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The Era of Academies in Monroe County

If you had been fortunate enough to have been able to go to high school in the early 19th century you probably would have attended one of the schools shown here, unless you were sent away to boarding school. The academies that were established in the early part of the century were all private schools in the sense that although some of them may have been built and partly supported with public funds, students' families had to pay tuition in the form of money or wood or some other valuable commodity, and also had to pay for their books.

Once the public school system became established it still took a while for public high schools to become established. Taxpayers were generally not too willing to support public schooling beyond the 8th grade. Rochester's first public high school was not established until 1857. Some private academies were incorporated into the public system, while others remained in operation as private schools well into the 20th century. Only one of the schools on this page has lasted into the 21st century.

Monroe Academy
(established 1827)

Monroe Academy in Henrietta was incorporated by the state Regents in 1827. In 1840 it was re-incorporated and in 1871 it became the East Henrietta Union School.
Rochester High School
(established 1827)
Later known as Rochester Collegiate Institute


In 1827 this first Rochester high school was built on Chestnut Street. It closed in 1831, but re-opened as the Rochester Seminary of General Education in 1832. In 1839 Rochester Seminary was re-chartered as Rochester Collegiate Institute and Dr. Chester Dewey became its head. In 1841 the female department closed. In 1852 Dr. Dewey left to join University of Rochester, and in 1852 the building burned down.

Picture of original building
not available

 
Clarkson Academy
(established 1835)

Clarkson Academy in Clarkson was incorporated by the state regents in 1835. Its most famous student was probably the astronomer Lewis Swift, whose father had helped to organize the school. The wooden building was lost to fire in the mid-1850s. A new brick school building opened near by and became part of the public school system.
Rochester Female Academy
(established 1835)
Later known as Rochester Female Seminary, Miss Doolittle's School and Mrs. Nichols' School

This school opened circa 1835 on Fitzhugh Street in Rochester; it operated until 1903 under various names.
Mendon Academy
(established 1836)

This school was started by Rev. and Mrs. Marcenus Stone on Mendon-Ionia Road in Mendon. In 1839 it was purchased by the District No. 2 School. It is one of many historic cobblestone buildings in Western New York.
Seward Female Seminary
(established 1839)

Seward Female Seminary was opened by Sarah Seward on Alexander Street in Rochester. The academy closed in 1853.
 
Brockport Collegiate Institute
(established 1842)

This school was incorporated by the Regents in 1842. In 1866 it became one of four state normal schools. In turn the Brockport State Normal School later became SUNY Brockport.
Clover Street Seminary
(established 1848)

This school was founded by Isaac Moore at his home on Clover Street in Brighton. His sister-in-law, Celestia Bloss, taught at the school. After her death in 1855, J.G. Cogswell ran the school for a short time. It is not listed in the Regentís Report after 1858. Later the building became the private residence of the Joseph Wilson family. Wilson was president of the Haloid (later Xerox) Corporation.
Academy of the Sacred Heart
(established 1849)

There appears to be no image of the original building used. This Catholic school for young women was incorporated by the state Legislature in 1849. The school moved from St. Paul Street to this facility on Prince Street in 1863, where it operated until the school closed in 1968.

Picture courtesy Town of Penfield
Penfield Seminary
(established 1857)

This building was constructed at the Four Corners in Penfield, and operated until 1871 when it was sold to Penfield School District No. 1. The building later became part of the Penfield Fire Department operations and the front of the building was remodeled.
Curtis Seminary for Girls
(established 1858)

Later became known as Livingston Park Seminary. This school was started by Cathro Curtis in Rochester. It closed in 1934. In the 1950s it was carefully dismantled and stored. In 1970 it was rebuilt on the grounds of the Genesee Country Museum.
Rochester Collegiate Institute, 2nd incorporation
(established 1865)

This school operated for a brief period in the 1860s and 1870s at the corner of Atwater & Oregon Streets in Rochester.
Nazareth Academy
(established 1871)

This Catholic school for female students was built on the corner of Frank and Jay streets in Rochester. At the beginning the students were both boarders and day-schoolers. This school is the only one listed here which has survived into the present day.