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


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 founded Floral City in 1869 as a community for his workers, complete with a rail line to the city. After Stewart’s death in 1876, his widow, Cornelia Stewart, planned three buildings and parkland to the city: the Cathedral of the Incarnation (completed 1885), St. Ann’s School for Boys and, after Cornelia’s death in 1886, St. Mary’s School for Girls (completed 1892). 10

St. Ann’s School was built and maintained by a fund provided by Cornelia Stewart in memory of her husband. 5 7 The cornerstone for the new school was laid on June 18, 1879 with James L’Hommedieu directing construction immediately after. Finished at a cost of $800,000, it opened on September 20, 1883 7 as a 350-student military school for boys 6 owned by the Cathedral of the Incarnation in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. 1

Designed by William H. Harris in the High Victorian Gothic 1 / English Gothic 5 / Ruskiniah Gothic 11 style, the 300-foot long, 179-foot deep E-shaped building was 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 and “ridiculously small.” 8 Despite some financial challenges early on, the school prospered.

In 1893, St. Ann’s became a college preparatory academy 5 modeled after similar British schools 1 on the recommendation of the headmaster, Frederick L. Gamage. 5 It designated academic years 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, a collar and shirt making firm in Troy, New York, donated money for a gymnasium and swimming pool 3 to be constructed as a memorial to his son, Alfonzo Rockwell Cluett. Alfonzo had been a student at the school, graduating in 1896. After studying at Yale University, Alfonzo died of typhoid fever. 2

In 1969, Ellis Hall was built to provide extra classroom space. A new gymnasium field house was added in 1970 and named for Father Nicholas Feringa, a former headmaster. The building contained 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

In the fall of 1989, St. Mary’s School for Girls building closed and the students were migrated to St. Ann’s. 10 After entering bankruptcy, 4 the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island opted to close St. Ann’s in May 1991. 10 The last graduation took place at the Cathedral of the Incarnation on June 1, 1991 with less than 30 graduates.

The village obtained St. Ann’s and 48 acres from the Diocese for $7.25 million in 1993. 9

The village negotiated a “friendly condemnation” and obtained St. Ann’s buildings its 48 acres of land in 1993. The main draw was the vast expanse of athletic fields. A mayor’s committee was formed to determine the best use of the land and school. The recommendations then included that the property be rehabilitated. It would leased for 99 years to a private developer who would convert the school into a senior assisted living center.

Tishman Speyer Properties conducted a preliminary inspection and evaluation of St. Ann’s in 1995 on the potential to renovate the buildings to serve as the new village high school. Four preliminary 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. The proposals were eventually taken off of the table.

The village voted to convert St. Ann’s 48 acre site as a public park in 2004. The surrounding grounds were redeveloped with playgrounds, sport fields, parking, concessions and restrooms.

One effort to lure developers to St. Ann’s ended in December 2008 residents overwhelmingly voted against a developer’s proposal to convert the school into apartments. Polled, 45% of the village’s residents favored demolition, which could cost up to $6 million.

After being unused after St. Ann’s closure and with little hope for reuse, Ellis Hall was demolished in 2014.

Sources