Building Community Through the Arts

History of Spencertown Academy

The Legacy: Stewardship, Culture, Community

Spencertown Academy founder Reverend Timothy Woodbridge
Spencertown Academy founder Reverend Timothy Woodbridge

The Spencertown Academy opened its doors as a teacher training college in 1847—one of the first such facilities in the nation to accept women as well as men. Its founder was Timothy Woodbridge—pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Spencertown, champion of universal education and nephew of Aaron Burr. (Woodbridge, who was blind, wore goggles to protect his eyes from the elements.) A decade later, the Academy became a two-room schoolhouse for Spencertown and Austerlitz area children, operating under the control of the Chatham Central School District from 1955 until 1970, when the school was closed permanently.

In 1972 local residents formed the Spencertown Academy Society to save the Academy and recreate it as a community arts center, later spearheading a 10-year restoration of the historic Greek Revival building. In the wake of the 2008 economic downturn the Academy faced an uncertain future, but in 2013 a small group of members led an ambitious revitalization effort, eliminating the Academy’s debt and shifting it to its current all-volunteer status.

The Spencertown Academy today is a hive of creative activity, with a varied schedule of outstanding concerts, lectures, classes, and gallery shows. Its signature fund-raising events – Hidden Gardens, Revels, and the Festival of Books—are yearly highlights.

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