History of Ashby Academy and Watatic Hall

Ashby Historical Society
History of Ashby Academy and Watatic Hall

Main Street in 1890's
Students at Watatic Academy, 1864

The History of the Building Known as Congregational Church, Ashby Academy, Watatic Hall, Town Hall, The Grange

  • ca. 1818 - The theological debate between Calvinists and Arminians reaches a head when the town hires an Arminian minister over the objection of the Calvinist members of the First Parish Church. A large number of church members leave the First Parish to form the Calvinistic Congregational Society.
  • 1820 - The Calvinistic Congregational Society builds a church on the site where the Library now stands.
  • 1835 - The original church building being too small, the Congregationalists build a new church at its current location on the east side of the Common.
  • 1836 - Ashby Academy is established by private citizens who raise $800 to purchase the original Congregational Church building. It is moved to its current location next to Schoolhouse #1.  A teacher is hired for $400 per year. Ashby Academy provides education beyond the 8th grade for those who can afford it. The cost per term is $3 for basic English, $4 for Latin and Greek.
  • 1856 - The town votes to appropriate $200 for Ashby students over the age of 12 to attend the Academy for 1 term (11 weeks).  This is the first town appropriation for education beyond the one room schoolhouse.
  • ca. 1860 - Ashby Academy closes.
  • August, 1860 - The Watatic Academy Association is organized and takes over the building. It becomes known as Watatic Hall.
map of Ashby common in 1850

Map of Ashby Common in 1850 by Geo. Hitchcock

  • 1864 - Ashby votes $250 to rent a portion of the building. Town offices are located in the basement. ($250 probably covers student tuition as well as rent)
  • 1864-1889 - The town appropriates various sums for Ashby students to attend the Academy.
  • 1890 - Watatic Hall purchased by the town.
  • 1895 - Calendar of Courses is earliest mention of Ashby High School as a municipal school. It provides 40 weeks of instruction and 4 grade levels.
Watatic Hall about 1894

Watatic Hall circa 1894

  • 1898 - The first graduating class from Ashby High School.
  • 1903 - The new central school (Lyman Building) opens serving grades 1 through 12.  Watatic Hall’s first floor serves as a gymnasium, basketball court and town hall.   The Grange occupies the second floor and town offices are in the basement.
Students at Watatic School in 1890

Students at Watatic School in 1890

  • 1950 - Basketball team begins use of gym at the school in Townsend
  • 1953 - The elementary school built with a gymnasium.
  • ca. 1960  - The town offices move to Library.
  • ca. 2010 - The Grange disbands and ceases use of building.
  • 2020 - The building that has housed the Congregational Church, Ashby Academy, Watatic Academy, Ashby High School, the Town Hall and the Grange will be 200 years old.
Town Hall about 1910

Town Hall about 1910

Invitation to 1899 graduation