From the Second Building to the Closing of the School
In Spring 1868, the second structure was built at a cost of $35,000-$40,000- $10,000 more expensive than the original structure. In it, Oramel built a huge auditorium with dressing rooms at one end with a stage, beautiful curtains, and painted backdrops designed by a New York artist. A gallery in the rear had frescoes adorning the walls and ceiling with lavish recitation rooms and living rooms. Two lions, a stag, and a harp weathervane graced the front of Music Vale.
A journalist commented on his experience while attending a performance at the new Music Vale Seminary stating,
“When we were ushered into the
reception hall filled with such a splendid array of beauty, grace and
loveliness we could scarcely imagine that it was all real, but our minds
reverted to the stories in the Arabian Nights Tales, and we were half inclined
to believe the whole a dream. We might as well attempt to describe on paper the
beauties of the rainbow as to give a description of the entertainment. There
was not a poor singer among them, and what was really surprising was the
admirable discipline under which they performed. We left the hall gratified
with what we had heard and fascinated with what we had seen.”
In September 1876 as a result of Oramel Whittlesey’s death and a significant drop in enrollment the school closed.
The significant drop in enrollment can be explained both as a result of the Civil War and also as a result of the changing view of women in the twentieth century. In the nineteenth century the idea of separate spheres, or the “women’s sphere” existed in which women were expected to stay in the safety of the home while men ventured out exposing themselves to the evils of the world in the workforce and society. While women were kept at home they were expected to handle a number of domestic responsibilities including raising
children and tending to the household which would convey to others a level of status. For women in the nineteenth-century entertaining was a household responsibility. If a woman could entertain company in the parlor by playing guitar, harp, or piano it promoted the family’s social status by showing that the family was wealthy enough to provide music lessons. The fact that a woman had the time to receive education meant that they were wealthy enough to have someone else tending to the home and family’s income. In the twentieth century a changing economy and the emergent middle-class caused women to discontinue parlor activities and enter the workforce. With more freedom, equality and responsibility for women the idea of separate spheres no longer existed. Because
women were no longer expected to entertain and project a particular standing to others there was less of a need to have a “piano girl” in each home.
On March 16, 1897 the school, “gloriously departed in flames” as reported in a local newspaper. A fire destroyed the second ornate building leaving only a barn and the “Little Red Cottage” once owned by Oramel Whittlesey’s father Rev. John Whittlesey.