Our History

A Brief History of Our Building

The lengthy name of “City Honors School at Fosdick-Masten Park” is indicative of its deep roots and central place in the history of the City of Buffalo. 

The land our school occupies is at one of the highest points in the City of Buffalo giving it the nicknames “The School on the Hill” and “The Hilltop.”  It stands on North Street which received this name as it was once the northern boundary of the Village and then the City of Buffalo.  In the early 1800’s the land where our school now stands was set aside as a “Potter’s Field” where victims of cholera epidemics, poor, indigent, and those without religious affiliation in the city could be buried.  In 1885, the City hired renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to convert the land, now surrounded by bustling neighborhoods, into a public park overlooking the city.  Olmsted spent two years regrading and changing the land into a beautiful park.  In 1895, the City decided to build its second high school on the land (Old Central was the first).  Masten Park High School opened in 1897 under the leadership of Frank Fosdick.  The students eventually came to call him “Pop” as he was such an esteemed father figure among students and the community.  The school became a renowned place of learning and model of public education in the United States.  Its graduates were so coveted that multiple colleges and universities including Princeton and Cornell provided Pop Fosdick with full scholarships to give to any student he designated. 

The original Masten Park High School burned down in March of 1912.  Pop Fosdick ran back and forth into the building to ensure that all 1100 students and faculty made it out safely.  As a result, Pop Fosdick was the only person to suffer serious injuries.  He was hit by falling debris and hospitalized.  Soon after, “Fearless Fosdick” became the mascot for Masten Park HS to recognize Pop’s heroism.  The Fearless Fosdick Logo is still utilized in our school today as a source of pride, nostalgia and a rally call to courage among students and faculty at important moments.  (In 2008, current principal, Dr. Kresse, presented every student and faculty member with a Fearless Fosdick patch as they embarked on a two year exodus from the school building during reconstruction- all subsequently lived up to the legend of Fearless Fosdick.) 

The new Masten Park High School was designed by architects Esenwein and Johnson using the template of their 1903 Lafayette High School design and opened in the fall of 1914.  Pop Fosdick served as principal until 1926.  Soon after he died in 1927, the clock tower that adorned the front of the school building began to crumble and was removed by the school district.  The FMP alumni like to say, “A part of the building died along with Pop Fosdick.”  After his death the school was renamed “Fosdick-Masten Park High School.”

In 1953, the school district moved the Girls Vocational Program into the school building and removed the boys.  In 1977, the City laid Fosdick Street through the campus of the school and placed public housing on the land in front of the school that was once the playfield for the students.  The FMP Girls Vocational Program continued successfully and proudly until 1979 when the school district eliminated it.  The FMP building was used briefly as a warehouse and then abandoned for demolition.  With only months to spare before demolition, the loyal and feisty FMP alumni were able to get the building declared an Erie County landmark, and then placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  This forced the City and school district to utilize it again.

The City Honors Program was established in 1975 as an experiment in progressive education at Bennett High School.  A year later, it became a magnet school as a part of Judge Curtin's court ordered desegregation strategy and moved into School #17 across from Canisius College.  It was eventually deemed to be the perfect candidate for the Fosdick-Masten Park building that badly needed a tenant and a great deal of care.  At FMP, the City Honors program blossomed and evolved focusing on acceleration, enrichment and the International Baccalaureate Program which arrived in 1989.  A ‘framework of challenge’ grew over time eventually earning the school national accolades for student performance and collegiate level study.  Today, the school continues to serve its original magnet school mission of challenging students in an environment that is a racial and economic crossroads unique to our region and nation. The STARS Program (Students with Autism Rising to Success) at City Honors, spearheaded by current principal Dr. Kresse, includes ten home-base classrooms and has become the largest program for students with autism in a traditional school setting within New York State.

Principals of 'The Hilltop': 1897-Present
Frank Fosdick (1897-1926)
C. Brooks Hersey (1926-1939)
Garnett Roberts (1939-1953)
William Reagan (1953-1956)
William Pritchard (1956-1962)
Edwin Uhl (1962-1968)
Robert Fritzinger (1968-1972)
Edmund Olczak (1972-1977)
John Robinson (1977-1979)
Michael Anelli (1980-1995)
Paul LaFornara, Ed.D. (1995-2000)
Catherine Battaglia, Ed.D. (2000-2005)
William Kresse, Ph.D. (2005-Present)