Lakemont, New York
The 1928 Echo—erroneously labeled 1920—is available online from variously sources. “Starkey Seminary,” the Dundee Area Historical Society history of the school is online. In 1918 The Herald of Gospel Liberty featured the school in an article. A History of the Christian Denomination in America and The Centennial of Religious Journalism--source of the image of Francis Palmer (right)-- both provide profiles of Starkey Seminary.
In 1839 a group of Christian Church ministers in the Finger Lakes region of New York determined that a school was needed “to provide an education for boys and girls who could not get one because of financial means.” Located in Eddytown (now Lakemont), the school was named Starkey Seminary because the citizens of Starkey township provided most of the funds to open it. Classes began in fall 1842 for 142 students—most of whom were at elementary level.
By the 1880’s Starkey Seminary had enlarged its curriculum and entered discussions with the Free Baptists to convert the school to Starkey College. These discussions fell through when the Baptists insisted that the college be located at Keuka. So Starkey Seminary continued as a very good preparatory school that also provided normal school training.
Starkey Seminary faced financial difficulties in the 1890’s, but was bailed out by Francis Asbury Palmer, who paid off the school’s debts and provided funding for a new building. In 1902 The school name was changed to Palmer Institute—Starkey Seminary.
The 1928 Echo shows a student body of around 50 students. One student is listed as a “post graduate”; otherwise 42 are high school students, and seven are “elementary” students. The school staff numbered 12. Starkey was a co-educational school with 28 male and 21 female students. Despite low numbers, students had rich social and educational opportunities. In addition to chapters of the YMCA and YWCA, Starkey had two literary societies providing practice in public speaking. Students had a ten-member orchestra and a girls’ glee club to provide musical programs. The Echo shows a Thanksgiving Day play and musicale, Valentine and Leap Year dances, an Art Party, and a Masquerade Party.
With the Great Depression and a cultural shift away from co-educational boarding schools, Starkey Seminary struggled for both students and money, before closing at the end of the 1935-36 School year.
Bricks and Mortar
Foreman Hall (1842) was a four-story brick and stone building that served all school functions. But within a few years, Starkey was forced to add a frame dining hall and rent additional dormitory space. In 1866, “Ladies’ Hall," later named Hathaway Hall, was added.
The new Palmer Hall was added in 1900. Built of Canandaigua cream bricks with limestone trim, the five-story building was 160 feet long. It contained, the library, museum, assembly room, classrooms, kitchen and dining room, and 50 dormitory rooms. Finally, in 1926, the campus added Corwith Gymnasium.
In 1911 Foreman and Hathaway Halls were leased to the Sunshine Club to provide a rest home for women and girls
After Starkey closed, Lakewood Academy, a prep school for boys occupied the campus until 1972. Palmer Hall burned in 1970. Until recently the remainder of the campus was used by Freedom Village USA, a Christian home for troubled youth.
Nineteenth Century image of Starkey Seminary from David Rumsey. Foreman Hall is to the left; Hathaway Hall to the right. (
School Colors: The yearbook cover suggests that they are Purple and Gold
“Starkey Seminary” notes that at the beginning of the twentieth century Starkey/Palmer sports teams, especially those in football began, to improve. “In both 1907 and 1908 Starkey teams were the Eastern New York State schoolboy football champions.” The 1907 team compiled a 5-2 record, defeating the Cornell University freshmen, Genesee Wesleyan Seminary, Elmira Free Academy, Cascadilla School, and a Corning all-star team. The losses were to the Hobart College varsity and to Rochester West High School.
The 1928 Echo shows that of 23 boys in the high school, fourteen played on a football team that won six of nine games—all against academy teams. A basketball team from the same student body won eight of 12 games. Of 19 girls in high school, 13 played on a basketball team that won one game of three played.
The 1914 Starkey Seminary football team. Image from the National Collegiate Athletic Association Football Guide.