George Washington HS

George Washington High School entrance and lobby. Can you see what’s wrong with this picture?

A lifetime ago, I went to George Washington HS in Washington Heights NYC. Living in Washington Heights back in those days, chances were pretty good that you wound up attending “G-dubs” as we affectionately called this school. I had some of the best life experiences in this school and I look back on those days very fondly. Great friendships were formed here and higher learning was at its best.

Beautiful George Washington HS

After two decades, I recently had the opportunity to go back inside this beautiful school and provide professional development to some of its staff. Teachers I’ve come to love through the years were no longer present. Sadly, some of my favorite teachers had passed away years before. So many of these incredibly dedicated teachers brought so much meaning into our lives and I wished I had seen them just one last time to say thank you.

One of the “academies” on the second floor.

The general atmosphere and culture of the school as I walked through the hallway felt incredibly different. This large school has since been split up into four “academies”, with each specific school occupying a floor, something that felt very wrong to me.

I always remembered the incredibly long hallways of this school, packed with students trying to get to class.

I had completely forgotten about the lower level of the school! So much riff-raff occurred here!

There was a lot of history in the hallways, auditorium, classrooms, “basement” and even the cafeteria. Things were the same and yet very different. I spent the entire day at my former school, having a good time reminiscing about the good ‘ol days. I even managed to go to the bell tower and rooftop, taking in the view of the neighborhood.

The cafeteria was always packed and much mayhem occurred here. I remembered being involved in my first food fight here. Now in the afternoons, ROTC students meet here.

I’ve always loved this auditorium and it has pretty much remained unchanged through the years.

This was THE room to be in for me in the entire school: I took film study and drama with Mr. Goldsberry (he passed away many years ago) on the 3rd floor stage and acted in two school plays. It was here that I also bombed an audition to Shakespeare in the Park (a NYC staple, Shakespearean productions in Central Park every summer). To this day I remember never to go unprepared into any situation.

Outside, the large football field was still there but at the end of the field, beyond the gates, we used to have spacious tennis courts. Now the courts are gone, replaced by large, red annex buildings which houses a separate middle school. This was totally wrong.

This field was home of the GWHS Trojans. It was also the only time in my life that I ran track and field.

The small red “buildings” at the end of the field beyond the gates house students from a brand new middle school, completely removing the tennis courts that were there many years before.

Just before I left, I snapped a picture of the school entrance and lobby. I realized with great sadness what was incredibly wrong with not only this picture, my school, but with most urban schools (definitely NYC) across the country. When I was in high school, my classmates and I never had to deal with this serious issue.

Can you see what it is?

 

 

 

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29 responses to “George Washington HS

  1. Is that a security scanner at the entrance? That would be reasonably new. That’s what’s wrong, I’m guessing.
    I enjoyed reading this, though I’ve never been to your region. I understand the need to step back into the past and also the regrets we feel when things are different from our memories. Especially when there’s security in places we could never have imagined it would be needed, like in a school!

    • Thank you! Yes, the metal detector and the security guards in the lobby is what’s wrong with this picture. I was stunned when I had to go through while they checked my bag. I felt very sad then for the students of not only this school, but all schools. They will never know what it’s like to go through a lobby without being searched for weapons first. Innocence lost here.

  2. Sadly, metal detectors/scanners are becoming a way of life in our schools for obvious reasons… Anyway, your photos are beautiful and show the magnificent architecture of your school. Frankly, I see nothing wrong in your collection but I get the question. Kudos.

    • Thanks eof737! It so sad that these metal detectors and scanners are permanently fixtures in some of our schools. Splitting up one large school into four was also wrong to do as well as cramming in a middle school by the field. Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Hmmnnn Is it that the place seems empty/ Guess it could be based on the time you visited. I like the story behind it all though and the fact that you were able to revisit your alma matta and relieve fond memories! Pity you didn’t get to see your past teachers but they’ve gone to a better place!

    • Thank you for your comment, Ayoliag! I never thought of the fact that seeing an empty school could be seen as wrong! Yeah, after my training with the teachers, I stuck around after-school specifically to walk alone through the hallways and explore areas I was never able to in my youth.

      But the metal detector in the lobby screamed at me as being all wrong when I first stepped in the school.

      • Ooo yeasss. I was looking at the photos collectively and that was the common thing. I feel more saddened though but that implementation at the thought that school administrations have to be worried about students taking in weapons and other contraband. Makes me wonder just what this society is growing into… and as seen here it’s a world wide occurrence.

  4. I’m so familiar with your experience of visiting your old school. Whenever I’ve visited my old high school, York High in Yorktown, VA, it all feels so small and strange and different. It’s a surreal experience to go back, because, like you, I’ve always gone when the school is empty. Yet it reverberates with memories; it’s almost as if the school comes to life in my mind as I walk through.

    I can see the metal detector/scanner in your entryway picture and nowadays it’s sad that this is now a fixture in many schools. Especially after the Columbine shooting.

    Your photos are beautiful and full of nostalgia. Great post!

    • Thank you Catbirdinoman! I felt the very same way when I was walking silently through the hallways. It’s a great experience and feeling after so many years. I feel everyone should get the opportunity to do this. I wish I had taken pictures of the school when I was younger to provide a perfect compare/contrast post.

      • Yes, I know what you mean! Everything looks so much different, and smaller, when we return. Yet, back in the day, that was our whole world! I wish I had pictures too of those days, when the hallways were crowded with my classmates and friends. So many memories!

    • Tell me about it! I always loved that auditorium and I was so happy to see it in its pristine condition! Thanks for dropping by CR!

  5. I’m a journalism student who has just moved to New York and I’m covering Washington Heights. I am especially interested in education. I’m so sad to see the scanner (I’m from Hong Kong and there’s nothing like this there!) Do you know how new it is?
    You took some great photos though!
    C.

    • Thank you very much, Girasole! I don’t know when the scanners were put in to be honest. That’s an excellent question that I’ll someday answer. I can only surmise that it was sometime after the Columbine shootings in the US a few years back.

      So you’re covering Washington Heights, huh? I would love to read what you wrote about it. If you want pics, let me know. I often visit the old neighborhood and still have friends there. My friend’s mother went to G-dubs back in the 50s or 60’s and she tells me that the neighborhood was drastically different then.

      Good luck with your expose on this beautiful and historic neighborhood in Manhattan!

      • Thanks for the kind reply, Nando! Is there anyone in the neighborhood who you’d suggest I should go talk to? Anyone who is either just a great character or who knows a lot about the neighborhood? I’ve been speaking to a lot of officials and politicians but I am still trying to meet more of the regular residents.
        Thank you 🙂

  6. I graduated G Dubs in 1956. I went back about a few years ago and the two police officers guarding the building on a Saturday opened it up for me and my buddy. They let us go all over the school and we even went into the gym and shot a few baskets. We made up a little sign saying our years and they let us go on the marble steps to take pictures(not allowed except senior week when we were students) and then into the auditorium and up onto the stage for another picture. It was great. And when we left they told us this was the most exciting thing that they had experienced in the time they had been stationed there. Over 50 years and the school is still perfect.

    • That’s a great story. I’m shocked that they just left you have total access to the school! That’s awesome! Must’ve felt weird with not a single soul in the building.

      I’m glad you had the opportunity to experience this. Few people do. After graduation, many folks want to simply move on and never return. If the memories were special, returning to the “scene of the crime” often brings these images and memories into being quite vividly and ultimately fondly.

    • Hi Steve,

      I graduated three years before you, so it’s possible that we walked along the same halls together (and perhaps were even i a class or two at the same time.

      I’d very much like to have copies of the photos you took at the time of your visit: would you be kind enough to e-mail them to me?

      I forget what the exact date was now, but I believe it was sometime in the late 80s. I’d been to the city for a business trip, and as it broke up earlier than expected when one of the lead participants suddenly took ill, I began my long drive home an hour or so sooner then expected. As I was making my way toward the George Washington Bridge, the thought occurred to me that it might perhaps be a good idea to stop by the old school to see how it looked.

      I, too, was stunned to see a metal detector! It was much smaller (and nearer the main entrance to the building) than the one in this picture, and at that time, just a lone guard sat in a chair beside it. While it was not quite as repressive a scene as the picture above shows it to be now (with what appears to be three uniformed officers in the lobby), I was–as already stated–shocked.And, part of the reason for this, of course, is that back at the time I went to GWHS, almost all of the doors were not only unlocked, but “unguarded,” as well, and students were able to walk in and out of most of the door in the building almost at will.

      But, that was well before Columbine … and Newtown … and all of those once quiet and peaceful places where children went off to learn how to play–and learn–and become useful members of society.

      Now, far too many of our schools have become places of infamy. All too many of them are now better known, not for any successes they may have achieved in producing productive young men and women, but for the wanton destruction that occurred there; for the seemingly everlasting sense of great sadness–if not perpetual mourning–that now hangs over them as if a pall.

  7. I graduated g-dubs in 1964. GREAT education. Mr. Goldsberry was great. Acted in several plays directed by him. I attribute my success in life to the teachers in this school.

    • Wow Bill! I wasn’t even born when you graduated! And Mr. Goldsberry must’ve been a very young cat then. Loved that teacher. He really fostered the love of film and acting in me. Never will forget him.

  8. Wonderful memories has been share throgh your journey. I was a graduate in the 1980 and I went on line because I need a record of my HS diploma and scrolling down I find this beautiful story, of an alumni going back to his alma school. I am so glad to browse and read everyones comment and so rejoice in seeing the HS i went to in the year 1980, I see that most of you were there in the 60 and 70 . I think I began HS in the year 1976. It was not the best school in that era, but the building and structure is one of the oldest and best architecture still in todays era. I love my HS school George Washington, HS in the washing ton are in the heights. I thing i will drive to the city and request my HS diploma copy. After reading your review about the School and seeing its building structure I feel like going back to time. I will try to visit the facily againl Thank you for your sharing. I thing this goes back to 2012, I just happen to browse thru in 2015, Good luck to every alumbi in the George Washing Hs. I do emphasize that the building has to be guarded with police and guards, or even alarm and check points to go to school. But everythin has changed and crime and killing has been mocked and copied in the evil minds of those who do not know or fear God , and hold grudges and hate and feel lonely and not loved or understand by others. sSo they choose to kill. Prayer is a necesiity in school but they have omited laws not to pray and read the word of God in the school. This is fatal for our students and faculty and our education facility are at risk. Danger is int the face of the earth. But when you pray , and seek god. You can walk with God……God bless your.
    alumni
    Maria Barabara Mirands
    1980 graduate, GWHS

    • Thank you for visiting, Maria! There’s a Facebook group/page totally dedicated to Washington Heights called, “I Grew Up In Washington Heights,” created by a former GWHS alumni. Go check it out if you’re on Facebook.

      EDIT: Joe recently added this link in my “About Me” page: http://www.facebook.com/GWHSNYCNY

  9. Hi there, I’m a graduate of GWHS ’63. Just wanted to say thank you for your photographs, which brought back some fond memories. I lived ‘down the hill’ in Inwood, and within walking distance from Ft. Tryon Park. Among my hundreds of classmates were Veronica & Estelle Bennett and Nedra Talley aka The Ronettes and Rod Carew and one of the singing group The Chevrons, Al Conde. I remember “Goldy” as some called. Mr. Goldsberry, very well-respected and dedicated teacher, as were many at that time. Those were some great coming of age years. I loved that school and was very proud to be there. We (my sis and I) tested for some of the other schools like M&A and PA. We didn’t get in but I was happy to be a Gee-Dubs girl (you know the school had the distinction of having the prettiest girls of any HS in NY) and later a cheer leader, my Sis sang in the Glee Club. I visited the school in 1995 and was so upset at it’s near dilapidation and graffiti, that I cried. Great to see all the improvements, although the police checkpoint in the lobby brought me back to the sad state of reality of all of the high schools in NY in this millennium. But I still get that rush of pride as I travel on the Major Deegan and see Good Ol’ Gee-Dubs sitting majestically on that hill.
    All the Best to you.
    Tina

  10. I graduated in 1967…and was very involved with the Cherry Tree newspaper. We did an April Fools edition with a pic of the bell tower falling down!

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