Girls High School is a historically and architecturally notable public secondary school building located at 475 Nostrand Avenue in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City. It was built in 1886 and is the oldest public high school building in New York City that is still standing.
The building was designed by James W. Naughton, Superintendent of Buildings for the Board of Education of the City of Brooklyn. It is regarded as a "masterpiece" of Victorian Gothic style, blending Gothic Revival and French Second Empire styles, the Second Empire influence is visible in the mansard roof, the Gothic influence in the pointed arch windows. The building, which was intended to house the boys and girls high schools in two separate wings, features two pavilions built around a central entrance that rises into a bell tower.
By the time the school opened, enrollment had increased to the point where it was decided to use this building for the girls and build a separate Boys High School. In 1975 the school merged with Brooklyn Boys High School and moved to a new building at Fulton Street and Utica Avenue as the Boys and Girls High School.
According to the New York Times, in 1895, it was "the ambition of every Brooklyn girl... to enter the Girls High School where she may enjoy the advantages of an advanced education and be prepared for college." The girls were offered courses in Latin, Greek, German, French, botany, zoology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, physiology, psychology, algebra, geometry, calculus; ancient, medieval and modern history; economics, and classes in the "literary masterpieces, both American and English." The article featured a large, detailed drawing of the building which was described as being "one of the finest, from an architectural point of view, in the country, and it is said not to be excelled for completeness of appointments anywhere. the Mayor called it "the foremost institution of its kind in the world," and the Times asserted that "representatives of secondary schools in other cities of this country and in Europe... concurred" with the Mayor in that opinion.
Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, who entered in the fall of 1939, remembered that students came to Girls' High from all parts of Brooklyn because the school was so "highly regarded." In her time, the school was "all girls, about half of them were white, but the neighborhood by now was nearly all black."Lena Horne attended the "integrated" and "highly prestigious" high school a few years before Chisholm.