Bennett College

Colleen Drew

Highland Village, United States

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Copyright © Colleen G. Drew

Bennett College, located in Millbrook, New York
Featured in All About New York State

Bennett College was founded in 1890 at Irvington, New York by May F. Bennett. In 1907 the college moved to its final home on 22 acres (89,000 m2) in Millbrook, Dutchess County, New York. In 1907 the school had an enrollment of 120 students and a faculty of 29. Originally named The Bennett School for Girls, the course of study was six years (four years of high school and two years of higher study). In the early 20th century the school discontinued high school courses and became a junior college only. The two-year curriculum continued through the 1970s. Generations of young women from prominent American families attended Bennett over its 90-year history.1

Majors of study included art, fashion design, interior design, music, modern languages, literature, history, dance, drama, child development, equine studies, and domestic science. Activities at Bennett included gymnastics, golf, tennis, horseback riding and skiing. The school was home to a full-time teaching Nursery School for 3 and 4 year olds as well as a riding stable.

At the time of its closing, enrollment was around 300 students.

The main building of Bennett College, Halcyon Hall, was built in 1893 by H. J. Davison Jr., a publisher from New York. The 200-room Queen Anne structure was designed by James E. Ware. It has five stories, a basement and sub-basement. Originally built as a luxury hotel, the building became home to Bennett College in 1907 after the hotel failed to catch on. The Bennett campus also included a chapel, stables, dormitories, an outdoor theater, and the Kettering Science Center, a state of the art building completed in late 1972. The cost of constructing the science building (needed to comply with new state science education requirements), along with other campus upgrades, contributed to the school’s bankruptcy.

Halcyon Hall was never reopened and quickly fell into ruin. When the heat was turned off, water pipes burst, causing major water damage throughout the building. Large portions of the roof have collapsed and trees can be seen growing through parts of the building. Halcyon Hall remains in this state as of 2013. Several attempts were made in the 1980s to develop the property but all failed and the title was taken over by Mechanics and Farmers Savings Bank.3 The bank failed in 19914 and its assets were seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Halcyon Hall was scheduled to be demolished in 2012.5

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