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Found in the Archives

This is a weather station indicating wind direction. It’s located on the first floor of the Main Building on a wall by the Development Office. It was, according to its plaque, a gift from the Class of 1894. It no longer works, but it once indicated the direction of the winds on the hill. Alas, in spite of several hours of searching the archives, we were unable to discover the reason or occasion of its gifting, but we learned a lot about what life at Cushing was like during the 1893-1894 school year.

In order to fully appreciate what Cushing was like for the Class of 1894, we have to go back to Jan. 12, 1893. On that day, the original Main Building burned to the ground in spectacularly dramatic fashion. Frank Prentice Rand, of the Class of 1908, tells the story in his book on Cushing Academy’s first 100 years. At 12:30 am, George Kenyon, one of the four student janitors who lived on the top floor, detected fire. The fire prevented him from entering the tower to ring the bell that would have alerted campus to the danger. He and his roommates were unable escape by the stairways. One of the boys, Elwin Graves, suggested use the bedclothes to escape via the window. Another, Edward Haven, lowered his three roommates to the ground. He was overcome by smoke, and, although he did manage to get out, he fainted as he landed. As he made it to safety, the clock struck one and the tower collapsed.

In spite of the fire, classes resumed that very afternoon in the Methodist Church and the village armory. Although the trustees immediately voted to replace the building, the students of the Class of 1894 spent the much of their junior and senior year having classes in a variety of places that were not on Cushing’s campus.

That brings us to Jan. 2, 1894, when the new building was dedicated. According The Breeze, an audience of seven or eight hundred gathered to hear the Ladies Glee Club perform, of which the cantata was “especially fine.” The proceeds from that performance helped the club pay for the replacement of the school’s bell at a cost of more than $600. It was also noted that the Class of 1894 donated furniture for the reception room. These students were joined by trustees, alumni, and friends of the school, many of whom donated money and other gifts to outfit the new building.

There were 223 students enrolled that spring, the largest enrollment in the school’s history at that time. Tuition was about $200 for the year including boarding costs. Of the four boys who discovered the fire, Alfred Hawksworth graduated as a member of the Class of 1893, Elwin Graves and Edward Haven were members of the Class of 1894, and George Kenyon was in the Class of 1895. They were given free room and board for the rest of the 1892-1893 school year.

The mists of time have somewhat obscured what happened to them. George Kenyon returned to Cushing in 1894 and played football. Edward Haven is in a 1894-1895 Glee Club picture and apparently went first to Williams College and then to Indiana University, ending up as a lawyer and real estate dealer in Bloomington, Ind.

If you have information to add to this story, contact us at 978-827-7400 or alumniprograms@cushing.org. We want to know the rest of the story!
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Cushing Academy

39 School Street
Ashburnham, Massachusetts 01430
978-827-7000
admissions@cushing.org

Cushing Academy

Cushing Academy exists for students and develops curious, creative, and confident learners and leaders. Founded in 1865, Cushing is a co-ed, college preparatory boarding and day school for students in grades 9-12 and PG. Our students, who come from over 30 states and 30 countries, excel in our outstanding academic, art, and athletic offerings. We welcome you to visit our community and beautiful 162-acre campus in Ashburnham, Mass., just one hour from Boston, to experience all that Cushing has to offer.

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