EDUCATION HAS BEEN one of the long-standing traditions of the Christian faith, as has service, and what better expression of education and service is there than the Catholic military school. La Salle Military Academy in Oakdale, L.I. was just one of these institutions, founded by the de la Salle Christian Brothers in 1883. The school was actually founded here in Westchester as the Westchester Institute, but moved in 1926 to Indian Neck Hall on Long Island, built by F.G. Bourne (whose upsate shack was Singer Castle on Dark Island) and once one of the largest estates on the Island. The main building was a 110-room mansion overlooking Great South Bay, designed by Ernest Flagg who, coincidentally, was responsible much of the Naval Academy at Annapolis including the great chapel containing the tomb of John Paul Jones, sometime admiral of the United States and Imperial Russian navies.
The setting proved attractive to many wealthy Catholic families of New York and New England and elsewhere in the United States, who sent their sons to La Salle. Among its graduates are a number of congressmen, governors, and even a Latin American dictator. However, the popularity of military education waned during the latter half of the twentieth century and, while other northeastern academies like Valley Forge and New York Military Academy managed to stay the course, La Salle had dropped its military ethos in the mid-1990’s and lacked a fundamental vision. The school closed in 2001; another name to add to the long list of defunct American military schools and – much like Governors Island and the Seventh Regiment Armory – yet another sign of the fading appreciation for the living military heritage of the Empire State.
The 175-acre campus was sold to St. John’s University (interestingly, the only officially Catholic university in all of New York; all others went private so as to be able to accept Federal funding, though their boards usually remain in religious control), which then sold it on to a labor union for use as a conference and training center.
A La Salle student newspaper.
Above: one of the main buildings. Below: three satellite views of the Oakdale campus, from Google Maps.