Our History: Contributor, Craig E. Bacon, Niagara County Deputy Historian
In the early years of the Great Depression, Lockport was still a successful manufacturing city, not feeling the intense punch of the economy as other places. As a result, the population actually grew here. By 1935, it had grown to a point that the schools were wildly overcrowded, so the Board of Education applied for federal funds to enlarge the high school on East Avenue. That plan quickly was replaced by a new one, which included enlarging Emmet Belknap and building a new school "in the Hawley Street area." Construction began in late 1938.
Both Emmet's enlargement and North Park's construction were completed by the spring of 1940 and classes were immediately transferred there. The first day of classes was March 11, 1940 when 900 teachers and students fully occupied the $500,000 building. At that time, the school held Kindergarten through 6th grade, and then all the 7th-10th grade classes were evenly split between Emmet and North Park, depending on which side of the canal you lived. Tenth grade was lumped into the new buildings because of massive overcrowding at the East Avenue High School. After two years, 10th grade was moved back to the high school. The opening of North Park brought about the closing of the Edward T. Arnold School on William Street (today that building is still used, albeit as apartments.) and the Hawley Street School.
Students from the Hawley Street School were to report to their original school as normal on March 11th. At 9am, the students would parade with their books and their teachers to the new school. The school had two principals at that time. Wendell T. Applebee would be the principal of the junior high division, while E. Margaret Armer would be the principal of the elementary section.
On April 26, 1940, the public was invited to an open house at the new school. Part of the open house was a brief tour of the building. "This will include a view of the offices, the corridors with their glazed tile walls and the acoustical treatment of the ceilings, and inspection of the whole general equipment, the kindergarten rooms, elementary class rooms, the flagstone court, the well-equipped and nicely appointed art room, the library, the complete homemaking equipment with apartment."
The name of the school was simply known as the Hawley Area School by the BOE from the time of the groundbreaking until late 1940. The area residents took to calling it North Park School. There was a naming committee to formalize the name. Some of the names suggested by the committee were:
- Jesse Hawley School
- Peter H. McParlin School
- George B. Griffith School
- Roy B Kelley School
- Celestia Davenport School
- S. Wright McCollum School
- Irving T. Roberts School
- The North Park School
Popular sentiment among the residents favored North Park, and so the Board of Education agreed to follow their lead, formally naming the new school North Park School on August 12, 1940.
By 1958, the first enlargement of the school was taking place, with the widening of the hallways, improved office space, and the addition of a homemaking department with a fully functioning, self-sufficient kitchen. The school was enlarged again in 1968 with the addition of seven classrooms, a new physical education area and more technical shop areas.