Built on a Legacy of Tradition

In 1967, parents on the Eastern Shore founded St. James Day School, housed in Fairhope’s Episcopal Church. Three years later, when the St. James community wished to expand the school above the first grade level, the Daphne property of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart became available, and a county-wide drive to establish Bayside Academy was formed. The school opened in September 1970, with classes from kindergarten through eighth grade, with David M. Smith as Head of School and John A. Robertson as chairman of the Board of Directors.

The 20-acre campus is steeped in history. Andrew Jackson and his troops camped in the area during the War of 1812. The first permanent residents, Captain and Mrs. William Howard, built what is now the Main Building as their home in 1837 after Captain Howard retired from his sailing voyages from Mobile to London. Mrs. Howard is credited with naming the area “Daphne” because of the number of laurel trees on the grounds. Within a few years, the Howards had converted the home into a hotel, and the natural springs from which the Captain had gotten water for his voyages were a drawing card for summer guests. Many of them were people from Mobile and New Orleans hoping to escape yellow fever epidemics here. The property was shelled during the Civil War, and grapeshot fragments from the Battle of Mobile are in the school archives.

Shortly after Captain Howard’s death, the Dryer family bought the property and continued its use as a hotel. The grounds were also the site of county court sessions when Daphne was the county seat. This period also marks the first use of the land as a school. The Dryers employed a governess and converted one room into a classroom for their four children and others in the community. During this time, there were four dependency buildings for guests, a dance pavilion on the southwest corner of the front lawn, and a commercial ferry dock and trolley track. A Mobile family, the Morrells, bought the property in the 1940s but soon sold it to the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, a Catholic teaching order that used it as a boarding school. The property remained with the Brothers of the Sacred Heart until the formation of Bayside Academy.

In 1971, Bayside added its first high school class, which graduated in 1975. Since its opening, 27 classrooms, three offices, two science laboratories, a computer center, two gymnasiums, a media center, an athletic field house, an early childhood center, a new classroom building, and a theatre complex have been built. In 2000, the school purchased 22.25 acres on Highway 64 from the Defilippi family and added the Bayside Academy Sports Complex.