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Snyder in his office
Charles B. J. Snyder (1860-1945) was a prolific American architect, architectural engineer, and mechanical engineer in the field of urban school building design and construction. He is widely recognizedfor his leadership, innovation, and transformation of school building construction process, design, and quality during his tenure as Superintendent of School Buildings for the New York City Board of Education between 1891 and 1923.

Elected Superintendent of School Buildings

At its last meeting of the school year, July 8, 1891, the Board of Education elected Snyder as Superintendent of Buildings, to succeed George W. Debevoise, who had resigned. Of the thirteen votes cast, Snyder received twelve. It's not clear how Snyder won the support, but he may have had a connection with the banker Robert Maclay, head of the Board of Education's Building Committee. Snyder named his younger son "Robert Maclay." From the time of his appointment until the consolidation of the City of Greater New York in 1898, Snyder oversaw Manhattan and The Bronx.

On January 1, 1898, The City of New York consolidated with the City of Brooklyn, the County of New York (which then included parts of The Bronxmarker), the County of Richmond, and the western portion of the County of Queens. After the consolidation, Snyder retained his position as Superintendent of School Buildings for the NYC BoE.

School design innovations

Snyder saw school buildings as civic monuments for a better society. He was concerned with health and safety issues in public schools and focused on fire protection, ventilation, lighting, and classroom size. Snyder used terra cotta blocks in floor construction to improve fireproofing, and large and numerous windows to allow more light and air into the classrooms. He also developed new methods for mechanical air circulation in school buildings. The problem of school design in New York was compounded by the relatively constricted sites which were necessitated by the high cost of land acquisition.

  • H-Plan: In 1896 Snyder began designing his first "H-plan," which provided two side courts. Snyder's H-plan improved the overall environmental quality by, among other things, allowing generous light and fresh air into classrooms. And, it featured a grand courtyard entrance. It also provided areas between the wings that were safe for recreation.
  • Skeletal Structure: The use of steel skeleton framing for buildings over four stories allowed for cheaper and faster construction as well as an increased span of window openings.

  • Standardizing a New Standard: Because of the need to produce many buildings in a short time, Snyder's office improved the design and planning ideas of earlier schools and sometimes used the same basic design for several schools.
  • Organizational & Project Management: Snyder reorganized the Deputy Superintendents so that each was responsible for a single part of the building — such as (i) design and planning, (ii) heating and ventilating, (iii) electricity, (iv) plumbing and drainage, (v) furniture, and (vi) inspection and records — and each reported directly to him.


In 1922, Snyder began openly exploring retirement. He said that he hadn't had a vacation in 18 years and was tired and completely worn-out and that it was time to go fishing. On July 1, 1923, Snyder officially retired.

Notable architectural structures (listed by original designation)

PS 27, The Bronx
As Superintendent, Snyder is credited with the design of over 400 structural projects — including more than 140 elementary schools. Snyder worked in several styles, including Beaux Arts, English Collegiate Gothic, Jacobean, and Dutch Colonial. He preferred mid-block locations away from busy and polluted avenues. One of his signature motifs was to design spaces for learning that would offer a respite from noisy streets and poverty.

Elementary schools (grammar schools, K-8)

The Bronx
  • PS 17; now City Island Museum (190 Fordham St., E. of City Island Ave.)
  • PS 27 (519 St. Ann's Ave., btwn. 147th & 148th Sts.) NYC Landmark
  • PS 28 (1861 Anthony Avenue, btwn Mt Hope Place and East Tremont Avenue) - a.k.a. The Mount Hope School, a plaque at the entrance verifies that Snyder was the architect, designing it in 1896-7, but the numeric designation on the plaque is altered
  • PS 31 (425 Grand Concoursemarker at Walton Ave.) NYC Landmark
  • PS 32 in Little Italy area, 183rd and Beaumont- a beautiful red-brick, terra-cotta & gargoyle redstone Gothic structure
  • PS 157 , 850 Kent Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205
  • PS 133 , 375 Butler St, Brooklyn 11217

  • PS 9marker , now PS 811 (466 West End Avenue at 82nd St.)
  • PS 23 (70 Mulberry St., Chinatownmarker), now a community center that houses, among other things, the Museum of Chinese in America
  • PS 42 (71 Hester St., Chinatownmarker)
  • PS 64 (605 E 9th St., Alphabet Citymarker) NYC Landmark
  • PS 67 (120 W 46th St., btwn 6th & 7th Aves.), later HS of Performing Arts; later Liberty HS, currently Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High Schoolmarker NYC Landmark
  • PS 90 (228 W 148th St. and 225 W 147th St., Central Harlemmarker), built in 1905, the building had been abandoned for several decades, but artistic graffiti transformed the fence and walls into a shrine honoring several deceased renowned African Americans. On April 4, 2008, the City deeded the property to "West 147th Associates LLC," a condominium entity created in 2004 by the developer. With little fanfare, the developer, L+M Development Partners Inc., commenced construction of mixed-income condominiums; the aim is to refurbish the original facade and keep the "H pattern" design intact. The building is now addressed 217 W 147th St.
  • PS 95 (Clarkson St., South Village), now HS 560 City-as-School
  • PS 109 (225 East 99th St, East Harlemmarker), currently vacant, National Register
  • PS 110 (285 Delancey St., Lower East Sidemarker)
  • PS 150 ; later Hunter College Model School; later Machine & Metal Trades HS; currently Life Sciences Secondary School (E 96th St.)
  • PS 160 (170 Suffolk St., SWC or Rivington St.), now home to Artists Alliance Inc.
  • PS 157 (327 St. Nicholas Ave.), apartments since 1990, about to convert into a co-op National Register
  • PS 165 (234 West 109th St.)
  • PS 166 (132 W 89th St.) NYC Landmark
  • PS 168 (317 E 104th St.), now a community health facility
  • PS 186 (521 W 145th St., Hamilton Heights, Harlemmarker, 1/2 block E of Sugar Hillmarker), in 1975 this structure was so run down that parents held protests and the city opened a new school across the street. The Convent Avenue Baptist Church bought it January 1986 with the intention of creating a new space for its M.L. Wilson Boys' Club (current name: Boys & Girls Club of Harlem, Inc.). The mortgage was satisfied February 2006. But, as of 2008, no improvement have been made and the building is still vacant. The contract between the New York County Local Development Corporation and the M.L. Wilson Boys Club required that significant development be completed on the property within three years of the contract date.


Staten Island
  • PS 28; Richmondtown Historical Society (276 Center St., Richmondtownmarker) NYC Landmark

High schools


The Bronx
  • Morris High School (1110 Boston Rd.) NYC Landmark


Haaren Hall in 2008


Staten Island

Structural additions

  • 1912 Addition to Girls High School (Macon Street)

  • PS 72, later PS 107, now Burgos Cultural Center (1674 Lexington Ave.), (Stagg, Architect 1879-82; annex, Snyder, 1911-13). NYC Landmark

Staten Island

Demolished structures

The Bronx
  • 24th Ward School ; later Evander Childs High School Annex; later Resthaven Nursing Home (225 E. 234th St., bet. Kepler and Katonah Aves.)


Education and training

William E.
Bishop in 1885
Primary and Secondary Education
  • Completed common school and Public High School in Stillwater, New York, at Post High School
  • 1879-1883 — Arrived in New York City, worked four years with builders in preparation for his profession.
  • 1883 — began the practice of architecture.
Snyder earned two credentials from Technical School:
  • Cooper Unionmarker Free Night School of Science, Class C — Third-Year
:May 28, 1881 — Certificate, Practical Geometry (name of record: "Charles Snyder").
:May 28, 1884 — Certificate, Elementary Architectural Drawing (name of record: "Chas. B.J. Snyder").

Post Cooper Union
From the mid to latter 1880s, Snyder worked with William E. Bishop, a New York City master carpenter. Little is known about Bishop. Beginning more than a decade before Snyder's birth, Bishop maintained a lifelong hobby as a volunteer fireman and held a positions of leadership in various firemen companies.

Birth of Snyder's H-plan design

The H-plan design was first implemented by Snyder on a school (PS 165) in 1898 and was inspired by the Hotel de Clunymarker in Paris which Snyder had seen in 1896.

Family and personal history

Very little was known about Snyder's personal or family life and there is no known record indicating what his two middle initials stand for.

Birth & Growing Up
Snyder was born November 4, 1860, in Stillwater, New York. He was the middle of three children born to George I. Snyder (1834-?) (harness maker) and Charity Ann Snyder (née Shonts) (1834-1919). His two siblings, both sisters, were Ella G. Snyder (1857-1876) and Katy Snyder (b. approx 1865).

Snyder's maternal grandmother — Charity Shonts, nee Curtis — (1806-1919, married to Jeremiah Shonts) was the sister of Henry D. Curtis, father of Ellen Louise Curtis Demorest, businesswoman who, among other things, pioneered paper sewing patterns. In other words, Charles B. J. Snyder and Ellen Louise Curtis were first cousins.

Marriage & Children
On September 11, 1889, at the home of the bride's parents in Jersey City Heights, Snyder married Harriet Katharine (or Katherine) de Vries(b. Nov. 30, 1862 - d. May 25, 1927, Brooklyn). They had two sons, Howard Halsey Snyder (b. Oct. 15, 1890, New Rochelle - d. Mar. 1970, Babylon, NY) and Robert Maclay Snyder (b. September 6, 1894, New Rochelle - d. 1945).

Recreational Affiliations
Country Cycle Club (at the Berkeley Oval Clubhouse, Morris Heightsmarker, The Bronxmarker).

Fraternal Affiliations
Snyder was a member of (i) the Kane Lodge No. 454, Free and Accepted Masons (New York City) and (ii) the Jerusalem Chapter, No. 8, Royal Arch Masons (New York City).

Fraternal Life Insurance Affiliations
Snyder was a member of the Huguenot Council, No. 397 (New Rochellemarker).

Charles B. J. Snyder died November 14, 1945, with his son, Robert, when they were overcome with natural gas poisoning, or carbon monoxide, or both, in their cottage at 103 Araca Road, Babylon, New York. Apparently, upon retiring for the evening, the Snyders had lit the burners on the range oven to heat the rooms. But, during the night, the flame had been extinguished, perhaps by a draft. The elder Snyder was 85, the son was 51. They both are buried in a family plot, in unmarked graves at Woodlawn Cemeterymarker, The Bronxmarker.

Publications and presentations

Professional affiliations

Snyder joined the American Society of Heating and Ventilating Engineers in 1895, served on its Board of Governors from 1900 to 1904, and was elected President in 1907. He joined the American Institute of Architectsmarker in 1901 and was elevated to Fellow in 1905.

See also


  1. New York County Deed Records viewable online via ACRIS
  2. Traveling with his wife, Snyder returned, departing from Southampton, England, arriving in New York November 28, 1896, aboard the St. Paul, New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957.
  3. The BOE granted Snyder a six-week vacation with full pay. Journal of the Board of Education , 1069 (1899).
  4. 1870 US Federal Census, Saratoga Springs, New York
  5. Familial relationship between Snyder and Curtis is found through the triangularization of many sources, including: # Curtis linage, which is partly defined on pg 3, Ishbel Ross (1895-1975), Crusades and Crinolines: The Life and Times of Ellen Curtis Demorest and William Jennings Demorest, Harper & Row, New York (1963). # Curtis linage, part of which is apparent from Southside Cemetery records # Snyder linage through his mother from # Snyder and Curtis linage — Daniel Van Pelt, Leslie's History of the Greater New York, Vol. III., Arkell Publishing Company, p. 543. (c1898)
  6. Marriage Return, State of New Jersey, Hudson County
  7. American Institute of Architects Archives, Membership Files.

External links

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