Just as student enrollment has grown over the years, so has the physical campus. When the property on Opening Hill Road was purchased in the 1950s, an iconic building stood at what would become the entrance to campus. Known as the Farmhouse, it initially served as the home of the school’s first headmaster and his family and today serves as an administrative building and meeting space. Built sometime in the 1800s, the Farmhouse, or the building that preceded it in the spot where it now stands, is believed to have a storied history, which students and teachers hope to explore this year.
The early classroom buildings were designed by architect Hugh McKittrick Jones, one of the school’s founders. Arranged in a half-oval pattern facing the Farmhouse, these buildings established a path that would inspire campus planners for decades to come, including Centerbrook Architects, who prepared the school’s Campus Master Plan and, in 2018, oversaw the installation of an oval courtyard, known as the Burt Family Green, to complete the pattern created by the first classroom buildings. The green now stands as the centerpiece of campus, with the Farmhouse on one side and the classrooms, arranged in grade order, on the other. Jones House, one of the original classroom buildings, is named in honor of the school’s initial architect, Hugh Jones. Robinson House is named for longtime French and Headmistress Carol Robinson, and MacLane House is named for David MacLane, the school’s first Headmaster. Other named buildings include:
DeFrancis Gymnasium, named in honor of Katharine de Francis, the school’s first teacher, added in 1966
Clark House, which houses PreSchool, PreKindergarten, and Kindergarten, named in 1972 in honor of longtime early childhood teacher Edith Clark
The Blatchford Learning Center, built and dedicated in 1997 in honor of Edward Blatchford, Head of School from 1986-1997. The Blatchford Learning Center also houses Elmore Library, named in honor of longtime trustee Bill Elmore, who is also the inspiration for our Elmore Leadership signature program.
Over the years, the campus footprint has also expanded. In 1998, the school completed a land swap with the state of Connecticut, an agreement that allowed the school to acquire woodlands surrounding the campus, giving The Country School a 23-acre footprint. Ultimately, that land swap — and the successful 60th Anniversary Shaping the Future Campaign begun in 2015 — enabled the dramatic expansion of our athletic facilities to include two state-of-the art soccer fields, a baseball field, four tennis courts, and a full-size outdoor basketball court.
Earlier gifts resulted in the creation of The Children’s Garden (a great resource for science and STEAM, a space for students to learn about planting, harvesting, and sometimes cooking fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs, and a fabulous outdoor classroom) and an expansive outdoor ropes course in the woods. In 2020, the cross country trail was named in honor of Jordan Katz ’99, who effectively started the cross country program as a student. The trail, greatly enhanced since those early days, serves as the training ground for Country School runners and as the site of a popular Middle School cross country race attended by other local schools.
As a community, we often describe the experience of learning at The Country School as a “classroom without walls.” From the school’s earliest years, students have spent much of the day outside, either during recess (in the 1950s, “recess” involved clearing rocks from what would become the athletic field), on nature hikes through the woods, or because it was a beautiful day and students and teachers simply wanted to be outside. This was never more true than during the pandemic, when most classes and all meals were, and often continue to be, held outside.