Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — “As a result of the steadily increasing public school enrollment in the city, the Board of Education, in monthly session last evening, passed resolutions directing Carl Schmill and Son, Buffalo architects, to ... present sketch plans for a new proposed elementary school to be erected on the Rogers Avenue site.”
That passage, taken from a story in the Nov. 14, 1928 edition of the Union-Sun & Journal, explains the reason behind the construction of Washington Hunt Elementary School. At the time, Superintendent Roy B. Kelley and Board of Education President George Southard told the public the construction was to help relieve congestion at the elementary schools.
Lockport was also looking at completing the construction of Emmet Belknap and building a 16-room school on West Avenue. All three would relieve overcrowded schools on Walnut and High streets.
Work on Washington Hunt would begin the following year and the eight-room school would open in 1930. The school would undergo an “enlargement” in 1953, bringing it to its current size.
A formal dedication took place in January 1931. The school’s first principal, Elizabeth Samson, formed a Parents Teachers Association during the first year at Hunt to help support the school.
In 1911, Margaret V. Spalding started as a teacher at Washington Hunt. She would spend the next 31 years on Rogers Avenue, including the last 18 as principal. During her time as principal, Spalding saw the school increase from 220 kids and six rooms to 524 kids and 20 rooms.
The “community school” was aptly named after someone who often provided financial support to the area. The school is named after Washington Hunt, who served as governor of New York from 1850 to 1852, as state comptroller from 1849 to 1850 and as a congressman from 1843 to 1849. He was also a Niagara County judge for five years in the court of comma pleas.
After losing re-election, Hunt moved back to Lockport and bought a farm which is now Wyndham Lawn. He became temporary chairman of the Whig National Convention in 1856 and was offered the Democratic nomination for vice president in 1860 but declined. Hunt died in 1867 and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery.
Hunt provided financial help to local churches that were struggling. In his will, he left stock in the Hydraulic Race Co. to the city of Lockport, which would be used to help widows and orphans.
A lawyer, Hunt was born in Windham, N.Y. in 1811 and moved to Lockport in 1828. Hunt’s law office, once located on Market Street, is now on the grounds of the Niagara County Historical Society.Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.