History of The Woodstock Academy
The Woodstock Academy is one of the oldest schools in the United States. Founded in 1801, it has survived and thrived despite economic setbacks and population changes. The key to its long history has been strong community support and an ability to adapt and change with the times.
Led by the Reverend Eliphalet Lyman and Attorney John McClellan, members of the First Ecclesiastical Society respond to a 1799 act of the Connecticut legislature allowing entrepreneurs to establish “schools of a higher order” in their towns. The group solicits community support in constructing the first building of The Woodstock Academy on the north end of the town common.
1802The Woodstock Academy opens in February. The charter introduced by John McClellan to the state legislature is granted in May. Woodstock is among the first six academies established in Connecticut.
1843Following years of sporadic operation, Woodstock native Henry C. Bowen, now a wealthy New York City merchant, purchases and renovates The Woodstock Academy. Bowen also constructs a student boarding house next to the school. An Academy revival under First Ecclesiastical Society management, however, is short-lived.
1867Henry C. Bowen organizes a new Academy corporation, establishes a small endowment, and reopens the school. Post-Civil War optimism contributes to the successful revival, and plans for a new and larger Academy begin.
1869As act of the Connecticut legislature validates the 1802 charter of The Woodstock Academy and the authority of Bowen’s new Academy corporation.
1873A new Academy building, with residential space for a principal and boarding students, is constructed behind the first Academy on Woodstock Hill. Private subscriptions, to which patron Henry C. Bowen contributes sixty percent, fund the new structure. The original Academy is sold and removed to a new site. But the stock market crash of 1873 and the depression which follows abruptly halt the revival. The school endowment is virtually lost, and enrollment rapidly declines.
1888Principal Ely Ransom Hall begins a twenty-six year tenure which brings administrative stability to the Academy. Hall founds the Woodstock Library Association, which combines the school and public collections and establishes alumni and athletic associations.
1907Elmwood Hall, The Academy boarding house, is destroyed by fire.
1913Following seven years of community debate, The Woodstock Academy is designated as the public high school for the Town of Woodstock. A community board of management and control is created to oversee the new arrangement. The Academy trustees begin a campaign to increase the school endowment and reduce tuitions.
1921Connecticut Commissioner of Education A.B. Meredith rules that the Town of Woodstock contracts with an independent Academy for secondary education services. The ruling returns complete management of the school and its finances to the Academy trustees.
1923The Howard Webster Bracken Memorial Library is given to the Academy to house both the school and public collections of the Woodstock Library Association.
1928The Ely Ransom Hall memorial Gymnasium is constructed through private subscriptions.
1929Over half of the Academy endowment is lost in the stock market crash. With its buildings solvent and able to house the school population, the Academy continues with austere depression era budgets.
1932The Town of Eastford designates The Woodstock Academy as it's designated high school.
1933An act of the Connecticut legislature revises The Academy charter, eliminating stockholders and creating an alumni-based corporation to govern the school.
1939The construction of an Agriculture Building, the first of its kind in a Connecticut secondary school, completes the first twentieth-century Academy expansion.
1945Agencies of the Town of Woodstock commence planning to address a critical need for secondary and elementary education facilities in the post-World War II era.
1956Years of post-war debate over secondary education in Woodstock culminate with an initiative by The Academy trustees for a second campus expansion.
1957On adjacent property offered for purchase to The Academy by the Holt family, the Holt Science Building is constructed. The Academy expends over half of the school endowment on the project.
1960Dr. David H. Bates, an academy trustee and school physician, leads advocates for the continued academy “quasi-public” management of secondary education in Woodstock. An initiative for further campus expansion commences.
1965The Henry C. Bowen Building is constructed through private subscription.
1969“An Act Concerning School Construction Grants for Schools Serving as Public Secondary Schools” is passed by the Connecticut legislature, allowing cooperative ventures between such schools and their parent communities to develop and fund new facilities.
1971A second twentieth-century campus expansion concludes with the construction of Alumni Field House.
1982Elizabeth Hyde becomes the first woman to be elected president of The Woodstock Academy Board of Trustees. Mrs. Hyde leads a cooperative effort of Connecticut legislators and department of education officials to make the Academy eligible for state construction grants, based upon The Academy’s compliance with all statutes regarding public secondary education.
1986“An Act Concerning School Construction Grants for The Woodstock Academy” is passed by the Connecticut legislature, making the Woodstock Academy eligible for state grants for new construction. The law also provides a seat for a publicly elected board of education representative from each sending community on the executive committee of the Board of Trustees. The 1873 building of The Woodstock Academy is placed on the register of national historic places.
1987The Towns of Pomfret and Brooklyn designate The Woodstock Academy as their high schools. The Towns of Woodstock and Eastford elect to bond a 14.5 million dollar Woodstock Academy building program 73% of which will be reimbursed by the state. Elizabeth Hyde chairs the building committee which oversees the project.
1989Construction begins on the Academy campus. The Holt Science Building and Agriculture Building (since converted for administrative use) are demolished to make way for new facilities. Temporary classrooms are installed on the campus for use during the construction period.
1992A third twentieth-century expansion of The Woodstock Academy is completed. The most comprehensive building program in The Academy's history includes a new dining hall, library, auditorium, arts center, administrative offices, guidance suite, faculty center, science wing, lobby areas, courtyard, additional classrooms, increased parking, expanded lawns, new athletic fields, and a renovated 1873 Woodstock Academy building.
1997In the spring of 1997, The Woodstock Academy Board of Trustees arrived at a contractual agreement to accept up to twenty-five percent of students completing grade eight from the community of Canterbury.
1998The Woodstock Academy trustees and faculty commence plans for the school’s third century. The Board of Trustees establishes an ad hoc committee to plan the Academy’s Bicentennial.
2000Bicentennial Hall is constructed on The Academy campus with new classrooms to accommodate a growing student population.
2001The Woodstock Academy, one of the oldest secondary schools in the United States, celebrates its bicentennial. Renovations to The Academy Building third floor provides four additional classrooms.
2003The graphics lab was relocated to the Bicentennial Building and two classrooms were renovated in the Bracken Memorial Library and Media Center.
2005Two classrooms were renovated in the lower level of the Bracken Memorial Library and Media Center.
2007The renovation of the Bracken Memorial Library was completed.
2009The renovation of the Bracken Administrative Center was completed housing the Headmaster’s Office, the Office of Advancement and Alumni Relations, the Office of the CFO and a Board of Trustee Conference Room.
2015The Woodstock Academy introduces its 1-to-1 program in an initiative to provide every student with the resources to have a 21st century learning experience in and out of the classroom.
The Woodstock Academy purchases Hyde School’s Woodstock Campus adding on-campus dormitories, a cultural center, an art gallery, a second dining hall, additional indoor and outdoor athletic and recreation facilities, a health center, administrative offices, and additional learning spaces. The addition of the South Campus created space on the original North Campus for an engineering lab and maker-space workshop.
The purchase of South Campus established The Woodstock Academy as a premier day and boarding school.