Photo of the abandoned Bennett School for Girls in Millbrook, NY
 

Bennett School for Girls

Located in Millbrook, NY US

  • Built:1890
  • Opened:1893
  • Age:124 years
  • Closed:1978
  • Demo / Renovated:N/A
  • Decaying for:36 years
  • Last Known Status:Abandoned

This school was originally constructed in 1890 as Halcyon Hall - a luxury hotel constructed of wood and stone dreamed up by publisher H.J. Davison Jr. Filled with books and curios from around the world, the hotel was a retreat that featured beautiful carved wooden pillars, balconies, and small niches to steal a quick read or nap. The building had been designed in the elaborate Victorian Queen Anne style by James E. Ware, and consisted of 200 rooms in 5 stories, plus a basement and sub-basement. Despite the grandeur, Halcyon Hall failed to catch the popularity it had hoped for. It closed in 1901, and stood vacant until another a buyer was found eight years later.

The Bennett School for Girls, originally founded in Irvington N.Y. by Miss May Bennett, found Halcyon Hall quite suitable as a new home in 1907. The school had been in operation for seventeen years and had 120 students, most from prominent families. These women took a six year course of study - four years of high school and two years of higher study. Language, culture, and fine arts were stressed in the curriculum. In the early 20th century, the school eliminated high school courses and became a junior college, offering two year degrees.

A number of addition and modification took place at Halcyon Hall during the college years. In 1926, a northern service wing which formed part of the courtyard was demolished and replaced with the present-day Gage Hall. The new wing had originally held dormitory rooms, but was converted into classrooms, offices, and other facilities in later years. In 1952, the stucco Alumnae Hall added as a west wing dormitory. In 1956, the Ella Buffington Library was built out of the east wall of Gage Hall.

Bennett College found itself struggling to survive in the 1970s as the popularity of coeducation steadily grew. A major movement to upgrade the school into a four year college had left the college in financial distress. An attempt to merge with nearby Briarcliff Manor failed, and Bennett College entered bankruptcy in 1977. The school was closed for good one year later, and many school artifacts including the entire library was moved to the Millbrook Free Library.

Several attempt to redevelop the property failed in the 1980s, and the title was acquired by a savings bank subsidiary. When the bank went out of business in 1991, its assets including Bennett College were seized by the FDIC. An agreement was reached to place Halcyon Hall on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993 - however, the town of Millbrook has been working with developers to demolish the building for condominiums.

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