Mount Pleasant Classical Institute

Mount Pleasant Classical Institute in Amherst

Of the many private educational institutions which have opened their doors in Amherst, the most noted, aside from Amherst Academy, was the Mount Pleasant Classical Institute. It was located on the hill at the crux of North and East Pleasant streets, just north of Amherst center. Carpenter and Morehouse described it as being set "in a noble grove of oaks and chestnuts" (271).

The Dec. 27, 1826 issue of the Gazette reported:

"A School is about to be established at Amherst, Mass. after the general plan of the Round Hill School in Northampton. A building 200 feet long, including the wings, and two stories high, is now in a state of forwardness, and will be completed the coming Spring.... It is proposed to receive children at any age between six and twelve years, and continue their instructions till they are prepared to enter the counting-rooms or a college; and, if desired, till they have completed the college course."

In January, 1827, Chauncey Colton and Francis Fellowes, graduates of Amherst College in the class of 1826, issued a prospectus for a classical school which they proposed to establish in Amherst. Classes were organized June 1, 1827, and a chapel was dedicated the following Sunday. The school opened with 68 pupils; the second name on the enrollment was Henry Ward Beecher (brother to Harriet Beecher Stowe), who went on to Amherst College and would later become a prominent preacher and lecturer. The annual charge was fixed at $250, one half payable semi-annually in advance, "with the parents or guardians expected to place a reasonable sum for expenditures" in the hands of the principal.

In addition to Fellowes as principal, 7 instructors taught modern languages, philosophy, English, Latin and Greek, mathematics, and drawing. Rev. Defernex of Geneva, Switzerland was engaged to teach modern languages. Liberato Cardella was listed as instructor in Italian, music, and drawing at the Mt. Pleasant Classical Institute, Amherst, Mass. in May 1831 (Groce 108).

The success of the school was short-lived and the school was closed just 5 years later around 1833. The closure of the school may have had something to do with the outbreak of smallpox among the students in November of 1831. The impressive wings of the building were removed and relocated to other parts of Amherst. One wing was relocated to Pleasant Street where it was used as a tenement house. Supposedly the motley character of the residents encouraged the building to be known as the Bee Hive. Only the central segment of the grand building remained on the Mount Pleasant hill.

Mount Pleasant Institute, a Boarding School for Boys

With the closing of the institute, the building was used for other purposes until 1846 when it was taken over by John Nash. Nash reestablished the property as the Mount Pleasant Institute, a Boarding School for Boys. The Gazette on March 10, 1846 reports, "Boarding School for Boys. The beautiful situation in Amherst known as Mount Pleasant has been purchased by the Rev. John Nash formerly of Pittsfield, but since of Brooklyn, who proposes to open a boarding school for boys on the first Wednesday in May next. Price for tuition including board est. $100 a year."

In later years Nash's son Henry, and then his grandson William, ran the boarding school. The school remained open until the first decade of the 20th century, much longer than Amherst Academy which closed in the 1860s. William Nash, the longest serving principal, later moved to Northampton and worked as a tutor there. His wife was in charge of "Sunnyside", the Smith College Infirmary near Paradise Pond.

The stately building was finally destroyed by fire in 1927. The Gazette for March 15, 1927 reported that "the large frame building which formerly housed the Mount Pleasant Classical Instiutute, where Henry Ward Beecher was once a student, was burned early today. The loss is estimated at $20,000."

View small collections about the Mount Pleasant Institute both at the Jones Library and Amherst College in Amherst, Mass.


Carpenter, Edward Wilton and Charles Frederick Morehouse. History of the Town of Amherst, Massachusetts. Amherst, Mass.: Press of Carpenter & Morehouse, 1896. 271. Available on GoogleBooks.

Groce, George and David Wallace. New-York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America, 1564-1860. New Haven: Yale, 1957. 108.

Manning, Alice. "Mount Pleasant Classical Institute." Amherst Bulletin Jan 17 1979: 16.

Mount Pleasant Classical Institute