St. Peter’s Catholic School in Haverstraw Celebrates its 150th Anniversary

BY BARRY WARNER

Fr. Thomas F. Madden, Principal Margaret B. Hamilton and the fourth grade students are proudly standing next to the historic bell, in the front courtyard of St. Peter’s School in Haverstraw.

The commemoration of the oldest Catholic school in Rockland County began in September with a mass at St. Peter’s Church and a kickoff brunch. These celebration festivities are expected to continue through 2013, with numerous events including a concert, specialty auction and a multi-cultural supper.

St. Peter’s School was established in 1863 with 110 students and 2 lay teachers in a private home.  At that time, Haverstraw Village was part of a bustling region and regarded worldwide as a premier brick making area.

Haverstraw’s location at the widest part of the Hudson River provided the rich, blue clay for bricks and a skilled workforce that immigrated from Ireland, Italy, Germany and Poland provided the labor.  10,000 people in the area depended on the brick industry for their livelihood.

In 1884 the Sisters of Charity taught religion, algebra, geometry and culture to girls only. A “November Class” was created for boys. They attended only in the winter and worked in the brickyards during the rest of the year. It was at this time, that the original St. Peter’s Church on Ridge Street was converted into classrooms.

As 1906 rolled around, a new four-room school was built on Ridge Road. It was called the “sister school” by children. Those who attended walked to the school daily from as far away as Congers. By 1920, the “new” school and the old church were converted to classrooms and the first class graduated in 1922. The Marist Brothers arrived in 1931 and taught the older boys in grades four through eight.

With the opening of the New York State Thruway in 1955, there was an influx of people from New York City, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. In July 1965, St. Peter’s began construction of the current school, which was completed in 1966.

Currently 328 students attend St. Peter’s, which provides schooling from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. “The St. Peter’s Catholic School is committed to faith and excellence in academic education, said Principal Margaret B. Hamilton. “The children are our focus of and we emphasize their talents, abilities and gifts.”

Notable graduates include Sr. Janet Hartigan, O.P., Dominican Sisters; John T. Grant, former Rockland County Executive; Martin Springstead, Supervisor of Umpires for the American League; Michael Holland, Village of Haverstraw Chief of Police and Jay Hood, Jr., Rockland County Legislator.