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Former West Harlem Elementary School Nominated to Become Historic Site

 The building was once vacant and decaying, but has since been renovated.
The building was once vacant and decaying, but has since been renovated.
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Will Ellis

HARLEM— A state board has moved to place a former West Harlem elementary school that was once attended by entertainer and civil rights icon Harry Belafonte on the state and national registers of historic places.  

The State Board for Historic Preservation announced Monday P.S. 186, located on West 145th Street near Amsterdam Avenue, was nominated along with 19 other sites across the state to be designated a historic site. The Reformed Church of Melrose in the Bronx was also nominated. 

In its heyday — the early-to-mid 1900s when it was P.S. 186 — it was considered the “architectural and academic pride of the community.”

It was built in 1903 and was the first public school built in Hamilton Heights, officials said. But it was shuttered in the 1970s and the city moved the school elsewhere.

For decades after, the H-shaped, five-story building had sat vacant.

However, late last year, the city unveiled the extensive renovations the Renaissance Revival-style building had undergone to become a clubhouse for the local Boys and Girls Club as well as affordable housing units.

The nomination now has to be approved by the state historic preservation officer to be placed on the state registry, officials said. Then the properties would be nominated to the national registry and, if approved, placed on the registry. The building would then also be eligible for restoration grants. 

"These designations will help ensure the storied sites and places that dot every corner of this state, will be preserved for future generations of New Yorkers,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement.