Huron Institute/Western Reserve Normal School


One of the things that's clear in the history of this area, is that one person with a vision could change the entire history of a community. In the case of the Seminary Building, Reverend Everton Judson took a timely opportunity for higher education in Milan by raising the money from the citizens of Milan to erect, what at that time, was the only higher education (pre-college) school west of Cleveland in northern Ohio. Located near the corner of Berlin Road and Fay Street (now Edison Street) this three story school building supplied education for 57 years, from the Huron Institute through Western Reserve Normal School, for thousands of students who passed through it's corridors including most of the young adults of the citizens of Milan.

To give a sense of the period, each student was pledged to follow these guidelines:

I will abstain from all intoxicating liquors.
I will not enter a billiard, salon or engage in any game of cards.
I will not indulge in any profane or improper language.
I will endeavor to deport myself in all respects as becomes a lady or gentleman.

What follows are photos of the building taken in the late 1800's and a timeline of the school. And while Milan often treasures it's past, sadly this building is no longer standing. However if you drive into the main entrance of Milan Cemetery off Edison Street, you will see a bench on your left and a boulder behind the bench (shown in photos above and below) which will mark the spot of this historic building which is very much a part of the history of Milan. 


Huron Institute/Normal School Timeline

1831 - Rev. Everton Judson raised $2,600.00 from the citizens of Milan to contribute to a new school being built in Milan - the Huron Presbytery contributed $1,400.00. Judson wrote "Our first object is to train young men for college and our second object is to prepare teachers for our common schools." The town saw the value of an institute of higher learning as a means to bring new families into the town, which would help the area to grow. The Presbytery saw this school as a way of offering higher education to people going into the ministry.  The land, which at that time was off Fay Street (later named Seminary Street and later named Edison Street) was purchased from Daniel and Mary Hamilton for $166.30 for almost 11 acres.

1832 - First classes were held in April of that year at the office of John Smith. And some classes were held at the school during construction later in the year.

1832 - The Huron Institute "Academy Building" was completed in December  of 1832. The floor plan of three stories included 10 classrooms, library room, apparatus room and two public school rooms.

1833 - Tuition charged was $4.00 per quarter, $3.00 for the English & French departments. The citizens of Milan provided board from $1.00 per week. There were 25 students at the end of first quarter, 36 at the start of the second quarter and 90 by the end of the term (46 males/44 females).

1833 - Kneeland Townsend donated 200 volumes to the library of the school.

1835 - Enroll grew to 127 students which were taught by four teachers.

1839 - Bradford Sturtevant, who had two daughters attending Huron Institute, added a second story to his home across the street from the school. That home was thought to be one of the three Stevens houses built for his children in 1829.  

1942 - Average number of students per year was 150.

1850 - Huron Institute closed.

1851-57 - Various schools opened and closed.

1858 - The school building was repaired and remodeled into Western Reserve Normal School* which is a school for the purposes of training teachers. There was also a business section of the school.

1859 - Normal School classes started on January 1, 1859. Tuition is $8.00 per 12 week courses.

1860 - Hamilton Colton's four daughters attended the Normal school studying to be school teachers, music instructors and bookkeepers.

1861 - Thirteen men enlisted, recruited by Shelton Colton, to serve in the Civil War on or about November 8th. Most of them were students from the Normal School.

Various Teachers from the Huron Institute  & Western Reserve Normal School (reunion book)

1867 - 307 students attended the school (179 men - 129 women)

1869 - Photo taken of school with students standing in front of the school.

1872/3 - Enrollment was now 133 students (65 women/68 men) - 4 teachers - 20 Trustees.

1889 - Western Reserve Normal School closed in March.

Note on photos above: Even though the Normal School was closed in 1889, the Milan public school did use the building for a period of time. The closed school photos shows boards over the first story windows, so when these photos were taken, the building was not in use, so likely it was taken closer to the date that the school was torn down in 1909. Note the trees removed from around the school. Also on the closed photo on the lower right, to the right of the photo is the back of the receiving vault at the cemetery which was built in 1886.

1909 - On January 30th, the building was sold to be razed and salvaged.  Winning bid was $131.80 from T. R. Washburn

1910 - On August 17th., the students from Huron Institute & the Normal School meet in Milan to have a school reunion. The page at the top was published in the Official Souvenir Program booklet. At that time, the two top stories of the building were removed and there was a proposal to save the first floor by putting a roof on it and turning it into a Huron Institute museum. They did not follow through with the  proposal and instead they put a ring of trees around the building where the school was located.

Historic photos of the Huron Institute & Normal School reunion in Milan in 1910. The photo on the left is the north side of the square with the center structure being the Wonder Bar building and the photo on the right is the Milan square. Photos courtesy of the Milan Historical Museum.


In 1955, the bell was donated to the Milan Historical Museum.

1910 - The razing of the building was completed. The bricks from the school was used to build two small brick homes in Milan.

1911 - The Milan Cemetery expressed an interest in the Seminary property.

1917 - On May 3rd., the Huron Institute Trustees donated the large school bell to the local Presbyterian Church.  And seven days later, they approved for the property to be donated to the cemetery.

1917 - On June 6th., six years after the cemetery expressed interest in the Seminary property, the property was transferred via a quit claim deed.

1921 - Carrie Hastings provided in her will for the erection of a memorial chapel to be built on the Normal School grounds. The Huron Institute had given the property to the cemetery with the provision that the land be used only as an entrance to the cemetery and as a park area.

1922 - On June 23rd., the Huron Institute Trustees meet and gave permission to the Milan Cemetery to erect the Hastings Memorial Chapel on the Normal School grounds, hence it's location at the entrance of the cemetery.

1932 - On the 100th. anniversary of the school, a memorial plaque honoring the principals of both schools was placed by students on the site of the school onto a boulder.

2009 - On Wednesday, December 2nd. the MilanArea site owner, Ms. Shari Bowers of the Milan Library  and Mr. Tom Reel of the Milan Cemetery association searched for the foundation of the Huron Institute to establish exactly where the building was located and the approximate dimensions of the building. We think we've found it!


* A normal school was a school created to train high school graduates to be teachers. Its purpose was to establish teaching standards or norms, hence its name. Most such schools are now called teachers' colleges; however, in some places, the term normal school is still used. In the United States, the function of normal schools has been taken up by undergraduate and graduate schools of education; the schools themselves were upgraded to universities focused on meeting the needs of the region in which they were located. Many famous universities, such as the UCLA in Los Angeles  were founded as normal schools.


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