William H. Gompert was the architect and superintendent of school buildings for five years from 1923 to 1928, during the construction swell of the 1920s, when approximately 170 new schools and additions were constructed. He used traditional materials such as brick and stone to construct solid buildings with trappings of Collegiate Gothic, Georgian, and Spanish Colonial styles.
Walter C. Martin followed Gompert and rode the wave of construction that was under way before the full impact of the Depression hit school construction projects. He took charge of school buildings for a decade (1928-38), completing Herman Ridder Junior High School (J.H.S. 98) in the Bronx in 1931. Ridder has the distinction of being the city’s first “modern” public school, meaning that the plan generates the massing, and the design as a whole openly expresses structural features. A broad entrance, patterned on a set-back skyscraper and a Babylonian temple, anchors the building along Boston Road, where it joins two classroom wings, forming an acute triangle. Art Deco features include the streamlined, stepped façade with stylized sculptures and the concentric patterned lobby floor and terra cotta frieze.