NEW ALBANY —
Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about the people and events that have shaped the 200-year history of New Albany. Read all installments by clicking on the bicentennial link under the “seasonal content” header at newsandtribune.com
From a one-room log cabin to a huge brick complex spanning almost two city blocks, New Albany residents have always valued education. So much so that in 1853, the town created the first public high school in Indiana. Originally named Scribner High School after the city’s founders, the 160-year-old institution has weathered relocations, sporadic closures and even war. But through it all, the school persevered and remarkably transformed into the New Albany High School we know today.
Back when the Scribners first settled on the banks of the Ohio, having an informed citizenry was at the forefront of their thoughts. Within a year of their arrival, a large log cabin schoolhouse was built at the corner of State and Spring Streets. Other smaller institutions cropped up around town and by January 1821, New Albany felt it necessary to incorporate all of its schools and consolidate their control to a board of managers.
In a 1921 article written for the Indiana Magazine of History, Mary Scribner Davis Collins detailed the early development of education in New Albany. Most importantly, learning wasn’t just a grand notion for the Scribners. They actually put their money toward bringing their ideas to fruition.
“The educational advantages of a city have much to do with its desirability as a residence and New Albany stands in the front rank in this particular,” Davis said. “The founders of the town were zealous promoters of education and a permanent endowment fund of $5,000 was set apart, the interest of which was to go perpetually for school improvement.”
Schools would continue to come and go during the early 1800s. Bucking the trend, in 1853, the city used the accumulation of interest from the endowment fund and constructed Scribner High School on the corner of First and Spring. George H. Harrison was named principal of the institution and its 59 students.