St. Lawrence Academy


Postcard of Potsdam Normal School. Diane Snyder private collection.

St. Lawrence Academy was founded in 1816 in Potsdam by Benjamin Raymond.  It has since become State University of New York at Potsdam.  It was one of the first 50 colleges in the United States and had the first normal school program in New York.  The first diploma in teaching was given in 1836 and began the school’s longstanding excellence in teacher education.[1]  After New York State Legislature was passed to establish normal schools, one was founded in Plattsburgh and St. Lawrence Academy officially became the Potsdam Normal School in 1867. 


Normal Schools


Unknown photographer. Front of the Normal School. SUNY Plattsburgh special collections. 

The Plattsburgh Normal School was established in 1890 and has since become the State University of New York at Plattsburgh.[1] The concept of the normal school signaled the beginning of teaching being elevated in status to a profession.  Before normal schools, teaching responsibilities were handed off to the most deserving eighth grade graduate.  The Potsdam Normal School was the first normal school established in the North Country and was not officially recognized as a normal school until New York State passed legislature.  Teachers became more well respected once there was a standard for education they had to complete before educating others.  By the end of the 20th century, becoming a teacher required much more licensing. At this point salary was beginning to be determined based on education level and professional development.[2] 

Plattsburgh Normal School Fire

In 1929, there was a fire at the Plattsburgh Normal School.  It began in the boiler room and destroyed the entire school.  The building was demolished within and hour and plans to replace Normal Hall were drawn up within a few days. [1]

Suggested Reading

1. Donkin, Richard. The History of Work. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

This book discusses the origins of the concept of work and how it has evolved through history. I would recommend this book to anyone who is deeply interested in how work has been defined since the beginning of time. It is a detailed history and includes a lot of interesting analysis of the concept of work. Donkin provides a lot of examples of different tasks that can be categorized as work and how they have changed over time. It is a lengthy book but is worth the read for anyone interested.

2.  Feiereisel, Amy. Amy Feiereisel to North Country Public Radio newsgroup, "North Country at Work: Memories of Teaching School," September 11, 2016. Accessed April 24, 2017.….

The series North Country at Work published by North Country Public Radio is a great read. This particular article explores teaching in the North Country in fairly recent history. It includes some pictures and is a very interesting article. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a short and sweet look back into the history of education in the North Country.

3. Hudson, George Henry. Campus school- Primary Class. 1850. Photograph.

This citation is for the header image on this webpage. It is a spectacular collection and can be refined by artist, keyword, year, etc. The images are amazing quality and are very interesting to browse through. Each image has a little bit of information about the subject matter and the artist. I would recommend looking through this database to anyone interested in visual history because there is less reading and a lot more actually seeing what was happening in the past. 

Contributor Biography


Walgreen, Kelly. Sarah on Children's Island, Marblehead, MA. 2016.


Unknown photographer. Celia Parkhill, aged 20. Canton, NY. Diane Synder private collection.

My name is Sarah Vogel and I am a History major at St. Lawrence University.  I’m from Swampscott, Massachusetts which is right on the coast and 20 minutes north of Boston.  I absolutely love dogs.  I am a sophomore here at St. Lawrence University.  My specialty in my history major is the American Revolution era and my minor is Government.  I love studying History especially in an area with such a rich history.  I am also on Executive Board of Chi Omega Epsilon Kappa chapter, so I get to do a lot for my sorority.  I am in Student Alumni Association which is a great organization on campus that connects students with alumni.  I chose the topic of history of education in the North Country because my 5th great grandmother was one of the first teachers in Canton.  She learned how to become a teacher at the Potsdam Normal School. Her name was Celia Parkhill and she is pictured left, aged 20 years old. 


St. Lawrence Academy 

[1] Wikimedia Foundation, "State University of New York at Potsdam," Wikipedia, accessed April 24, 2017,

Normal Schools

[1] Encyclopaedia Britannica, "Normal School: Teacher Education," Encyclopaedia Britannica, last modified 2009, accessed April 24, 2017,

[2] Plexuss, "About SUNY College at Plattsburgh," Plexuss, accessed March 14, 2017,

Plattsburgh Normal School Fire

[1] Wikimedia Foundation, "State University of New York at Potsdam," Wikipedia, accessed April 24, 2017,