St. Ann’s School

Educational / New York

St. Ann’s School is an abandoned 500-room college preparatory academy and military school in New York. It operated from 1889 until 1991 when financial considerations forced it to close.

The actual name of the location has been modified to protect the location as much as possible from vandalism.

History

St. Ann’s School was originally part of a memorial to Floral City’s founder, Alexander Turney Stewart, 10 a Manhattan department store and hotel magnate. 11 Stewart had founded Floral City in 1869 as a community for his workers. After his death in 1876, his widow, Cornelia Stewart, planned three buildings and parkland to the city: Cathedral of the Incarnation (completed 1885), St. Ann’s School for Boys, and St. Mary’s School for Girls (completed 1892). 10 All would be built and maintained by a fund provided by Cornelia Stewart in memory of her husband 5 7 and operated by the Cathedral of the Incarnation in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. 1

The cornerstone for St. Ann’s School was laid on June 18, 1879, 5 7 and it was completed at the cost of $800,000 on September 20, 1883. 7 Designed by William H. Harris in the High Victorian Gothic 1 / English Gothic 5 / Ruskinian Gothic 11 style, the 350-student military school 6 was 300-foot long and 175-foot deep, anchored by a clock and bell tower. Outside were elaborate cast-iron balustrades, Dorchester stone trim, and poly-chromatic voussoir arched windows.

Inside were 500 rooms. The first floor contained a library, parlors, dining room, and eight classrooms. 5 The second floor contained a 400-seat chapel, 1 lecture and concert hall, a meeting room for St. Paul’s Congress, the school’s debating society, an infirmary, gymnasium, and chemical and physical laboratories. The remainder of the building contained dormitory space for 300 students and apartments for teachers on the second, third and fourth floors. 1 5

The endowment left behind by Stewart for the building’s maintenance and operation was described as paltry but despite some financial challenges early on, the school prospered. 8

In 1893, St. Ann’s became a college preparatory academy on the recommendation of the headmaster, Frederick L. Gamage. 5 Modeled after similar British schools, academic years were designated as forms, with the first form being the seventh grade up to the sixth form being the twelfth grade.

George Bywater Cluett, an owner of the Cluett, Peabody & Company in Troy, donated money for the construction of a gymnasium and swimming pool 3 as a memorial to his son, Alfonzo Rockwell Cluett. Alfonzo had been a student at the school but died of typhoid fever after studying at Yale University. 2

Ellis Hall was built to provide extra classroom space in 1969 and a new gymnasium field house was added in 1970 and named for Father Nicholas Feringa, a former headmaster. The field house featured four contiguous basketball courts and was the largest indoor sports fieldhouse on Long Island. For a time, it was used by the New York Nets as their training facility.

Decline

With enrollment at low, unsustainable levels, St. Mary’s School for Girls was closed in 1989 and the remaining students were migrated into St. Ann’s. 10 St. Ann’s closed in May 1991 after the Diocese entered bankruptcy, 4 with the last graduation of 30 students taking place on June 1. 10

The village negotiated a “friendly condemnation” and acquired St. Ann and 48 surrounding acres from the Diocese for $7.25 million in 1993 with the idea of reusing the vast athletic fields for the community. 4 9 A mayor’s committee was formed to determine the best use of the land, and the recommendations focused on the rehabilitation of the former St. Ann’s school building into an assisted living center.

Preliminary inspection and evaluation on the conversion of the former St. Ann’s complex into a village high school were conducted in 1995, and four designs were submitted to the Board of Education. While the idea had support among younger families, the Eastern Property Owners Association lobbied the Board of Education not to consider it out of cost concerns, and the proposals were eventually dropped.

In 2004, the village voted to convert the former St. Ann’s property into a public park, and the surrounding grounds were renovated with playgrounds, sport fields, parking, concessions, and restrooms.

A developer proposed converting St. Ann’s into an apartment complex, but residents overwhelmingly voiced opposition to the project. 9 Nearly half of the residents questioned favored demolition of the complex, which could cost up to $6 million.

After being unused after St. Ann’s closure, Ellis Hall was demolished in 2014.


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Sources

  1. Smith, Mildred. Garden City, Long Island, in Early Photographs, 1869-1919. Courier, 1998. p. 27.
  2. Yale Sheffield Monthly. 1901. p. 7.
  3. “George Bywater Cluett.” Hudson River Valley Heritage, Trinity-Pawling School, entry.
  4. Rabinovitz, Jonathan. “Church Unit Seeks Shelter In Bankruptcy.” New York Times, 13 Apr. 1993.
  5. “St. Paul’s School at Garden City.” New York Times, 20 June 1897, p. 14.
  6. “A city on the Plains.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 8 Oct. 1893, p. 8.
  7. “St. Paul’s School, Garden City.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 20 Sept. 1883, p. 2.
  8. “Incarnation.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 18 May 1885. p. 1.
  9. Buckley, Cara. “A Suburban Treasure, Left to Die.” New York Times, 15 Jan. 2010.
  10. Kordes, John Ellis. “St. Paul’s ~ 25 Years On…” Garden City News Online, 20 May 2016.
  11. Eisenstadt, Peter R. “Architects and Architecture, Long Island.” The Encyclopedia of New York State, Syracuse, Syracuse University Press, 2005, p. 103.