JCC and the Lost Neighborhood

Andrew Hennas, standing, second from left
Andrew Hennas, standing, second from left

Article Contributed by
Joan V. Cusimano Lindquist

When Ann Dahl Luce wrote about her memories of Jamestown Community College in the Winter 2011 issue of the JCC Alumni Magazine, she reminded all of us that the first community college established by the state of New York in 1950 had a rather humble beginning. Having no campus to call its own, the college was housed on the third floor of Jamestown High School. But as Ann said, “What we lacked in terms of the physical plant we more than compensated for with hard work and enthusiasm.”

These days, of course, the campus at 525 Falconer Street looms large as the collegiate center since 1962, and many people probably think that this campus was the only other location that served as a home to JCC, a school firmly established in our city’s academic history. Outgrowing JHS the community college needed more space, a new “physical plant.” It came as a gift of the Goodwill family when, in 1952, the Fletcher Goodwill mansion at the southwest corner of Foote and Allen Streets, across from the WCA Hospital, was presented to the college. Classes began there in 1953. I attended there from 1958 to 1960, the beginning of my college career leading to Harpur College, another SUNY school in Binghamton, NY, in 1960 for my B.A. degree in English.

This JCC campus is connected to the Lost Neighborhood, that residential area of Jamestown that fell to the Brooklyn Square urban renewal project in the late 1960s and early 1970s because Brooklyn Square gave JCC some of its most serious students, often were the first in their families to attend and graduate from college.

Goodwill mansion, side entrance

Physical Education classes were held at the Boys Club, formerly the Maddox mansion, next door to the JCC campus at 62 Allen Street. My English professor was William Cherniak, a “legend in his own time” on campus, head of the department and a demanding teacher. By the end of my first academic year I became his student assistant, helping to ensure the high standards he set for his students’ critical thinking and writing, especially important since I wanted to become an English teacher myself in high school and college.

With the exception of Phys. Ed., Biology labs, both in botany and zoology, were at the old Falconer Street School, all other classes were in the beautiful Goodwill mansion, some by the elegant fireplaces, drama classes used the west-facing sun room, a grand spiral staircase led down to the library that really had been the library in this mansion. The basement area held the small cafeteria and the student lounge, aka the Green Room.

To accommodate more classroom space, faculty offices, and the book store, the college purchased an old second-story house on Prather Avenue, the street just behind the main campus; the land also doubled as a student parking lot.

The social life of the college consisted of various events and clubs. The last new club appeared on campus in 1959 for ex-servicemen, mature young men who had served their country and were completing their college educations. One of my Lost Neighborhood Derby Street neighbors, Andy Hennas, was a member, having served in the U.S. Army. Andy later transferred to a university in Buffalo to complete his four-year degree.

Joan Lindquist, 1960

Jamestown Community College remained at the Goodwill campus until 1962 when it moved to its present location, continuing its growth since 1950 in student population, diversity and academics.

I started JCC in a beautiful mansion only two blocks from my home on Derby Street, in the old neighborhood, within walking distance, but I traveled far to make my dreams a reality. (Comments from former JCC classmates or others who remember the Goodwill campus may be sent to Joan Cusimano Lindquist at scandit@att.net).