Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Interesting Account of 1894 Graduation Exercises Conducted by Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in Pelham Manor

In 1889, Emily Hall Hazen who had taught at the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, New York, opened a girls' school in Pelham Manor.  It almost immediately became one of the finest girls’ schools in the country.  The school closed twenty-five years later at the end of the 1914-1915 school year. 

Officially named "Pelham Hall," the school was known far and wide as "Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls."  By the time the school reached its final academic year, it had served over a thousand students from forty-two States and over two hundred and fifty towns and cities throughout the country. 

I have written about Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls on many occasions. I have included a list of links to numerous such articles at the end of today's posting.

The year 1894 was a special year for Pelham Hall.  Since its founding, the school had been relegated to the use of small residential structures along Pelhamdale Avenue modified to serve as school buildings.  In 1894, for the first time, the school held its graduation exercise in its own assembly hall.  Before then, the school held its largest assemblies such as graduation in the nearby Manor Club building.  

During 1893, a large gray building facing Edgewood Avenue was built by Benjamin Corlies and was leased to the institution, affording larger facilities for the increasingly-famous school.  Among the many new amenities available in the newly-constructed Edgewood Avenue facility was a sufficiently large assembly hall to permit Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls to host its own graduation exercises for the first time.  

The faculty and students of Pelham Hall in 1894 decorated the new auditorium in a rather spectacular fashion with bunting and field flowers "in abundance."  Among the many important elements of the graduation ceremony was the original music (with singing) of original music prepared as a "recessional hymn" by Professor Louis C. Jacoby entitled "Forward Be Our Watchword."  

The most moving aspects of the 1894 Pelham Hall graduation ceremony seem to have been quite clear.  A description of the ceremony noted:

"An exceedingly pretty feature of the exercises was the entrance of the young ladies of the school, seventy or more in number after the rest of the audience was seated, and their withdrawal after the benediction in procession, dressed in white, and singing appropriate hymns."

During the late afternoon of the day, an important organization met.  It was the "Pelham Hall League," an alumni organization established very early in the history of the school.  That alumni organization continued to operate for many, many years (long after the school closed upon the retirement of Ms. Emily Hall Hazen Cunningham's retirement).  

"Edgewood House" Built Facing Today's Edgewood Avenue
(with Rear Toward the Esplanade).  Edgewood House, Which
No Longer Stands, is the Pelham Hall Building that Included
an Auditorium in Which the 1894 Graduation Exercises Were
Held.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

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Below is a transcription of the text of the article published in 1894 describing the graduation exercises of Pelham Hall in 1894.  It is followed by a citation and link to its source.  

"Miss Wells Gets the Prize.
[From the Tribune, Wednesday.]

The closing exercises at Mrs. J. C. Hazen's school, Pelham Manor, were held Tuesday in the large fine assembly hall of the additional building erected for this institution last year.  Heretofore these ceremonies have been conducted in the clubhouse of the Manor Club.  Bunting and field flowers in abundance constituted the decoration of the auditorium.  The Misses Catherine Fry, of Chicago; Bertha Swift, of New Britain, Conn., and Pauline Wells, of Brewster, N.Y., received full diplomas; and testimonials for excellence in elective courses were awarded to Misses Agnes Weed, Binghamton; Aria Avery, Detroit, and Sadie Furman and Lulu McAllister, of Rochester.  The Corlies prize for English composition was won by Miss Pauline Wells.  After the bestowal of these honors and the reading of reports on the standing of the pupils by the principal , an address was delivered by the Rev. R. R. Converse, Chaplain of Hobart College.  Mrs. Hazen was assisted in her duties on this occasion by the Rev. H. E. Adriance, of Pelham Manor.  Prayer was offered by the Rev. A. T. Tenney, of the same place, and the Rev. J. Nevett Steele, of New York city pronounced the benediction.  Professor Louis C. Jacoby conducted the singing, and furnished original music for the recessional hymn.  'Forward Be Our Watchword.'  An exceedingly pretty feature of the exercises was the entrance of the young ladies of the school, seventy or more in number after the rest of the audience was seated, and their withdrawal after the benediction in procession, dressed in white, and singing appropriate hymns.

In the afternoon there was a reunion of alumnae, whose association is known as the Pelham Hall League."

Source:  Miss Wells Gets the Prize, The Brewster Standard [Brewster, NY], Jun. 8, 1894, p. 1, col. 4.  

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I have written extensively about the private school known as "Pelham Hall" and "Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls."  For a few of the many examples, see:
Tue., Feb. 16, 2010:  Photograph of Only Known 19th Century Women's Baseball Team in Pelham, New York.

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