500 East Fordham Road
William H. Gompert

This stately block-long building, with its distyle-in-antis portico, raises its distinctive cupola over Fordham Road. The architect, William H. Gompert (1875-1946), succeeded the long-serving C.B.J. Snyder as the New York City Board of Education architect in 1923, and served until 1927, though several of his designs, including Theodore Roosevelt High School, were not completed until after he had resigned. (A school designed by Snyder may be seen nearby: P.S. 32, at Belmont Avenue and 182nd Street, was built in 1900.)

Gompert, a New York City native, attended Pratt Institute and worked for McKim, Mead & White and for Maynicke & Franke before forming his own firm in 1906. He designed some 170 schools in the five boroughs, including the High School of Music and Art (1924) on West 135th Street, DeWitt Clinton High School (1929) in the Bedford Park section of the Bronx, James Madison High School (1926) at 3787 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, Jamaica High School (1927) in Jamaica, Queens, Seward Park High School (1929) on Grand Street in the Lower East Side, and, possibly his masterpiece, P.S. 101 (1929) in Forest Hills Gardens.

Notable alumni of Theodore Roosevelt High School include June Allyson, once one of the most popular movie stars in the world; Rocky Colavito, the slugging right-fielder who in his major league baseball career appeared in nine All-Star Games; Ace Frehley, lead guitarist of the rock band Kiss, and Jimmie “J.J.” Walker, comedian and star of the 1970s TV show Good Times. Perhaps most notable among the school’s alumni is Chazz Palminteri (b. 1952). Palminteri’s one-man play, A Bronx Tale, premiered off-Broadway in 1989 and is set in Belmont. In 1993, Robert De Niro adapted the play into a movie and a musical version, directed by De Niro, ran on Broadway from 2016 to 2018.

Photo courtesy of NYCago.