A Brief History
Avon Old Farms School was founded by Theodate Pope Riddle,
Connecticut's first licensed female architect. Theodate's imaginative
genius as an architect and her vision and determination to create a
school for boys, combined with her personal wealth, made possible the
founding of the school in 1927. Influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and the ideals of the old New England farm, Theodate designed and supervised the building of her vision over a span of 10 years, from 1918-27, which cost her over $7,000,000 to complete.
The original stone and oak architecture
is modeled after English Cotswold and Tudor styles using traditional
English methods with many of the materials hewn from the school's
school sits upon 1,000 acres of rolling woodland, with the
Farmington River to the east and picturesque Beaver Pond laying just a
short walk south of the core campus. The center of campus includes a
beautiful vista overlooking the Farmington Valley toward Avon Mountain.
founding years, Avon combined the best of English and American secondary school traditions
with a daring and radical modern curriculum, and the school found many
early successes despite facing the challenges of being a young institution. However, Mrs. Riddle, a passionate patriot and personal friend of FDR's, closed the school during World War II so it could serve as an oasis for blinded Army veterans. The Old Farms Convalescent Hospital, as it was called, gained national prominence for Mrs. Riddle's architectural masterpiece.
Avon re-opened as a boys' school in
1948. However, with no money, no endowment, no students, and no
faculty, the institution faced major obstacles. Through the
leadership of headmasters of Don Pierpont, George Trautman, and Ken
LaRocque, and Board Chairmen F. Reed Estabrook Jr. '36, Peter Aron '65, Rolf Olson '59, and Dean Graham '84, in addition to the efforts and support of countless board members, alumni,
parents, and friends of the school, Avon Old Farms continues to stand strong and proud as a boys' school today.
The school has grown from 48 boys at its opening in 1927 to a full
capacity of 400 boys in grades 9-12 and postgraduates. The campus
offers superb facilities, including a new student center and
athletic field house as well as an NHL-quality ice hockey arena. The Ordway
Science and Technology Center was completed in 2002, and the new
Beatson Performing Arts Center opened in March of 2007. The school mascot is the winged beaver, which reflects the school’s motto, “Aspirando et Perseverando,” from the Latin, to aspire and to persevere.
Aron '65, then Board Chairman, wrote on occasion of the
school's 75th anniversary, "We have filled and overflowed Mrs. Riddle's
original buildings, and have continued to build. By any measure, we are
very different today - academically, athletically, socially - as a
reflection of a very different society. Yet certainly Mrs. Riddle would
recognize her school, and I like to think that she would recognize her
boys. The young men of Avon are recognizable, not just by the winged
beaver on their blazers, but by their direct and friendly gaze."
To learn more about the school’s history, visit the school’s Baxter Library and ask to view a copy of
“Aspiration and Perseverance: The History of Avon Old Farms School,” by Gordon Clark Ramsey ’80H.