NPS - the Cassedy Era

The best source of information on this phase of the Seminary
comes from a series of articles written by Ric Nelson for the

NPS Alumnae Bulletin.
Those articles, and many of the photos which appear here,
are copyrighted by Ric Nelson. 
The photos are used here with his permission.

The Cassedys had the good fortune to be introduced by Seymour Tullock to his cousin, Mary Charlotte Priest. She had recently graduated from Columbian University (now George Washington University). She was the first teacher hired, to teach English. She would stay with the school for 35 years, and eventually become Prefect of Studies and Assistant Dean.
drawing of young lady with parasol During the first year, Ms. Priest began secretly meeting with a few select students in a place they called the "Mouse Hole." They had organized a secret private literary society, Chiopi. When they were found out, Vesta Cassedy became concerned about how exclusion from the club would affect the other students, so she publicly formed another sorority called Geuth-Hebrew Society, and had a clubhouse for it built over the Summer and waiting as a surprise when the 1895 school year began. Most surprised were Miss Priest and the girls of Chiopi. However, Chiopi's own clubhouse was built the year after. Later, the sorority system would expand under Ms. Priest's direction, and would become central to the social training of the students.
In 1895, a financial crisis loomed which threatened to put an end to the new school. It seems that Seymour Tullock had secured a loan from the Portsmouth Saving Bank with the property, and the bank decided to liquidate the loan by claiming the Inn and the land. However, Woodbury Blair and John Lanier interceded by temporarily purchasing the property on the condition that Cassedy would buy it before the lease ran out in June 1887. Cassedy met these conditions ahead of time. In 1903, the Seminary had a new corporate charter and was recapitalized.

The enrollment at the school increased steadily over the first few years.

Students Faculty
1894 48 10
1895 79 19
1897 129 24
1898 190 29
1900 184 30
1901 222 33
1909 279 42
1911 230 42
A large number of buildings went up during these years. Electricity was brought to the school between 1911 and 1914, several years ahead of neighboring Silver Spring.

Along with implementing the Cassedy's educational philosophy at National Park Seminary, many of the customs and traditions that would endure through the remaining decades of NPS were established.

After Vesta Cassedy died of cancer in 1910, John Cassedy gradually lost interest in the school. He began dating a recent graduate of the school, Stephana Prager, and married her in 1912 even though she was 35 years younger than him. He built a fine house for Stephana and himself on 16th Street in Rock Creek Park. Stephana had no interest in helping to run the school, as had Vesta. John was totally infatuated with Stephana, willing to make many sacrifices. In 1916,when he happened to meet the Pittsburgh oilman Joe Trees in Roswell, N.M.(where Stephana had family ties) he was willing to sell NPS.


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This page was last maintained on 05/21/98.