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Peoples Academy

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1928, William H. McLean. 5 Copley Ave., Morrisville village

On the eve of the Great Depression, Morrisville received a new high school designed with classical sophistication and Beaux-Arts formality. In the Vermont tradition of privately supported secondary schools that later assumed the role of public high schools (see BE7 and FR34), Morrisville's was founded in 1847 as the Poor People's Academy. It had two previous homes before native son and Boston businessman Alexander H. Copley donated this building constructed at his expense on the 15.5-acre site on Thomas Hill originally intended for his summer house. The school serves as a visual terminus of the Main Street axis, which was extended here as a formally landscaped avenue, the first paved street in the village and named after Copley. Designed by a Boston architect, who repeated the scheme in Provincetown, Massachusetts, it is U-shaped in plan, with two stories of classrooms set around a central auditorium above the original gymnasium. It has a symmetrical facade of tapestry brick with Indiana limestone detailing. Classical motifs abound, from the Corinthian portico to a partially balustraded parapet, swagged panels at the entrance, lamps and urns that decorate the central clock pediment, and plaster casts (some from the academy's earlier buildings) of ancient statuary that adorn the auditorium. Ancillary school structures have been added, and the ornate streetlights with Belgian leaded glass that once lined Copley Avenue have been replaced, but the original building still bears witness to significant philanthropy and community aspirations.

Writing Credits

Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson


What's Nearby


Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson, "Peoples Academy", [Morristown, Vermont], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Vermont

Buildings of Vermont, Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, 226-226.

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