Before the consolidation of New York City in 1898, when Brooklyn was an independent city and Manhattan and parts of the Bronx constituted greater New York, public school design and decoration were as diverse as the city’s regions. In Brooklyn and Manhattan, the urban school took shape, while one-room schoolhouses continued to suit the smaller populations and farmland of Staten Island (Richmond County) and Queens.
James. W. Naughton followed Samuel B. Leonard as Brooklyn’s superintendent of school buildings and repairs, occupying the post from 1879 to 1898. He designed more than one hundred schools in Brooklyn, including the borough’s first high schools. Naughton’s Girls’ High School (renamed Adult and Continuing Education; 1886), is the oldest surviving high school designed as a high school in the city. Brooklyn school officials had intended this building for both the boys’ and girls’ departments, but there were already too many students, so only the girls moved in. The boys relocated into their own building, Boys’ High School, several years later. For Girls’ High School, Naughton employed the demotic Victorian Gothic style, a combination of Gothic and French Second Empire, evident in the pointed arched windows and mansard roof. There are two pavilions massed around a central entrance tower, giving the façade a dynamic plasticity.