UTICA FREE ACADEMY
After much controversy regarding a site for an Academy building it was resolved that two lots, valued at $500 each, offered by John R Bleecker and Charles E. Dudley on what is now Bleecker Street adjacent to Chancellor Square, would accommodate the structure to be financed via public subscriptions.
There were over 100 students enrolled in 1840, necessitating an unprecedented force of five teachers. In 1858 the school enrollment was 214 with most students coming from Utica and its environs, however, also from throughout the state and indeed throughout the country. On March 27, 1865 the building burned and operations were suspended during its reconstruction. The school reopened in 1870, with its last year of operation in 1907.
Kemble Street, is the most remembered UFA edifice. The Building was an imposing structure, standing in the center of a spacious lot. It was in the classic Corinthian style and the materials used were light colored brick, and lime stone. The mason had completed the work and the carpenters had little to do besides laying the floors when fire damaged the not-yet-completed, four-level structure on April 5, 1898, gutting the building and disintegrating its roof.
Reconstruction work began immediately, and on September 11, 1899, the new Utica Free Academy opened its doors to students. The building that was thought by some, but not all, to be of sufficient size to last for generations without the need for modification, a wonderful educational enhancement for the city as it entered the 20th century.
On April 27, 1908, fire struck again, this time after the school had been occupied for almost a decade. The rebuilt school would be capable of accommodating up to 850 students, larger but not sufficiently large to handle the rapid population gains then existing. By 1912, stretched beyond its limits, it was necessary to reduce the numbers of freshman coming to the Academy each year. In 1917, the school was again enlarged, doubling its size.
After the 60s, there was a steady decline in Utica's population, and with this decline, came a corresponding decrease in high school enrollments. In 1987 it was proposed that both Proctor and Kennedy high schools would become junior high schools and making the UFA facility Utica's only high school. The high school retained its name, Utica Free Academy, but later that same year, it was changed to Utica Senior Academy.
It took only a couple of years to determine that the Kemble Street facility was not the best choice for Utica's only high school, because this was the oldest of the three high schools and the only one without room for expansion. By 1993 the Kemble Street facility was sold at auction and the building itself postured to become an assisted-living campus for senior citizens with facilities for skilled nursing services for those in need of special care. It opened in the summer of 1995, known as the Loretto Utica Center, administering to the opposite end of the age scale than it did when it was a high school. And, thus Utica Free Academy was no more.