197 years ago this week, the first bricks were laid on the Norwich, Vt. town green for the American Military, Scientific, and Literary Academy. As we celebrate Founders Day, we take a look at the legacy that Norwich University left behind in its hometown.
The Partridges were a large and prominent family in the town of Norwich. Alden Partridge was born in 1785 to Samuel and Elizabeth Partridge on their family farm. Later, cousins John Milton and Isaac Partridge would take active roles in the operations of Alden’s academy. It was for John Milton Partridge that the still-standing Partridge House was originally constructed in 1820. It was designed by the same local architect, Joseph Emerson, who was commissioned to build the South Barracks and many other structures in the town of Norwich. John later sold it to Alden, who lived there throughout his presidency.
The original Norwich University campus consisted of first one and eventually two buildings, the North and South Barracks. They stood in very close proximity to the Congregational Church (which has since moved locations), and rumor has it that cadets used to cause trouble by stringing a rope from the church bell clapper to the barracks window and ringing it at all hours of the night.
After the South Barracks burned and the university vacated the campus in 1866, the remaining North Barracks building was used as a school until it, too, was destroyed by fire in 1897. The site is now occupied by the original 1898 portion of the Marion Cross School building.
Although neither original building remains standing, the Norwich town green holds a brick marker erected in honor of the 1919 centennial of Norwich’s founding, as well as a marker recognizing the 1856 founding of Theta Chi fraternity at the university.
Also worth mentioning is the historic Fairview Cemetery, which is the final resting place of Alden Partridge, our second president Truman Bishop Ransom, and many other friends and affiliates of Norwich University.
While we are proud to call Northfield our home today, our history helps us remember that Norwich has made a lasting impact wherever it goes.