Tiger homecoming set for Sept. 22-23
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury High School/Middlebury Union High School Alumni Homecoming will take place on the weekend of Sept. 22- 23.
This year the alumni group will be dedicating the 1911 keystone from the MHS building that burned in 1954 and a bench in the new park at the corner of College and South Main streets. That dedication will take place on Saturday, the 23rd, at 10 a.m.
That same weekend, the alumni group will honor the 50th anniversary MUHS football team, as well as new inductees to the MHS/MUHS Hall of Fame.
This school has a rich history and has fostered many fond memories.
In 1797 Seth Storrs gave land to the Addison County Grammar School Corporation. A large school was built in 1798 to house the County Secondary School, much larger than the school needed. Middlebury College was chartered in 1800 and shared this large building with the town. The college prospered and grew, so the grammar school moved out.
When Stone Row was completed on the current college campus, the college gave the building back to the town. The Academy building, on what is now Academy Street, housed Middlebury elementary and secondary students for 20 years, until that building became too crowded. In 1911 a monumental building was built at the base of Main Street to educate Middlebury’s High School students. The school was a two story brick structure with great brick arches over the doors, a dormered roof and four large chimneys. In 1939 a gymnasium was added, which later served as a National Guard Armory in the 1950s.
A fire on March 18, 1954, destroyed the upper floor. Middlebury residents were awakened at 3 a.m. to the sound of fire engines. Strong winds, 20-degree temperatures and the falling roof complicated matters for firefighters. Because of the alertness and unfaltering courage displayed by area fire departments, much of the school and its equipment were saved. The first floors had water damage and the gymnasium was saved. The fire took place on the same week as the ground breaking ceremony for the Mary Hogan Elementary School.
Classes resumed the following Monday for 300 students and 18 teachers at Monroe Hall on the college campus, and in area churches. Ninety-minute classes were held from 12:45 to 5:30 p.m. Biology classes were held in Warner Science Building and benefitted from a larger collection of specimens. When classes moved back into the renovated school, science classes remained at Warner. Within a month MHS had a temporary roof, the shell of the second floor had been boarded up and the lower floors repaired. Classes resumed in the renovated MHS after seven weeks. Classes were held in out-of-the-way places like the cafeteria and the ticket office, but students persevered.
That decade Middlebury became the seat of a union high school district, and after the fire the need for a modern building became a pressing issue. MUHS opened Sept. 3, 1957, after holding a dedication ceremony two days earlier.
This year on Saturday, Sept. 23, at 10 a.m. in the park where the school once educated students, the MHS/MUHS Alumni Association will dedicate a bench and the 1911 keystone to those who attended MHS. There will be an opportunity to share your memories of MHS with friends and classmates.
A video produced by Middlebury College documents the history of the schools that were built in the Academy area and enjoy some fond memories by an MHS graduate go online to middlebury.edu/newsroom/archive/2016-news/node/538154.
Information for this article came from newspapers, yearbooks and “A Walking History of Middlebury” by Glen Andres.
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