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#24 Partridge’s Academy at Middletown

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Original plan for the academy at MiddletownWithin a decade of its founding, the American Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy took a sojourn south. For four years, from 1825 to 1829, the Academy was located in Middletown, Connecticut. Unsuccessful at obtaining a charter from the State of Connecticut, it reopened in Norwich, Vermont in 1831 and was chartered as Norwich University just three years later.

When Alden Partridge first founded his academy, it bore more resemblance to a preparatory school than a degree-granting college. Parents would send their sons, ranging in age from nine to over 20, for whatever period of time they deemed necessary to prepare for employment or a formal academic career.

We do not entirely understand the reasons that, in 1824, Partridge began making arrangements to move his academy to Middletown, Connecticut. Some speculate that he was influenced by a desire to be closer to the coast and establish a naval department; there may also have been pressure from parents who hesitated to send their sons all the way to Vermont from the southern states. Conditions were ripened when, that same year, Middletown lost out on the opportunity to host the newly established Washington University, now known as Trinity.

Wesleyan at Middletown todayPartridge arranged for the construction of two buildings: a barracks, and an all-purpose building that housed classrooms and a chapel-cum-drill hall. The term concluded in Norwich in April of 1825 and the school reopened in Middletown that August. Almost immediately, Partridge began seeking a charter from the State of Connecticut so that his institution could grant degrees. After multiple unsuccessful petitions to the legislature, Partridge sold his buildings to the Methodist Church—which would soon use them to establish Wesleyan University—in 1829. He reopened the Academy in his hometown of Norwich in 1831, and it resumed on the path to becoming the Norwich University we know today.

You can learn more about the Middletown move through Alden Partridge’s personal papers, housed in the Norwich University Archives and partially available online.