The West Side community is fortunate to possess many school artifacts and documents, some dating back to 1790. These historic items have enabled us to understand the development of our school community over time.
Two books of note have been written about West Side’s rich history and are available in both the West Side and the Cold Spring Harbor Public Libraries. The first book, West Side School Just Yesterday, was written in 1969 by I. Christine Ayers, a former West Side teacher. Commonly referred to as the “yellow book” (its cover is yellow), it stood as the single most informative reference document about West Side.
In 1990, however, in preparation for West Side’s Bicentennial celebration, the “yellow book” was updated and expanded by Mr. Ted Hilton, now former West Side principal. This new book, entitled Bungtown School… The First Two Hundred Years -The history of West Side School 1790-1990 is commonly referenced as the “blue book.” On its blue cover is a schooner, one of the many images inscribed on the desktop from the first West Side school house.
The formation of a standing West Side School Parent Teachers Group committee, specifically dedicated to history, began four years ago out of a growing concern that the significance of the school artifacts would be lost over time. The mission of the West Side History Committee was clear: to research, catalog, and present these treasured items so that West Side students, families, and staff members could learn about the school’s colorful past.
The West Side History Committee is comprised today of volunteers with diverse backgrounds and knowledge of West Side history. As a result of their on-going research efforts, digital copies of all school artifacts are now carefully cataloged and have been used to create the beautiful history collages that are currently displayed throughout the school. In addition, a detailed information guide titled “West Side School Inventory Hand Out” was created to give the reader further background about the artifacts. Copies of the guide are located in the “airplane wing” where the self-guided tour begins and takes the visitor to important school sites.
Ted Hilton, principal for 43 years, expressed the school’s philosophy with regard to history: “It is so important in our modern, mobile society for young people to gain a sense of stability and permanence. To learn that George Washington was passing by on the day the men of Cold Spring Harbor were erecting our first school building, is to gain a very personal touch with both the history of our school and country. To see the desk top from the first school in 1790 every day on the way to the library is to have tangible evidence of the continuity and progress of the educational system of the United States. To know that their own contributions to the school will add to the legacy of those that preceded them gives a sense of belonging that is without equal. Here is a history that of itself adds another dimension, for it reflects the community’s interest in education over the years. The students, parents, and teachers of West Side School are indeed fortunate.” (Excerpt from the “blue book” introduction – dated May, 1969)
Updated Fall 2010
To read about the First, Second, and Third West Side School Houses, click on the links below.