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History

For nearly two centuries Kimball Union has been preparing young men and women to seek the highest achievements. The school was built to prepare young men for the ministry and, while we still look for students with that same self-discipline, we also strive to build the confidence that will lead others to it.

In the nineteenth century Kimball Union was a co-educational school, with a social life that was integrated with the life of the village of Meriden, where many students were from local farming families. Our current students come from different parts of the world, but we still value our community of young men and women, and we still value our place in a small, friendly village.

Kimball Union’s growth reflected its surroundings in a manner that significantly enhanced the character of the school. Through its first century, when the moral character and classical values of both the local and national culture helped to form the basis of our honor code and course curriculum, to the later years, when the arts blossomed in the Meriden community and simultaneously at the school, we have kept a close relationship to the community that surrounds Kimball Union.

The school on a hilltop in Meriden, New Hampshire has come a long way from its beginnings in 1813. But one thing has not changed: we still offer the best in contemporary education. From a predominantly locally based student body to a school with no international constraints; From forty years as a single-sex institution to a return to coeducation; From seven students to over three hundred; we have grown as a school just as we expect and encourage our students to grow themselves. Because Kimball Union Academy has the experience of many years, but its mission is still young.

We are very proud of our rich history as an educational institution and excited about Kimball Union’s future as we quickly approach our bicentennial celebration in the year 2013. The common thread running through our history has been our sense of place and community. We have always strived to educate the individual and expand their realm of experiences. Kimball Union’s history is what has allowed us to establish such strong traditions and programs. We have created such a strong foundation as a school that we hope you will join us for the exciting future we have in store.
Timeline
1811 John Foord of Piermont, NH, travels to Scotland for theological study. Inspired by a “popular institution, affording gratuitous instruction to candidates for the Christian ministry, in indigent circumstances” he quickly writes home urging his friends to establish a similar institution.

1812 A Council of New England Churches convenes in Windsor, VT, and adopted a constitution “making the new Seminary an academy, whose object should be…To assist in the education of poor and pious young men for the? gospel ministry; and such others as may be admitted by the trustees, subject to pay tuition.”
 Daniel Kimball, a church delegate, offers $6,000 at once and the bulk of his estate, estimated at $32,000, at his death if the Academy would be located in Meriden.
 
1813 The Charter, granted by the General Court of New Hampshire, is signed by Governor J. T. Gilman and Union Academy, named for the union of churches, is born.
 
1815 The First Academy building, largely built by Daniel Kimball’s own hands on his land, is dedicated on the Hilltop on January 9. Classes begin the next day with the first principal, Otis Hutchins, and seven pupils in attendance.
 
1816 Six men become the first graduates of Union Academy. Four women completed the course requirements, but do not receive graduating certificates.
 
1817 Daniel Kimball dies and his name is added to Union Academy in honor of his great generosity.
 
1824 First Academy building, including library, burns to the ground.
 
1825 A Second Academy, built of brick, opens on The Hilltop.
 
1835 Cyrus S. Richards, class of 1831, appointed 4th principal on the day of his graduation from Dartmouth College. During his 36-year tenure, the Academy grows from 50 to sometimes over 300 students and the Academy becomes known throughout New England and beyond for its “high standard of ?scholarship.”

1839
Hannah Kimball bequeaths $10,000 for the establishment of a female Seminary. The trustees and Principal Richards convince her to unite the two schools, “… and to erect the new building as an addition to the old one.”
 
1840 The Third Academy opens in the autumn with “a regularly organized Female Department” and the “immediate care of the young ladies will be committed to a Lady Principal,” but all under the leadership of Principal Richards.
 
1842 The Ladies Department consists 154 students up from 16 females in 1837.
 
1863 Asa Dodge Smith, class of 1826, becomes President of Dartmouth College (1863-1877).
 
1874 Trustees consider moving the Academy closer to a railway town with a larger population in order to increase enrollment.
 
1886 Boston Alumni Associate begins.

1890 Attendance drops to 50 students with the rise of public high schools and tuition costs. A former teacher proposes the “One Hundred Dollar Plan” whereby a student pays only $100 for room, board, fuel, lights and full tuition rights and in exchange? “works cheerfully for one hour each day in the school's kitchen or ?vegetable garden.”
 
1891 The Third Academy catches fire and burns to the ground. The library and other valuables are saved, but “the familiar sweet-toned bell had rung its last call,” the Academy reported.
 
1892 The New Academy is dedicated and named Baxter Hall, in honor of Dr. Edward K. Baxter, class of 1858, who contributed liberally to the building fund.
 
1892 The Bird Village Inn, a large wooden structure, is built and later named Dexter Richards Hall in honor of another great supporter of the Academy.
 
1893 William Jewett Tucker, class of 1857, elected President of Dartmouth College (1893-1909, emeritus 1909-1926).
 
1903 Ernest Everett Just, famed African American biologist, graduates from Kimball Union.
 
1905 Charles A. Tracy, class of 1893, elected 12th headmaster (1905-1935).
 
1910 Bryant Hall, a gift of John D. Bryant, class of 1846, is dedicated.
 
1913 Kimball Union celebrates its 100th anniversary featuring the Pageant of Meriden performed on Pageant Hill (Potato Patch). It was written and directed by famed pageant author William Chauncey Langdon of New York City.
 
1913 Francis Chamberlin Hall Farm given by Trustee Alfred S. Hall, class of 1869, in memory of his son.
 
1914 Charles Lewis Silver Memorial Gymnasium, dedicated in June, is a gift from Henry Mann Silver, class of 1867, in memory of his brother.
 
1921 Baxter Hall is renovated. One of two towers is removed.
 
1924 Barnes Library, now the admissions building, is dedicated.
 
1935 William R. Brewster, class of 1914, elected 13th headmaster (1935-1952). Coeducation phased out as school becomes an all boys’ institution following a trend for single sex schools.
 
1936 The new Dexter Richards Hall rebuilt of brick. Faculty and students work on school farm providing food during the Great Depression and World War II.
 
1952 Frederick E. Carver elected 14th headmaster (1952-1969)
 
1955 Alumni Gym opens with first basketball game played in February.
 
1957 Charles Ransom Miller, class of 1867, Editor-in-Chief of the New York Times, family bequest of $1 million dollars is announced.
 
1963 Kimball Union celebrates its 150th anniversary with dedication of four new buildings including Miller Student Center, Densmore Hall and Tracy Cottage.
 
1966 Fitch Science Hall dedicated in memory of its benefactors, Dr. Emory Fitch, class of 1899, former trustee and school physician, and his wife Marietta.
 
1968 Munro House purchased as new headmaster’s home.
 
1969 John P. Cotton elected 15th headmaster (1969-1974).
 
1974 Thomas M. Mikula elected 16th headmaster (1974-1989). Coeducation reinstated.
 
1978 “Kimball Union Looks Ahead” a $2.25 Million Capital Campaign launched.
 
1980 Elizabeth Dorr Coffin Library, a gift in honor of their mother by David ‘44 and Dexter ‘41 Coffin, is dedicated.
 
1985 “The $10 Million Campaign for Kimball Union” begins. Mikula Hall is built and named at Reunion ‘89 in honor of the headmaster.
 
1988 Whittemore Athletic Center, named for benefactor Fred Whittemore ’49, and Akerstrom Arena, honoring KUA hockey coach George Akerstrom, are ?dedicated.
 
1989 Timothy Knox elected 17th headmaster (1989-2003).
 
1990 The Flickinger Arts Center, a gift from the Flickinger Family, opens with The Mikado as its first theatre performance.
 
1999 Fitch Science Hall renovated with the addition of the E.E. Just Environmental Science Center wing. A new Dining Commons opens on the Quad.
 
2003 Michael J. Schafer appointed Head of School.

2004 Bishop Alumni House, named for faculty members Stephen and Joan Bishop, is dedicated. 
 
2006 Pope Field dedicated. Lower athletic field complex completed.

2007KUA receives it largest gift from anonymous donors - $5 million.
 
2008 New Campus Center below dining commons dedicated.

2009 $38 million IMPACT comprehensive campaign announced.
 
2010 Miller Bicentennial Hall dedicated.

2011 Construction on "The Barn," KUA's indoor field house begins. 
 
Watch the Bicentennial Film
From The Archives
Vist KUA's Archives blog to read Archivist Jane Fielders' "Bicentennial Moments." Check back often for weekly updates.
KUA Archives
Do you have something of historic significance that you would like to contribute to KUA's archive collection, or a question about our school's history? Contact our Archives Department. Email archives or call (603) 469-2066.