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Opening in 1789, well before the institution of the public school system, the Alexander Robertson School was one of the first co-educational schools in New York.

New York City, at the time, was home to several Presbyterian churches. The First Presbyterian Church was founded in 1716 on Wall Street. Forty years later, came the founding of the congregation that later became Second Presbyterian Church, located on Little Queen Street, and nicknamed “the Old Scotch Church,” or “Kirk.

In 1789, a prosperous linen merchant and long-serving member of the church’s Board of Trustees, Alexander Robertson, donated 2000 pounds and property on Pine Street to the church to endow a free school for the congregation’s underserved children. The school was unique in its founding as it was co-educational and open to all, specifically “the sons and daughters of farmers and common folk”.

One Sunday morning in 1790, the Reverend Dr. John Mason observed a young Black girl sitting in Second Presbyterian’s gallery and invited her to join the tables where the congregation was receiving Communion. Aged about fifteen, Catherine “Katy” Williams became Second Presbyterian’s first Black member. Katy would later have her freedom purchased by two congregants of the church, and after marrying would be known as Catherine Ferguson.

Shortly there after, Catherine began teaching on Sundays in the church's free school. Thus began the Murray Street Sabbath School, and Catherine Ferguson has been credited as being the very first Sunday School teacher in New York. The Murray Street Sabbath School continued with Ferguson directing the educational and social services program until her death in 1854 when she succumbed to cholera. Though Ferguson’s Sunday School eventually ceased to operate, Catherine and her philanthropic legacy remain a strong model for the Alexander Robertson School and its fundamental values: empathy, kindness, and a well-rounded education for all.

The Second Presbyterian Church and its school moved uptown to 3 West 95th Street, its current location, in 1926. ARS honors Katy with a classroom named in her honor and an etching of the only known photograph of her hangs in the hallway beside it.

ARS now operates independently from the Second Presbyterian Church as a non-sectarian school, educating children of all faiths from Junior-Kindergarten through 5th grade. Its unbroken lineage dating to 1789 makes it one of the oldest continually operating schools in New York City.

Our longevity, traditions, and diversity define our school. We are committed to graduating students who are curious and confident learners, innovative thinkers and leaders, and who are prepared for the challenges of adolescence and beyond.