The DeVeaux School was the legacy of Judge Samuel DeVeaux of Niagara Falls who in 1853 endowed the vision of a preeminent institution of learning to train young men in academics, trade and professions and to give them an education that did not neglect religious training.
Samuel DeVeaux was born in 1789 in New York City and emigrated to Niagara County in 1807. He became the clerk of the commissary at Fort Niagara and by 1812, had purchased considerable acreage of land southeast of the fort. He also operated a store near the river that dispensed military supplies to the troops on the Great Lakes and the Niagara Frontier. In 1819, DeVeaux was appointed school commissioner and in 1821, Justice of the Peace, conferring on him the title of Judge DeVeaux. In business, DeVeaux was a heavy contributor to the Lockport and Niagara Railroad, also known as the Strap Railroad and helped with construction of the Suspension Bridge in 1847. His business dealings resulted in vast purchases of land along the Niagara River. So much so that an entire region of the city still bears his name.
Judge DeVeaux died suddenly on August 3 1852 and being deeply religious and a sincere believer in the benefit of education, he left a portion of his estate for the benefit of Niagara Falls and the Episcopal Diocese to establish DeVeaux College. The college was located at the northern limits of the city and opposite the Whirlpool. The school’s original mission was to provide a complete education for orphaned and homeless boys. The first building on the site was dedicated on May 20, 1857. For nearly 80 years, course work included mandatory military training with cadets all dressed alike in military uniforms. The last day of military influence on campus came at Founder’s Day in 1950 when uniforms were changed to coats and ties thereafter.
The 51-acre site grew to encompass a campus of nearly a dozen buildings and residences. Buildings on the property at one time included Van Rensselaer Hall, Monro Hall, Schoellkopf Hall, Edgewood, the Walker Residence, the Buscaglia-Castellani Art Gallery, a carriage house, boiler house and three residential homes.
DeVeaux College fell on hard times as the demand for prep-school education continued to decline in the 20th century. The Episcopal Diocese ceased operations at the school in 1971 and looked for someone else to accept the burden of taking care of the historic structures. Subsequent property owners or lessees include Niagara County, Niagara Falls, Niagara University, BOCES, Niagara County Community College and currently New York States Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation who christened the property DeVeaux Woods State Park.
Douglas Farley, Director
Ann Marie Linnabery
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094