Hazel Green Academy

Hazel Green Academy is a former private school that operated between 1880 and 1983 in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky.


Hazel Green Academy was founded at the insistence of Mrs. Lou Mize, wife of state senator William Oldham Mize. Billy Mize secured support from W.O. Mize, J.T. Day, and Green Berry Swango, with each donating $500 towards the construction of the Academy. 4 Despite the financial contributions, the project received lukewarm support from the local community.

The Academy opened in the fall of 1880. 4 Tuition and boarding costs were paid with by outside donations and work scholarships. 3

“Hazel Green Academy is established as a Mission for the Kentucky mountains; hence its very low rates of tuition, and the offer of the managers to educate free of charge the worthy indigent. It is intended to bring it within the power of the poorest in this world’s goods to secure a good education. It is hoped the Academy may serve as a stepping stone to college and a higher sphere in life to some who otherwise might never have an aspiration beyond the life of their fathers. By giving young men and women a taste of better things, we hope to fill them with a noble ambition to rise in life.”

During executive committee sessions in 1885 and 1886, the Academy negotiated with the Christian Woman’s Board of Mission of Kentucky to hand over control and management of the school. 4 A provisional agreement was made under which J.W. McGarvey, who was a professor at the College of the Bible in Lexington, and R.T. Mathews, who represented the women of Kentucky. They were to act as proprietors and trustees in the management of the Academy. The joint administration continued until May 1888 when all control shifted to the Christian Woman’s Board of Missions.


Early on, Hazen Green Academy’s curriculum consisted mostly of college preparatory courses. Students were expected to participate in religious activities and extracurricular activities, such as various contests and athletic events. In 1900, the Academy began offering a two-year ministry training course and established a five-month business course in its new Commercial Department in 1903. 1 The Industrial Department was added in 1908.

In 1920, the Academy came under the direct auspices of the United Christian Missionary Society, a branch of the Disciples of Christ Christian Church. 4

Hazel Green acquired a large tract of land along the river to increase its working farm in 1924. 4 By the middle of the decade, the school featured a 212-acre farm, used clothing store, small hospital, and kindergarten. 1 Electricity was generated for the campus and the town of Hazel Green from the basement of the Industrial Arts Building. Between 1928 and 1950, a large dairy barn and the first silo in the county was constructed, along with a deepwater well, administration building, and gymnasium.


Due to the prevalence of free public schools, enrollment in grades one through six declined throughout the 1910s and 1920s. In 1929, the Academy began offering courses only for middle and high school students. 1 3 Under Henry Stovall’s leadership in the 1930s, Hazel Green expanded its role in community-based programs.

From 1933 to 1953, the second floor of the male dormitory served as a twelve-bed hospital 4 and as a health clinic from 1956 until 1959. 1 The Academy co-sponsored a bookmobile between 1958 and 1960 which led to the opening of a public library operated by the Academy in the 1960s. 1

The school struggled throughout the mid-20th century as enrollment dropped. Public schools were able to offer a comparable education at far less cost while providing higher salaries to teachers. Grades seven and eight were dropped in 1965, 1 along with all farming operations. 4

The Division of Home Ministries, the branch of the Christian Church that was then overseeing the Academy, began turning over administrative and financial responsibility to local officials. 1 Hazel Green Academy became an independent institution affiliated with the Christian Church in 1971. The school started a major push to strengthen its fundraising and recruitment efforts to lower teacher turnover and to boost enrollment.

It was only a temporary solution to the long-term decline of the school. On June 30, 1983, owing to an increasing fiscal deficit, the Board of Directors voted not to reopen that fall. 2


Administration & Classroom Building

The administration and classroom building was erected in the 1930s.

Laundry & Store

The laundry and store facility was built in 1952.

Helen E. Moses Memorial Building

The Helen E. Moses Memorial Building was a male dormitory. Named for Mrs. Moses who served for years as president of the Christian Women’s Board of Missions, it was built in 1908 of stuccoed masonry. 4 In 1928, it contained a suite for the superintendent and 75 students. The building was renovated in 1968.

Ford Industrial Building

Constructed in 1908, the Industrial Building was where arts and crafts were taught. The building was the gift of Mrs. E.L. Ford and her two daughters of Detroit, Michigan. 4 It housed the power, heating and lighting plants, the forging and carpentry rooms, the Industrial Arts and Home Economics rooms.


The gymnasium was constructed in 1935.

Pearre Hall

The female dormitory was built in 1901 and featured classical revival architectural elements. It was named after Mrs. Caroline Neville Pearre, founder of the Christian Women’s Board of Missions. It was used as a classroom building from 1901 until 1930, and then as a dormitory for 35 residents, and as a dining hall and kitchen. 4



  1. “Guide to the Hazel Green Academy Collection, History.” Hutchins Library Special Collections & Archives. Berea College, n.d. Web. 3 Sept. 2014.
  2. n/a
  3. Eblen, Tom. “Hazel Green Academy students celebrate reunion with plans to restore campus buildings.” Herald-Leader [Lexington] 13 Aug. 2013: n. pag. Kentucky.com. Web. 5 Sept. 2014.
  4. United States. Dept. of the Interior. Hazel Green Academy Historic Buildings. Comp. Calvin P. Jonms. Washington: National Park Service, Sept. 1978. Web. 9 Sept. 2014. Article.


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[…] Hazel Green Academy was located in a remote small town in the hills of eastern Kentucky. The private school, set among the hardwoods and abutting flowing pastures, was an ideal location when it opened to students in 1880. Its purpose was to offer low tuition rates, offer a good education to the under-served and offer its students a stepping stone to college and “a higher sphere in life” and hope. […]

I lived here from age 8 until about a year after the school closed. My mother was the assistant to the principal. We lived in the orange brick house two houses to the left of the boys’ dorm. I almost burned the whole property down one summer lighting firecrackers (the jumping kind) on the concrete basketball court. Thank goodness the school had its own fire truck!!

I remember this place very fondly: my first kiss, tree forts in the woods, being able to leave the doors unlocked, first broken bone, tree climbing in my back yard, and my first cat! That’s the short list.

Funny thing about that house was the basement was used to store the huge bags of grains and beans for the cafeteria. My cat would sit at the top of the basement stairs and kill the bugs those darn bags attracted.

My father graduated from HGA in 1925. His mother was a dorm mother. His father had died when he was 11. He was valedictorian of his class and went on to Transylvania in Lexington and then to Tulane Medical School. Unfortunately he died of a second heart attack in 1959. He was William Ray Swango. As a family we would attend homecomings at HGA every year and visit with relatives and his friends. Good memories.

I grew up in Wolfe county… they tried to used. The hga in 84 or 85 for 8th or 9 th grade … was atrial period… as a kid I loved it there… I d love to own a house right there on the property… I miss it

Our PawPaw Grover not only attended Hazel Green Academy as a child (roughly the years 1942-1946) along with his siblings, he later in life (1982) went back to teach a year. He was saddened when the Academy had to close in 1983, but he understood their reasoning. He has many, many stories about Hazel Green (all wonderful, of course). His memory isn’t as strong as it used to be, but the stories about Hazel Green always stick in his mind. I would love to try and find some old photos from around his time there, to help him keep his memories strong and cherished. <3 Thank you so much for sharing this story and these photos. 🙂

To Hollbrook. I knew PawPaw from my years at HGA as well as his wife, your grandmother. Your grandmother ran the little store/rec room on campus were we got to go in the evenings. We loved going there as we could meet up with our boyfriends. Your grandmother would turn the other way so us couples could sneak in a kiss or two. Your grandfather was nightly “security” on campus. It is hard to believe he is still alive as I thought back in 81 or 82 he was like 70 then LOL. I still have my yearbook from then and often reminese about the good times there and were everyone is now. Did your PawPaw Tell you the real reason the school shut down? The scandal with the boys basketball coach?

Very thoughtful comment and you graduated the year I was there and you could have been Sandy Collins or Sandra Gulley or was it Gullet?

I attended grades 9-12 and graduated from HGA in 1974. The teachers were superb, the campus was beautiful, and many tender memories still linger. It breaks my heart to see the girls’ dormitory abandoned, open and vulnerable to the weather. May the Lord bless all those who entered this hallowed institution of learning.

I taught and coached there for only one year and saw the good things that school had done and was doing and brings tears to my eyes, as it is so sad that it was allowed to just go to ruin like this.

I graduated from 8th grade at The Hazel Green Academy. I want to say it was in 1982 or 83?

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