The Jacksonville Female Academy was located on the 400 block of College Avenue. I say “was” because it was demolished to make way for the Jacksonville High School gymnasium in the 1950s.
There are countless photos and etchings of the building’s exterior, but the interiors are mostly left to the imagination. Why should we care what the interior looked like? There’s much to be gained from knowing what students kept in their rooms, how classrooms facilitated student learning, and how the decor reflected domestic ideals. In 1890, school administrators advertised recent renovations by including interior sketches in the catalog. Why sketches? Flash photography was still a novelty in 1890, making interior photographs nearly impossible in rooms without natural light. At the very least, though, parents could rest assured that their daughters would enjoy modern conveniences such as clean, municipal water (which ran hot and cold), steam heating and ventilation systems, a telephone, and close proximity to a professional fire fighting service (complete with “fire engines, hose, hook and ladder”). Such conveniences impart middle class sensibilities to prospective students and their parents by emphasizing the fitness of the facility as much as the rigor of the academic program. This is perhaps best evidenced by the sketches of three parlors and “The Glass Room” compared to two small sketches of classrooms. Interestingly, there are no people in the sketches of sunny, tidy rooms. Take that for what you will. If you would like to read the entire catalog, you can download the entire PDF here.