History of SUNY Potsdam

From its founding in 1816, the higher education institution known today as The State University of New York at Potsdam has been pioneering in learning and leadership. The College celebrates its bicentennial in 2016, as it prepares to enter its third century of excellence.

This timeline was created in celebration of SUNY Potsdam's bicentennial in 2016. All information and content comes courtesy of the College Archives and Special Collections and the Potsdam Public Museum. Very special thanks to Archivist Emerita Jane Subramanian '72, Virginia Rose Cayey '60 and Crane School of Music Professor Emerita Robyn Hosley, without whose research this timeline would not have been possible.

1783-01-01 20:05:50

Native Heritage

The place we now call Potsdam, N.Y., was inhabited for many thousands of years -- long before European settlers arrived in the Americas.

1786-05-05 14:54:35

Lands Up for Sale

NYS Legislature passes act allowing for sale of lands available for settlement and establishing commission.

1787-05-25 20:36:53

The Ten Towns

Board passes resolution creating 10 towns bordering the St. Lawrence River.

1787-11-18 20:36:53

The Clarksons Purchase Potsdam

After Macomb sold most of the 10 towns to the Constables, they sold the soon-to-be Town of Potsdam to David M. Clarkson & Garret Van Horne.

1799-05-25 20:36:53

First Survey

Surveyors visit the 10 towns, including Potsdam, for the first time since the purchase.

1803-05-25 20:36:53

First Settlement

The Clarksons' land agent, Benjamin Raymond, arrives in Potsdam, soon followed by the first family.

1806-05-01 20:36:53

Town of Potsdam Established

The Town of Potsdam is established, with Benjamin Raymond serving as Town Supervisor.

1810-05-01 20:36:53

Academy Building

Potsdam residents construct the first public building, which served as the school and church - and later housed the Academy as well, on Union Street.

1812-03-10 20:05:50

Rev. James Johnson, First Teacher

The Rev. James Johnson was Potsdam's first pastor and its first teacher, serving out of the building that would later house the St. Lawrence Academy as well.

1812-12-01 20:36:53

Fund Drive for Academy Begins

Funds are raised to establish the St. Lawrence Academy by Potsdam residents.

1813-01-25 20:36:53

Academy Petition Submitted

The formal petition to establish the St. Lawrence Academy in Potsdam, N.Y., is submitted to the New York State Board of Regents.

1816-03-25 20:36:53

Charter Day - Founding

St. Lawrence Academy is officially founded and the first Board of Trustees is established.

1816-09-30 00:00:00

First Classes Begin

Forty-two students arrived, and the first classes began at St. Lawrence Academy.

1816-09-30 20:36:53

Nahum Nixon, First Preceptor

Nahum Nixon, a graduate of Middlebury College, served as the first preceptor and only teacher for St. Lawrence Academy in its first year, leaving in 1817.

1819-09-29 20:05:50

Levi S. Ives, Second Preceptor

Levi S. Ives served as the second preceptor of St. Lawrence Academy, from 1819 to 1923.

1820-09-14 20:36:53

Early to Mid-1800s: Student Life

In the early to mid-1800s, student life at St. Lawrence Academy was limited and rules of conduct were strictly enforced.

1823-03-12 20:36:53

Charles Orvis, Third Preceptor

Charles Orvis served as the third preceptor of St. Lawrence Academy for just one year, from 1823 to 1824.

1824-03-01 20:36:53

Rev. Daniel Banks, Fourth Preceptor

The Rev. Daniel Banks served as the principal of St. Lawrence Academy from 1824 to 1827.

1826-09-01 20:36:53

North Academy Building Opens

A new four-story sandstone building opens to house the growing St. Lawrence Academy.

1827-03-01 20:36:53

Joseph Hopkins, Fifth Preceptor

Joseph Hopkins served as principal of St. Lawrence Academy for one year, from 1827 to 1828.

1828-09-01 00:00:00

Preceptor Asa Brainerd Transforms the Academy

The Rev. Asa Brainerd is named preceptor, and begins to offer special training and a pioneering curriculum for training teachers at the St. Lawrence Academy.

1831-09-01 00:00:00

First Music Teacher

The first music teacher is hired at St. Lawrence Academy.

1834-05-02 00:00:00

State Support for Teacher Preparation

St. Lawrence Academy is designed as one of eight academies across New York State to receive $500 each for the preparation of teachers.

1837-11-01 20:36:53

South Academy Opens

Needing more space for the growing institution, the South Academy is constructed beginning in 1836, on South (now Main) Street. It opens in 1837.

1847-09-09 00:00:00

William H. Parker, Seventh Preceptor

William H. Parker served as preceptor of St. Lawrence Academy from 1847 to 1849.

1849-04-12 20:36:53

William F. Bascom, Eighth Preceptor

William F. Bascom served as preceptor of St. Lawrence Academy from 1849 to 1853.

1853-09-01 00:00:00

Rev. Elijah W. Plumb, Twice a Preceptor

The Rev. Elijah W. Plumb served as preceptor of St. Lawrence Academy, twice. His first stint was from 1853 to 1854, followed by a year in which Henry B. Buckham took the helm. Rev. Plumb returned in 1855 and led the Academy for another decade.

1854-03-01 00:00:00

Henry B. Buckham, Preceptor

Henry B. Buckham served as preceptor of St. Lawrence Academy for just one year, from 1854 to 1855.

1854-09-01 00:00:00

A.P. Bissell, Preceptor

Following Elijah Plumb's tenure as preceptor, A.P. Bissell served as preceptor of St. Lawrence Academy for one year, from 1865 to 1866.

1866-03-01 00:00:00

George H. Sweet, the Last Preceptor

George H. Sweet served as the last preceptor of St. Lawrence Academy, as the institution fought to receive state support to become a Normal School.

1866-04-06 20:36:53

Potsdam Chosen for Normal School

Potsdam was selected as the location of one of the four State Normal Schools established under Chapter 466, Laws of 1866, along with Normal Schools in Cortland, Brockport and Fredonia.

1867-04-27 20:36:53

Academy Becomes Potsdam Normal School

St. Lawrence Academy officially becomes Potsdam Normal School. New York State purchases the campus lands and buildings.

1869-04-01 20:36:53

Potsdam Normal School Opens Doors

The new Potsdam Normal School opens its doors, after the old North and South Academy buildings were torn down to make way for a new facility.

1869-11-04 20:36:53

Malcom MacVicar Named First President

Malcolm MacVicar served as the first president of Potsdam Normal School from 1869 to 1880.

1871-02-07 20:36:53

First Normal Graduating Class

The first Potsdam Normal School class graduates, with two members.

1873-09-01 20:36:53

Alumni Association Founded

The Alumni Association is founded.

1875-09-01 00:00:00

Normal Conservatory of Music Established

The Normal Conservatory of Music is thought to have been established at Potsdam Normal School.

1876-09-21 20:36:53

Amelia Morey, Preceptress

Hired in 1869 as principal of the Intermediate Department, Amelia Morey was later named the Preceptress of the School of Practice.

1879-01-01 20:36:53

First Orchestra Formed

Fred Herrington was the organizer of the first Potsdam Normal School Orchestra.

1881-09-01 20:36:53

Thomas J. Morgan, Second President

Thomas J. Morgan served as president of Potsdam Normal School from 1881 to 1884.

1884-03-01 20:36:53

Julia Etta Crane Returns to Potsdam

Potsdam Normal School hires an accomplished young graduate, Julia Etta Crane, as the head of the music department.

1884-09-04 00:00:00

E. H. Cook, Third President

E.H. Cook served as president of Potsdam Normal School from 1884 to 1889.

1886-09-01 00:00:00

Crane Normal Institute of Music Founded

Julia Crane establishes the first special music teachers' curriculum, and incorporates the Crane Normal Institute of Music.

1889-09-05 00:00:00

Thomas B. Stowell, Fourth President

Dr. Thomas B. Stowell served as president of Potsdam Normal School for a decade, from 1889 to 1909.

1890-04-01 20:36:53

Turn of the Century Student Life

At the close of the 19th century, student life at Potsdam Normal rigidly adhered to rules of conduct. Even so, students found time for social clubs and outings.

1892-09-01 20:36:53

Minerva Statue Donated

The Class of 1892 donates a statue of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, to Potsdam Normal School.

1894-09-01 00:00:00

Phoenix Club Formed

The Phoenix Club women's chorus is formed at the Crane Normal Institute of Music.

1896-09-01 00:00:00

House is Purchased for Crane

A home is purchased to house the Crane Normal Institute of Music.

1897-03-01 00:00:00

Alumni Magazine First Published

The first alumni newsletter, The Normal Magazine, was published in March 1897. Julia Crane was the first editor.

1901-01-17 20:05:50

Train Service to Potsdam

The first train station was built in Potsdam in 1854, and New York Central built a new sandstone depot in 1914.

History of SUNY Potsdam

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