committee was not scheduled to meet in time to approve the purchase of the properties, so a “Friend” stepped forward and bought both lots for $12,000 with the view that the purchase would be assumed by the New York Monthly Meeting. This unknown “Friend” may have been a member of the Property Committee itself, or was simply a Quaker who could and did at a moment of need. The Property Committee agreed that such a move was warranted and that New York Monthly Meeting would assume the purchase which was to be made with “that portion of the [New York] Monthly Meeting fund the income of which is used for Meeting expenses.”

Not much would have changed on the western
side of NYMM’s Schermerhorn property
between 1867 and 1888

The lots at 112 and 114 Schermerhorn were soon graded and fenced, and then used as a playground for the schoolchildren, as reported by the Property Committee in May, 1888. Over the years, the eastern lots eventually became what was known as the “girls yard,” while the west side of the Brooklyn Meeting House was known as the “boys yard.” Interestingly, about a year after the purchase of 112 and 114, the Schools Trustees wished to further improve the playground on the east side of the Brooklyn Meeting House and so asked the Property Committee to transfer custody of the playgrounds to the Schools Trustees, that the Schools Trustees also requested an appropriation of $75 so the Schools Trustees could make the ground suitable for playgrounds (perhaps further grading was needing), and the Schools Trustees also requested that “care and expense of the playgrounds thereafter be borne by the Schools Trustees – so marks a point that needs further research as I did not yet learn whether the Schools Trustees were granted custody of the playgrounds.

So much would not have happened for our school and New York Monthly Meeting without this purchase. And that would not have occurred had it not been for their neighbor’s desire to be true to his word. Of course, those vacant lots at 112 and 114 Schermerhorn, were used as playgrounds for Brooklyn Friends School for only 14 years, since, in 1902, Brooklyn Friends School would expand further with the construction of the building so many of our alumni fondly remember. That’s a story for another day!
More expansion on the horizon: Brooklyn Friends School in 1907