This is another anniversary year for an institution that is dear to the hearts of many Harford Countians.
This year marks the 125th year of the Tome School in Cecil County. We were among those in Aberdeen who graduated from Tome "on the hill" in its last days. We have fond memories of those days.
The Tome School, in its prime days between the beginning of the 20th century and World War II, was one of the poshest of prep schools, drawing students from every corner of the land as well as from abroad and providing academic training as good as the very best.
Most Marylanders had heard of Tome, some for its fine athletic teams, as well as scholastic achievement. But with the coming of World War II in 1941, the Navy bought up the campus on the hill to make it the core of the Bainbridge Naval Training Center, and it was generally believed that Tome had succumbed.
But Tome, in one form or another, has never discontinued operating. There have been ups and downs. But in 1975, there was the dedication of a brand new school in North East.
Tome has a very interesting history. It was started back in 1889 when Jacob Tome, a poor boy who made it big in Port Deposit, created a corporation called the Jacob Tome Institute, whose purpose should be the operation of all schools.
The corporation erected a building, to be called Washington Hall, across the street from Jacob Tome's mansion on Main Street in Port Deposit. Later, it converted the offices of the old Susquehanna Canal Company for a second school building, called Jefferson Hall, and built a gymnasium called Adams Hall.
The school was an immediate success, with students arriving by train from throughout the countryside. Many students from longer distances boarded with private families in the town.
It was perhaps for that reason that in 1901 the trustees of the JTI decided to build a boarding school. They acquired 200 acres on the crest of a nearby hill and in a short time, the Tome School for Boys came to be.
It included seven buildings, including dormitories, all of them in a style reflecting the opulence of the late Victorian era. Frederick Law Olmsted was retained as consultant on designing the grounds. No expense was spared.
The downtown building (Washington Hall) became the Senior School for Girls and local boys mingled with the boarders from afar, attending the "hill school," as it was locally called.
The prestige of the institution can be judged from the fact that one of its headmasters left the presidency of the University of Maine to accept the post there and after leaving Tome, became president of Northwestern University.
In the 1930s, with the Depression, the hill school, with its high tuition, began suffering lowering enrollments, so that by the close of the decade, the trustees were forced to consider closing its deficit, making boarding facilities.
After the outbreak of World War II, the hill was sold to the Navy. Here is where, in the minds of many, Tome ceased to exist. But the sale of the school property actually gave Tome a new lease on life in the form of a new endowment, and it continued operating in the town schools comprising grades 1 to 12.
In 1962, a newspaper friend of ours, E. Ralph Hostetter, a Tome alumnus and publisher of a string of Eastern Shore newspapers, became president of the board. Dr. William Hogue was retained as headmaster, the old buildings were refurbished and a new program was instituted, exclusively college preparatory and nonelective.
The school grew and prospered. After a fire destroyed Jefferson Hall, it became clear that a new modern plant was needed. The issue was settled when E. Ralph Hostetter donated 100 acres he owned near North East. In 1970, ground was broken, and in 1971, the school moved into the first of its new buildings. Long live Tome School!