Ken Gottry - Cambridge NY History

On 18-Aug-1947 around 1am the Cambridge Union School caught fire. Kirk Spurr (CCS 1948) grabbed his camera as he rushed with his father (O.K. "Pete" Spurr) to the family furniture store across the street from the school (in 2016 this build is the yellow Antique Center). While Pete and his employees, Charlie Ackley and Bernard Parks, tried to keep the sparks from igniting his store's roof, Kirk took some fantastic photos of the devastating blaze and its aftermath.

The school opened in Sep-1891. For 100 years, the East End (North White Creek) and the West End (Cambridge Corners) couldn't agree on anything not even their education system. There was a one-room schoolhouse on the West End and another on the East End. The one on the West End was located on School Street which ran east-west between South Union and Academy just north of George Robertson's house on South Union (yellow with green shutters with large lawn on the north side where School Street used to be. The one-room schoolhouse on the East End is two buildings north of the United Presbyterian church on the west side of North Park Street. In 2016 it's the home of George & Ellie Hastings.

In addition to the one-room schoolhouses, each end of the village had its own secondary school. The West End used the old Cambridge Washington Academy at the NW corner of Academy and Pleasant streets while the East End used the old John Pope Putnam estate on the west side of South Park (in 2016 this would be behind the Stewart's store).

Other communities availed themselves of funding from NYS's 1927 Central School Act to build a new school, consolidating the one-room schoolhouses in the area. But not Cambridge. Following World War II, the "old school" was showing its age. Plus the building was not large enough to handle the increased enrollment from the Baby Boomers and from the closing of more one-room schoolhouses.

We had lots of debates, lots of meetings, and lots of disagreement. In the Fall of 1946 my great grandfather Hitchcock's farm was purchased on the west side of Suth Park street near the southern entrance to the village. But still the community couldn't agree on what to do about a new school. At the school budget vote in June 1947, tempers flared, a fight broke out, and the police had to be summoned. The budget measure to build a new school was narrowly defeated.

Then ... mysteriously (suspeciously) ... two months later the Old School caught fire. Now the community had to take action.

But it would take 4 years for the village to agree on the New School. The CCS class of 1952 strolled into the new school in Sep-1951 to begin their senior year. For those intervening 4 years, the students attended classes in churches, in Rice Seed, in Patrician Hall, in the Grange Hall, anywhere and everywhere.