The History of
Pelham Memorial High School
When the decision was made to build Pelham Memorial High School, the Town of Pelham seized the opportunity to construct a building that was to become renowned for its architecture and state-of-the-art facilities. By the time the dedication was held, all of Pelham celebrated a community-wide effort that literally carved from virtual swampland along the Hutchinson River an educational and athletic facility dedicated to the memory of those who served in World War I.
According to news reports from the time, the High School's origins stem from February, 1917 with the establishment of a "School Extension Committee" formed "to take up the problem of making provision for the ever-growing needs for increasing the educational facilities of the district." (The Pelham Sun, April 28, 1922) The architectural firm of Tooker & Marsh in New York City was selected through a competition sponsored by the American Institute of Architects. Multiple firms competed and the selection was made by a broad-based committee, including residents with art and architecture experience, who later contributed to the interior decoration of the building. The construction company was Smith Brothers, a local firm that built many of Pelham's local landmarks, streets and infrastructure.
By the time the cornerstone was laid on October 18, 1919, the whole town turned out to celebrate.
This original billboard poster from the Pelham Town Historian Collection lays out in detail the cornerstone-laying celebration.
Laying of the PMHS Cornerstone, October 18, 1918
(Photograph from the Pelham Town Historian Collection)
Although the cornerstone was laid October 18, 1919, the Pelham Sun described the "[m]any difficulties ... in carrying out the work. Wartime scarcity and the high price of materials, and inability to obtain deliveries all tended to delay progress ...." One year after work began, work on the gymnasium and auditorium was described as "at a standstill" as contractors waited for steel.
The building as originally designed by Tooker & Marsh consisted only of the current entrance pavilion at the corner of Colonial and Corlies Avenues and two identically-sized wings -- a boys' wing to the left and a girls' wing to the right. In the center was the current auditorium and gymnasium beneath it. It was only with a later extension that the boys and girls wings were extended to wrap all the way around the auditorium and join up at the back.