With October 15th marking the end to Hispanic Heritage Month, we thought we would spotlight an impressive NYC Landmark that has beautiful and deeply rooted ties to the Hispanic community of East Harlem. Designated as an Individual Landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1996, 1674 Lexington Avenue currently houses the Julia De Burgos Latino Cultural Center, but first began its life as Public School 72. Designed by architect David I. Stagg, Superintendent of NYC Public School Buildings from 1872 to 1886, the dramatic and imposing neo-Grec structure was constructed between 1879-1882. With an extremely well kept facade highlighted by ornate brickwork, articulated detailing, and angular ornament characteristics, the structure is one of the oldest intact school buildings in Manhattan, as well as the first full-block school building in the city.
Dramatic population growth fueled by immigration at the end of the 19th century created the need to accommodate more school-age children. This was felt intensely in the immigrant-dense neighborhood of East Harlem. In Stagg's annual report in 1882, he noted that the school was already too small for the number of students and even with the completion of the north wing of Grammar School 72 and its 20 additional classrooms, "there is not room enough to accommodate all the pupils who desire to join this school." By 1894, the school had a total of 2,549 students attending classes in a building designed for no more than 2,000 pupils."
By 1913, an annex to the original structure was added by NYC's famous "Builder of Schools," Charles B. J. Snyder. The freestanding rectangular red brick building was placed to the west of the main school building, facing East 105th Street, and offered six more classrooms and a playroom. By 1921, more space was again needed, and an additional annex across from E 105th Street was designed by C.B.J. Snyder in the neo-Gothic style. It housed a 468-seat auditorium, 8,500 sq . ft. playground on the roof, and classrooms for 1,800 students. The 1921 annex is not part of the landmarked site.