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The History of Black River Academy

The Black River Academy (BRA) was founded 52 years after the first settler came to Ludlow. Before this there had been only the district schools which only ran 16 weeks of the year. If an individual wanted additional schooling he had to pay tuition and could got to Randolph Normal School, Burlington, or Middlebury.

academy image 1836The BRA was founded by a concerted effort of the southern Vermont Baptists. The church members in Windsor and Windham counties felt that an institution of higher learning was needed in southern Vermont. Ludlow residents offered to erect a building at the town's expense to house a school and were accepted by the resident of Windsor County. At the same time, Windham County decided to build their own school. This was the Leland Seminary in Townshend.

The BRA was completed in 1835 and school began in March 1835. The first year the academy had 180 students - 95 boys and 85 girls. The original building was a three story brick structure which stood where the Black River Senior Center and Superintendent of Schools is now located. This school burned in 1844. At that time the school was moved to the old Union Church which stood where the present academy now is. The church was used as a school for 44 years. In 1888 the church was torn down and the present academy was built at a cost of $16,336.16. The Ludlow voters voted $5,600 from taxes to build the new building and privately donated another $2,025. Out of town donations from former alumni and patrons were around $8,711.16.

Notable graduates of the school were President Calvin Coolidge, U.S. Attorney General John Garibaldi Sargent and Abby Maria Hemenway.

academy building photoWhen the BRA first opened tuitions per quarter were $3 for common English, $3.50 for higher English and ancient languages, $4 for modern languages. Additional charges for music and drawing were also assigned.

In 1868, The Vermont State Legislature enacted law, which allowed all within Ludlow Village free attendance to the BRA. Those outside the village paid $6 per 12-week session for common English and $7.20 per session for English the Classics. In 1892 the school became free to all residents of Ludlow. Out of town students still had to pay tuition much as they do today.

The Black River Academy was the high school for Ludlow and the surrounding area until 1938 at which time the Black River High School was opened.