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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The EFA/Ernie Davis Building
and Joel Dormand Steele’s Effect on Students

By Diane Janowski, Elmira City Historian
©2014 Photo by Denny Smith.

June 26, 2014 brought sadness to alumni of the school building on the triangle of land wedged between Lake, East Clinton, and William Streets. It was the very last day of school at Ernie Davis Middle School, founded as the Elmira Free Academy.

Early in the 19th Century in Elmira (then called Newtown), the first school was private.
There was no thought yet of a “free” education for Elmira’s scholars. Over the next thirty years came several private institutions.

In 1836, few students attended the Baldwin Street Academy, situated in the First Presbyterian Church on East Church Street Church. The New York Board of Regents accredited the academy in 1840. The academic course of study was four years, a suitable preparation for business or college entrance. New York State legislation required this private academy to become a free educational institution. In May 1859, the Elmira Free Academy (EFA), reformed under the jurisdiction of a Board of Education.