Scarborough "Country Day" School

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New Additions: Reminiscence: Photos; In Memoriam

"We love the woods, the brook,

The sky of azure blue..."

The Scarborough School was created by Mr. and Mrs. Frank A Vanderlip in 1913, toward the end of the golden age of private philanthropy. On a "grand tour" of Europe the successful businessman and his wife had met Italian educator Maria Montessori and were deeply impressed with her and her methods. They wanted to make the possibility of an education based on those methods available to their own children and those of their friends.

That year there were 12 children and they were taught by an assosciate of Mme. Motessori who was invited to the United States for the purpose. The school was housed in the home of Mrs. Edward Harden, "Broadoak," in Tarrytown, NY. By 1914 the enrollment had doubled, and the school relocated to the studio building , which had been the carriage house and servants quarters on the Vanderlip's estate, "Beechwood" in Scarborough. Originally built in 1803, it had been renovated as a beautiful shingle-style Victorian structure.

Radcliffe College graduate Miss Elizabeth Dean was hired as the Headmistress, and the school was known as "Miss Dean's School." The school operated out of this space for two years, and the lower school continued to be housed there until the building was destroyed by fire in 1959. In addition to classrooms for grades 1-3, it was also home to the shop program, elementary science and the art program.

The Main Building, known as Vanderlip Hall, was designed by architect Willaim Welles Bosworth, who was best know for his part in the restoration of Versailles. It was considered breathtakingly modern at the time of its construction. The center-piece of the building was the "Beechwood Theater," a 3/4 scale model of the Music Box Theater in New York City, equipped with what was then state of the art technology.

Over the door to each aisle was mounted a carved marble plaque with one of the school's two mottoes. Over the right -hand aisle was inscribed: "Life Is For Service" and over the left, "Manners Maketh Man. Between the doors (and opposite the main entrance to the building) was a huge, antique, carved bench imported from Europe by the Vanderlips and given to the school. It was a tradition that only Seniors were allowed to sit on the bench or store their belongings in the compartments under the lift-up seats.

The two wings housed classrooms for the upper school - grades 7 - 12. Most classrooms were on the main floor and also served as homerooms for the High School Classes, with the 7th and 8th grades in two classrooms on the third, which also housed the library, whose windows overlooked the front entry.

Grades 4 - 6 were on a lower floor that was below grade on the front of the building, but opened out onto the grade of the sloping site to the rear. There was also a lower school library and an art room there.

In the 1960s, a renovation added science labs and a kitchen, and moved the lower school to a newly built structure in an adjacent lot, part of a grant of about 14 acres of their estate that the Vanderlips had made to the school in 1932. That gift had also included playing fields and grounds around the buildings

The school's fortunes varied over time. Although it was able to remain solvent through the depression, enrollment remained small and fluctuated. Dr. F. Dean McClusky took over the Headmaster duties from a line of four who served in that position from 1917 - 1928. With the addition, under his tenure, of both a pre-school and a boarding department, the enrollment rose to its highest peak, 367 students in 1929.

Graduating classes never reached much more than 20- 30 students, and with rising costs and less support from private philanthropy, the school struggled through the difficult decade of the 1940s. The accession of Thomas C. Schuller to the Headmaster's position in 1951 ushered in a new era of success. Tapping into the burgeoning commuter community that was reinvigorating Westchester County and taking the place of the wealthy captains of industry like Vanderlip himself, Schuller attracted a new constiuency to support the school.

The loss of the Studio building in 1959, however, required the taking on of a considerable burden of additional long-term debt. Although in the first several years of the 60s the expense seemed to be affordable, as the 60s gave way to the 70s the popularity of boarding schools skyrocketed, and that of the "Country Day" schools (a sobriquet Schuller had unoficially added to the school's name in the early 50s) waned. The lower-school was the more sucessful part of the program, but with limited class sizes - which was a part of the school's philosophy and appeal - it was impossible to generate sufficient income to meet ever- rising costs.

Adminstrators, faculty and the board of trustees struggled to find a way to keep the school financially viable, but in the end, in the early 1980s, it became clear that the only way to deal with the massive debt under which the school was struggling was to close it and sell the property. Scarborough had, at that time, been in operation for almost seventy years.

I attended Scarborough from half-way through my third-grade year, in 1953-54 through my freshman year in 1959-60. After two years spent living away in a boarding school, I returned to graduate with my class in 1962-63. Of my graduating class of twenty-two, two were "lifers" - had been in the school since first grade - four of us had been together since third grade, and about ten of us since sixth. The intimacy of the school, the personal contact with the teachers, the long-term relationships with teachers and other students, fostered a sense of community that was very conducive to learning.

The love for learning, for experimentation, the atmosphere of mutual respect and support, civilized and inspired me. The education I got there, the teachers under whose influence I fell, the incredible respect for the process of education and the resulting committment to self-education I developed have influenced my whole life.

I'm putting this document on the web in hopes that others from the far-flung Scaborough diaspora may find it and respond. There is already an active Scarborough School Alumni Association. To find out more, click on their link. I look forward to hearing from all who visit - and to the remembering, preserving and rekindling of the spirit of Scarborough.

Thoughts, reactions, ideas, complaints and hopefully most especially contributions germane to this site can be sent to me. I'm Ned Depew, Class of 1963