St.John's Military School: Only A Memory
from: "Westchester Today"
Saturday, December 7, 1963

Catholic parochial school youngsters in Ossining now learn and play on property that for more than 100 years housed a boy's military academy.
No trace of the St. John's Military School buildings remains. The structures were razed after St. Ann's Catholic Church bought the land in 1955 to erect it's first parish school.
The military school, which closed its doors in 1948, was between Eastern Avenue and Elizabeth Street on a hill 250 feet above the banks of the Hudson River and, according to an 1897 school catalog, commanded "one of the finest views of the river from the highlands on the north of the Palisades on the south."
The sane source lists six buildings, all of brick, "built for comfort and safety." Included in the plant were chapel, dining room, reading room, library, bedrooms and "parlor." There was a swimming tank "supplied with running water" which could be heated "by steam."
Moral character was a necessity for entrance. In the late 1800's, "parents desiring to enter boys over 14 will kindly forward testimonials of good character from their last schools." Boys 8 to 18 studied at the school. In the 1940's, during the final years of the school, admission was open to boys "of good moral habits."
During the earlier period of the school, youngsters had to come equipped with "Bible and prayer book, napkin ring, bathrobe and slippers, mackintosh and umbrella, sponge and nail file, bag for soiled clothes and gymnasium shoes."
In 1943 they had to come provisioned with six napkins in addition to the napkin ring. Among other items the new students were expected to arrive with a pair of suspenders and a knife and fork.
Military drill was of course a mayor item in the day's regimen at the school, though not from the beginning of the use of the property. Originally owned by the Brandreth family, the land was bought in 1836 and a girls' school- Mout Pleasant Female Academy ­ was started.
After this school failed, the property was bought by Levi Jackson who operated a hotel, the Mountain House, there.
First use of the land for a military school was in 1843 by Marlborough Churchill. He named it Churchill School of Sing Sing (the name of what is now Ossinig). The name was changed to St. John's Military School in 1869 when the Rev. J. Breckinridge Gibson became headmaster.
The Rev. J. Breckinridge Gibson was succeeded in 1899 by William A. Ranney, and then by his son William A. Ranney jr. who remained as headmaster until the school's closing in 1948.
After the school was closed, only the armory on the property was in use. The armory had been used by the Naval Militia from 1914 to 1945. The state leased it from 1949 until 1958 for its National Guard unit, Co. A, 101st Signal Battalion, and, for a time, Company E, 71st Infantry Regiment.
Wreckers demolished the structures in 1958 to make way for a parochial school for St. Anne's Church, which had bought the property. During the course of the demolition, a fire broke out in the armory.
The parochial school, with a rectory and convent and $800,000 project, was dedicated May 8th 1960 by Francis Cardinal Spellman, archbishop of the New York Archdioceses. The structure contains eight classrooms and a kindergarten, faculty rooms, medical room, an all purpose room (gymnasium and auditorium with adjoining kitchen facilities). The school opened in September 1959, with kindergarten and three grades, and has been adding a grade each year since.
Also on the property is a convent built to accommodate 11 sisters. There is an enclosed garden back of the buildings and a large second floor terrace. A new rectory for priests of the parish was also constructed at the west end of the property


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