The "village of Old Farms" Begins
Founded in 1927, Avon Old Farms School is the creation of Theodate Pope Riddle, Connecticut’s first licensed female architect.
Construction of Avon’s Cotswold-inspired buildings took nearly a decade. Riddle supervised the work, insisting on traditional English methods, with much of the building materials hewn from school property.
“I saw the buildings completely surround the Village Green at Avon–none of which existed at that time. They began moving, coming forward and receding, shifting slightly and finally one of them backed off. Of course there is great joy in this which can never be brought out by any effort.”
Theodate Pope Riddle, Founder
- Theodate's Vision
- The Founder's Era
- A Convalescent Hospital for Blinded WWII Veterans
- Strength and Legacy
- Tradition and Excellence
"Beauty of material and authentic design, yes, but imagine the boys trooping in with muddy boots from the farm and you will see the reason for stone floors and excellently strong and simple furniture!"
Theodate Pope Riddle, 1925
In 1913, Theodate Pope Riddle purchased 3,000 acres of land – an area known as "Old Farms." Theodate designed and built Avon Old Farms school in its distinctive Cotswold Tudor style. Materials used to construct the school were gathered from quarries, fields, and forests on site.
“In her notes on educational policies Theodate explains her desire to create leaders, independent in thought and strong in moral principles.”
Dunlap Smith, n.d.
The Founder’s Era – leading up to World War II – was formative but turbulent, as the school weathered the inevitable growing pains of a young institution while realizing many significant successes.
"Throughout the years, Theo was often asked the question: 'You just live for the school, don't you?' Her answer was always the same. 'No, I don't live for it – it IS my life.'"
Sandra Katz, 2003
In 1944, the Avon Old Farms School was forced to close after years of difficulties. Theodate – an ardent patriot – immediately proposed transforming the property into a refuge for blind veterans to her personal friend, Franklin Roosevelt. The Old Farms Convalescent Hospital gained national prominence, in large part due to its magnificent architecture.
"Go forth, prepared to face any future which may be yours with the courage that comes from being alert to the forces that work in life for success or failure."
Donald W. Pierpont, 1956
Avon Old Farms reopened as a school for boys in 1948. However with no money, endowment, students, or faculty, the school faced major obstacles. The strong leadership and personal dedication of two Headmasters, Don Pierpont and George Trautman, brought Avon Old Farms School through five decades of challenges, with the crucial support of faculty, parents, board members, and the alumni community. In the process, Avon: reestablished a strong foundation; attracted a talented and diverse student body and a dedicated faculty; strengthened the school’s endowment; modernized old buildings, and carefully added new facilities.
"I think that Mrs. Riddle wanted to help boys become men. This is the same thing that Avon is striving for now."
Headmaster Kenneth LaRocque, 2002
Throughout the Pierpont and Trautman tenures, traditions remained central: sit-down meals, coats and ties, regular all-school meetings, and of course, the commitment to single-sex education. Since 1998, Headmaster Ken LaRocque has continued that legacy. Under his leadership, significant new buildings have included the Athletic Complex, the Beatson Performing Arts Center, the Brown Student Center, and the Ordway Science and Technology Center. A strong college-preparatory curriculum is supported by exceptional arts offerings, a broad athletic program, and extracurricular activities that include a well-developed community service program.
In the early years, Avon combined the best of English and American secondary school traditions with Theodate Pope Riddle's progressive ideas about curriculum, fostering initiative, willpower, and individual thinking. Her chosen school mascot, the Winged Beaver, reflects the school’s motto Aspirando et Perseverando, which translates into aspiring and persevering. The wings of aspiration represent the soaring flight of an eagle and perseverance is symbolized in the diligence of a beaver.