Education on Long Island

Footnotes to Long Island History

Education on Long Island


Thomas R. Bayles


After the Revolution the people established institutions for educating their boys in the higher branches of learning, and the first academy to be established on Long Island was Clinton academy at East Hampton in 1785.

            This was done through the efforts of Dr. Buell, the local minister, and William Payne.  They built what was in those days a large and elegant building, and founded an “edifice for the benefit of society as a seminary of education upon the most liberal plan.”

            The State Board of Regents granted a charter to Clinton academy on December 20, 1787, and so it became the first recognized high school in the state of New York.  Presiding at the meeting of incorporation was William Floyd, signer of the Declaration of Independence, from Mastic, in our own Brookhaven town.  The academy was named in honor of Gov. George Clinton, who attended the services.

            Another academy was established at Huntington in 1793 by 50 prominent citizens who provided funds to build a two-story building which stood where the present high school is located.  Boys from surrounding villages as well as from Huntington attended this school.  For 54 years it stood as a monument to the progressive people of that section.  After the Union Free school law was passed in 1853, many villages organized the present high school system, and in 1857 the Huntington academy ceased to operate. 

            In 1834 the Miller Place academy was built at a cost of $1,600.  This was a beautiful building erected by Isaac Hudson of Middle Island, who also built the Middle Island and Bellport Presbyterian churches. The academy was the pride of the residents of Miller Place, for they invested not only their money but also their hearts in the enterprise, and their reward came in seeing their young people well educated for those years, and fitted for the various positions in life they had chosen.

            The cost of the building was financed through the sale of 56 shares of stock at $25 each.  The shares were mostly taken by local people although among the names of shareholders we find Benjamin Strong and Samuel Thompson of Setauket, Caleb and Albert Woodhull of New York, John Roe of Patchogue and Nathaniel Tuthill of Greenport.

            During the 34 years of its operation the number of pupils attending the academy varied from 25 to 60.  Tuition was $10 a term and out-of-town boys were boarded in local homes for $1.50 a week.

            Another local institution of learning was Bellport Classical institute, which was built in 1833, and again the builder was Isaac Hudson.  The academy was a two-story frame building with an extension on the rear, and during the 69 years it was in service, new floors were laid three times.  Candles were used to light the building until about 1847, when kerosene lamps came into general use.  The rooms were heated with large wood burning stoves.  The tuition was $10 for the summer quarter and $11.25 for the winter quarter, the extra charge being for fuel.  This academy fitted the young men and women of the surrounding villages for college.

            The old bell which was installed in the academy when it was built is now located in the hall of the Bellport High school, and the weather vane is on the flag pole in front of the school.

            The academy that existed the longest was at Bridgehampton, and was incorporated by the Board of Regents as “Bridgehampton Literary and Commercial Institute.”  Under the leadership of Lewis W. Hallock from 1873 to 1907 it became a very widely known and successful school.

            The various academies that came into being in many of the larger communities during the 1800’s have all ceased to exist and have given way to the changing conditions of our times.


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