On this day in Alabama history: The Atheneum school opened in Birmingham

On this day in Alabama history: The Atheneum school opened in Birmingham
The East Lake Atheneum, 1894. (Dystopos, Bhamwiki)

Oct. 7, 1928

The East Lake Atheneum was a private girls’ school chartered in 1890, built on a hillside and labeled the “Atheneum Eminence.”

The school was organized by Solomon Palmer, a state superintendent of education, with help from trustees of Howard College, which later became Samford University.

The school offered preparatory classes for young women. It opened on Oct. 7, 1928, with 180 students. The next year, there were fewer girls, but enrollment rebounded when, in late 1892, the large brick and stone, Romanesque-style main classroom and dormitory building were completed. The next fall, 212 girls attended. However, the 1893 financial panic – caused by the collapse of railroad financing that set off a series of bank failures – hit the school hard. The Atheneum closed temporarily.

After Palmer died in 1896, the struggling school was headed by J.B. Cumming and later W.S. Weissinger. In 1900, the Atheneum closed and was sold to the Sisters of Charity. There, the St. Thomas Home-on-Hill orphanage operated until 1971. Afterward, the building housed the offices of the Diocese of Birmingham.

Birmingham City Schools bought the property, which became the Ossie Ware Mitchell Middle School in 2006 and still operates today.

Read more at Bhamwiki

Orphans’ Home (formerly the East Lake Atheneum), c. 1906. (Dystopos, Bhamwiki)











For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.

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