Music, manners and mandatory Regents courses were among the classes taught at the old Academy of Holy Names.
The all-girls school was located on St. Peter’s Avenue in Rome, near the banks of the Mohawk River, about where the Colonial Apartments stand now. It was open for 90 years, from 1873 to 1963.Along with the former St. Aloysius Academy, AHN closed that year in the spring, and the new Rome Catholic High School on Cypress Street opened its doors to students in the fall.
AHN also taught its young women diction, decorum, respect and courtesy, along with more traditional classes like English, French, social studies and math. There was a drama group, and a choir, and a colorful May crowning of the Virgin Mary every year.
The first Catholic school in Rome opened in 1850, in connection with St. Peter’s Catholic church. From 1862 to 1868, three Franciscan sisters staffed that school. In 1873, four members of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary came to Rome from Montreal, to start an all-girls school, at the invitation of St. Peter’s pastor The Rev. William Beecham. Young men could get their education at the nearby St. Aloysius Academy. Its name was changed from St. Peter’s in 1906, after the death of former St. Peter’s pastor The Rev. Aloysius Murphy.
AHN required its students to wear uniforms. Its elementary students were taught by teachers who were each in charge of two grades. Students ranged in age from five to 20.
According to one newspaper article, on file at the Rome Historical Society, AHN attracted students from as far away as Mexico, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Canada, and as close as Utica and Syracuse. The article described the boarding and day school as one that “has been singularly attractive to young ladies who have found in this delightful spot the comforts of an ideal home. The grounds are spacious, and laid out in terraces and courts, for outdoor recreation.”
The grounds included a pond, a boathouse and a grotto. The ponds were made years earlier by Thomas H. Stryker, by impounding water from numerous springs in the area, according to news clips at the Rome Historical Society. Those springs once provided water to the soldiers and others at Fort Stanwix, and to the Indians and forces of Barry St. Leger, during the 1777 siege of the fort.
Stryker started a fish hatchery in the ponds. The ponds also once served as a “resort and mecca” for the people of Rome, who often visited the beautiful grounds on weekends.
In the early 1950s, AHN had an enrollment of about 200 students, with 10 teachers. But by 1955, enrollment had begun to decline and there was a graduating class of only 12.
The school was forced to close, but the memories remain of an educational institution of a bygone era.
This column was written for the Rome Historical Society by Chip Twellman Haley, retired Daily Sentinel news editor. Comments, old photos, suggestions for future columns or guest columns may be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Copies of the books “Rome Through Our History, Volumes I and II,” collections of some of Haley’s columns, may be purchased at the Rome Historical Society.
The Rome Historical Society, 200 Church St., is open from 9 a.m. to 3p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Go online at www.romehistoricalsociety.org, visit their Facebook page, or call 336-5870 for more information.