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The 6 Oldest Schools in Maine Are Ancient

Portland Head Light is a historic lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

The 6 Oldest Schools in Maine Are Ancient

Did you know Maine is the largest swath of land within New England? Some 3/5ths of the land is covered in dense forests and national parks. But, they still found plenty of space for schools! Some of the oldest schools in Maine are quite old! Many of these beautiful schools are still very much open to students. The state continues to dedicate resources to its students and educational offerings. Maine was established as the 23rd State as part of the Missouri Compromise in 1820. But the oldest schools in Maine were established even before this. In fact, Fort George of Maine was established in 1607. This was the same year as the founding of Jamestown, Virginia (via History.com).

So let’s talk more about the schools that opened, and have stayed open, in the great state of Maine. These schools are especially significant because even by the 1800s in Maine, only 161 towns had been incorporated. This meant schooling options were rather limited. The fact that these schools were started so early, when there was so much else going on, shows that education really did matter (via Maine.gov). You’ll learn some of these schools' history as well as what they offer young students today. By the end of this post, you’ll be thoroughly briefed on some of the oldest schools in Maine. Let's see just how truly ancient they are. Happy reading! 

Berwick Academy, 1791

31 Academy Street, South Berwick, ME 03908

We'll start with the oldest; for this list, it's Berwick Academy. Berwick Academy first opened its doors in 1971. It took the locals of the nearby settlements to raise enough money for the school, and once it was established, it started as a private school for boys. It became co-ed in 1828 and served as the local public school from 1886-1955. A middle school was added in 1971, and an arts center, a science center, and a gymnasium were all built over the years.

Modern-day Berwick Academy is once again private, but with a vast curriculum and offerings for grades K-12. They have an 80-acre campus, an enrollment of just below 600 students, and a student-teacher ratio of 8:1. Their website mentions that some 45% of their students receive some form of financial aid, and they strive to help students from all backgrounds receive a quality education.

Fryeburg Academy, 1792

745 Main Street, Fryeburg, ME 04037

Fryeburg Academy opened on the heels of Berwick Academy and is also one of the oldest schools in Maine. It's notable that they were open to female students much earlier than some of the other schools in the state. Before it was a proper schoolhouse, the values of Fryeburg Academy were taught in private homes with groups of children. In 1777, the money was raised for a schoolhouse, and the school opened in 1792.

The modern Fryeburg Academy was built in 1853 and features a beautiful campus equipped with student resources. Enrollment includes about 600 students, with many of those students boarding on campus. Fryeburg Academy offers in-depth AP courses, college preparatory classes, and numerous other educational opportunities. There are 19 varsity sports teams, lots of clubs, and signature programs including the Outdoor Learning and Research Center, ESOL, and an Arts Certificate Program.

Notable Fryeburg Academy Alumni

If your child graduates from Fryeburg Academy, they'll join these notable figures on Fryeburg's alumni list:

  • Spalding Gray, actor, novelist, and monologist
  • Joseph M. Harper, former U.S. Representative
  • David S. Rohde, investigative reporter and Senior Executive Editor, National Security, for NBC News
  • James W. Ripley, former U.S. Representative
  • John W. Dana, 19th and 21st governor of Maine
  • Casey Sherman, bestselling author
  • David Woodsome, Maine Senator
  • Anna Barrows, pioneer in home economics education
  • James Farrington, former U.S. Representative

Washington Academy, 1792

66 Cutler Road, East Machias, ME 04630

Established the same year as Fryeburg Academy, Washington Academy was signed into being by John Hancock, the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It started as just classes that were held at the local tavern and the Masonic Hall. While the school was very much in practice through the late 1700s, it didn't get a proper building until September 8th, 1923. It's still a functioning high school.

The modern campus is co-ed and has both day students and boarding students as part of its community. They've expanded their athletic fields, classrooms, and digital resources to cater to the needs and growing minds of their current class of students. Washington Academy offers AP and college courses, as well as a center for Dynamic Learning. This center works to fit the educational needs of every child, no matter how different or varied. 230 years old and going strong, this is one of the oldest schools in Maine!

Notable Washington Academy Alumni

As one of the United States' oldest schools, Washington Academy has a strong list of notable alumni. These include:

  • James Savage, one of the founders of the first chartered savings bank in the United States
  • Alfred Stone, architect who designed a number of prominent Rhode Island buildings
  • John C. Caldwell, Civil War general and American diplomat
  • Frederic Talbot, businessman who founded Pope & Talbot, a lumber company
  • Frederick A. Pike, a former U.S. Representative
  • George S. Grimmer, Canadian politician
Group of high school students sitting in classroom and writing in notebooks.
At many of these schools, students can take college preparatory and AP-level classes.


Lincoln Academy, 1801

81 Academy Hill, Newcastle, ME 04553

Lincoln Academy was first chartered in 1801 but opened its physical doors in 1805. At first, they had some 74 students. At first, the school was considered a preparatory school for future attendees of Bowdoin College. Therefore an entrance exam was required. This ended in the 1930s and Lincoln Academy welcomed many students into their now-public school status. In the 1970s its private school status was reinstated, and to this day it serves as a secondary school to the excellent students of Maine.

The current-day Lincoln Academy has some 600 students in its community, as well as international students as part of its boarding program. It offers a thorough and thoughtful curriculum, lots of extra-curricular activities, sporting options, and more. Check out the website to learn more about LA.

Notable Lincoln Academy Alumni

Lincoln Academy has several notable alumni that it can boast about, including:

  • Edwin Flye, a Maine politician and shipbuilder
  • Jessica Delfino, singer and songwriter
  • Glenn Chadbourne, artist known for his horror and fantasy book cover work
  • Ryan Gaul, actor
  • Cameron Reny, member of the Maine Senate
  • Anna Belknap, actress

George Stevens Academy, 1803

23 Union Street, Blue Hill, ME 04614

The George Stevens Academy is a secondary school that has been around and functioning since the early 1800s. Originally called Blue Hill Academy, this school moved locations in 1832 and a better, brick building was set in its place. They introduced a music program starting in 1805, and the school itself was named for George Stevens, a man who had moved to Blue Hill, Maine from Massachusetts. Stevens took quite an interest in the schooling efforts of the youth of Blue Hill, Maine. He even ran a music school for a short time, along with being a merchant, cotton-mill owner, and shipbuilder (via Maine Memory).

The modern Geroge Stevens Academy is a high school that has an enrollment of just under 300. These are both local and international students. There are some 150 college preparatory classes offered as well as honors and AP courses. Some unique programs include Culinary Arts, Ocean Studies, and Outdoor Leadership excursions. They also have numerous clubs, activities, and extracurricular offerings.

Thornton Academy, 1811

438 Main Street, Saco, ME 04072

Thornton Academy encompasses both a middle school and a high school, serving grades 6-12. First opening its doors in 1811, this is one of the oldest schools in Maine as well as one of the oldest independent schools in the nation. It was co-ed early on, and open to students ages 11-20 years old. School went on throughout the entire year and lasted 6 hours in the winter and 8 during the summer. Early course offerings included classical students, performance arts, history, and mathematics.

Exchange programs were offered through the school starting in 1962, which enabled international students to study here. Thornton Academy first offered computer courses as early as 1974 and continued to teach cutting-edge curricula throughout its foray into the 21st century. The boarding program first opened in 2007, offering students a more in-depth education, but keeping the standards up for day students as well.

Today's Thornton Academy boasts NEASC accreditation for the highest quality of education. It has a student-teacher ratio of about 11:1, 50+ sports offerings, 30+ art courses, and instruction in 7 different languages. There are some 200+ courses available at the school, and 28 AP courses open to anyone.

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