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Taking a look back at Franklin Square's history

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Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a series that will give everyone a front-row seat to the collection at the Franklin Square Museum. The Franklin Square Historical Society looks forward to welcoming residents as soon as possible.

The Franklin Square Museum was founded in April 1976, as part of the national Bicentennial celebrations. The Monroe Street School was constructed in 1912 when it replaced the old Washington Square School (also known as Munson Schoolhouse or the old John Street School). At the time of its construction, Monroe Street was the only school in the School District 17. Its eight classrooms served grades one through eight.

At the time Monroe Street was constructed, a large concrete plaque bearing the date of construction was inserted into the brick façade at the first-floor level. There was no cornerstone properly speaking. The rectangular concrete plaque, which is five feet long and just over one foot high, bears the words “Erected 1912” in capital letters carved or impressed into the concrete.

The plaque remained in place until the Monroe Street School was sold by the Board of Education and subsequently torn down in 1980. The Board of Education had promised to donate the item, along with various other salvageable items to the Historical Society. In preparation for this transferal, the plaque was removed by the demolition contractors and carefully set down on what had been the front lawn of the school, behind a construction fence. Before the plaque could be transported by the School District to John Street School, then the temporary site of the Franklin Square Museum, the plaque disappeared.

Since this is an extremely heavy item, it was judged that the disappearance had been planned. The School District informed the Nassau County Police of the theft, and ultimately detectives were assigned to the case. Several days later the cornerstone was discovered in the backyard of a nearby home on Monroe Street. No charges were pressed in the matter, while the plaque was promptly delivered to the Historical Society. It was moved to Washington Street School in 1993 and the new Franklin Square Museum at Rath Park in 2019. Four custodians were needed to lift the item as it was moved.

The Franklin Square Historical Society invites all residents of Franklin Square to join our society and receive our monthly newsletter with details of the upcoming grand opening of the museum. Check the group’s website for updates on the museum opening at www.fshistoricalsociety.org.

Dr. Paul Van Wie is the president of the Franklin Square Historical Society.