Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lake County Profiles: Margaret Marsh St. John - A woman with a vision.

Sitting on the south side of Mentor Avenue as you enter Willoughby, Ohio lies a boarding school that has a story to tell.  Today, the Andrews-Osborne Academy is situated on 300 acres, is home to a 35,600 square foot Field House, and boasts an Equestrian Center second to none.  The real history of the school began in 1846 with the birth of Margaret Marsh St. John.  She was a woman with a vision.  Her vision was to create a school for educating women.  In 1867, a twenty-one year Margaret married a Wallace C. Andrews (age 34).  Andrews was known in Cleveland for his coal, iron, Standard Oil, and railroad businesses.  In time, he even became President of the New York Steam Company.  A tragic fire on April 7, 1899 at their Fifth Avenue New York City home claimed both their lives.  Her will however set into motion a series of Lake County events that span over 100 years.

At the time of her death, a series of legal battles ensued.  Her will indicated a desire for a charitable enterprise ( the former Andrews School) to be established with their remaining fortune.  Citing NY property law, her will was challenged by the Smithsonian Institution, who stood to gain from this tragedy.  Margaret's brother Gamaliel fought for her vision.  From 1899-1909, these legal issues continued and eventually landed on the doorstep of the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Court held in favor of Margaret's vision and on September 19, 1909 a new Lake County, Ohio school for girls was founded.  Classes were held at the Andrews St. John Homested.  Students numbered 81 that fall and some lived in a dormitory located at 40 Euclid Avenue.  October 13, 1909 witnessed the first school superintendent appointment.  Superintendent Sherwood D. Shankland left the Willoughby Schools for a similar role at this private school.  The original fields of study were business, foods (nutrition), merchandising/retail, cosmetology, clothing/textiles, and college prep.  Just four years later  the current site of school became available from the Ward, Harmon,Page, and Squares group.  Adding vineyards, orchards, and a 60,000 tree nursery to the 125 acres coupled with some World War I delays slowed the transition into an educational setting until the 1922 groundbreaking.  The St. John Building was dedicated in 1924.  Margaret's vision had its final resting spot.

The timeline of Andrews-Osborne Academy follows
  • 1929  Five new dormitories are completed  ( Andrews, St. John, Alice Hanscom, House 4, House 5) and Elijah Ward and Kirtland House are rebuilt. Board is $2 per week
  • 1931  The name is changed to Andrews School for Girls
  • 1939  Administration building is added
  • 1956  Van Gorder family estate becomes an infirmary
  • 1970  Library dedication occurs
  • 1972  A School of Fine Arts is built on the property
  • 1987  A Riding Center is opened
  • 2000  The Field House is dedicated
  • 2007  Jerome Osborne Sr. pledges $12 million dollars and the Phillips School (1972) / Phillips-Osborne School (1992) merges the two educational institutions into one K-12 college prep based boarding school.

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