Lee’s Academy
14 Meetinghouse Lane

1821

Federal

When the doors of Lee’s Academy opened in East Guilford’s Neck District in November of 1821, 82 students were enrolled. About twenty percent of the students in the first class were female. The school, constructed for $1200, was the result of the efforts of Captain Frederick Lee, who lived across the roadway from the school, in a large home that still exists. Lee’s intention was to prepare students for college. The Academy’s first headmaster, Samuel Robinson, opened his home on the green as a boarding house for his students. Within three years of its opening, the school had an international student population with pupils from ten states plus Spain, Cuba, and the West Indies. Tuition was $3 for English courses and $5 for classics and mathematic related courses.

In 1831 the building was moved to the west side of the green. In 1839 it was shifted to the east side of the green, and its lower level was purchased by the Madison Central School District, which used it as a district school for students in the lower grades. This preparatory school was closed in 1884 when Daniel Hand Academy was built; Miss Gertrude Nash was its last teacher.

By 1889, Lee’s Academy had been incorporated into the public school system and moved to Academy Street. In 1892, when the town's schools were consolidated, it became town property. Classes in the building stopped after that year, and by 1922, Lee’s Academy had been moved one last time to its present location at the northwest corner of the green on Meetinghouse Lane.

Under the stewardship of the Madison Historical Society since 1922, the sturdy little schoolhouse continued its service to the community. In World War II, the local Red Cross used it for office space. Varied churches, scout groups, and other organizations also made good use of it. The bell in its belfry rang on special occasions, and its doors swung wide for a great number of social and philanthropic meetings.

Purchased by the MHS in 1941 for $700, it was fully restored in the first decades of the twenty-first century with generous donations and grants. This iconic building now houses the MHS administrative offices and its exhibition hall. Be sure to visit our latest exhibition.

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