What’s the most beautiful public high school in New York State?
You guessed it - International Preparatory School on the city’s Lower West Side, better known as the former Grover Cleveland High School.
At least that’s what the folks at Architectural Digest thought when they recently named I-Prep to their list of “The Most Beautiful Public High School in Every State in America.”
The magazine wrote that "the International Preparatory School is one of the most beautiful buildings in Buffalo, and perhaps even New York State.”
So we took a closer look.
The Colonial Revival building was constructed in 1913 not as a high school, but as the Buffalo Normal School, which trained teachers and was the predecessor to SUNY Buffalo State.
When the students and faculty moved to their new college home on Elmwood Avenue in 1931, the city bought the building for use as a school, said Paul McDonnell, director of facilities planning, design and construction for the Buffalo Public Schools.
“Buffalo was growing so much we sort of needed a school in that neighborhood,” said McDonnell, who chairs the city’s Historic Preservation Board. “It was perfect for us.”
It opened in 1935 as Grover Cleveland High School.
“The one thing that really stands out is the site,” McDonnell said. “It’s got this expansive front lawn and as you drive down Porter Avenue it’s across from another landmark, Kleinhans Music Hall, so it’s a very prominent site in Buffalo.”
The school underwent a major expansion in 1959 with the addition of a gymnasium, pool, cafeteria and classrooms. More recently - in an effort to turn around the school and improve its academic performance - Grover was phased out, and I-Prep was phased in.
A $28.7 million “top to bottom” renovation was completed a few years ago.
On the outside, visitors will still notice the iconic clock tower, the four pairs of tall, white columns and the state seal on the pediment over the main entrance, serving as a reminder of the building’s history.
On the inside, the school’s curved corridors are elegant and among its unique features, McDonnell said, while its auditorium – characteristic of the Federal-style harkening back to colonial America – is stunning.
"This school is a hidden gem in the middle of the West Side," said Principal Ella Dunne. "Not only is our school architecturally beautiful but the diverse students within the walls are truly what make us shine."
The school is home to roughly 900 students in grades 6 through 12, roughly half of them English Language Learners from 34 countries, Dunne said. Twenty-seven languages are spoken at I-Prep.
The most beautiful public high school in New York State?
Who are we to argue.