The "village of Old Farms" Begins
Founded in 1927, Avon Old Farms Connecticut boarding school for boys is the creation of Theodate Pope Riddle, one of Connecticut’s first licensed female architects.
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.
About Theodate Pope Riddle
February 2, 1867 - August 30, 1946
Theodate Pope Riddle grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and attended Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut. Ever since she was a child, Theodate hoped to forge a future where she could live in the country, care for orphans, and build a school. Her hard work and pioneering efforts to pursue a profession in architecture paid off in the construction of significant buildings such as the Hill-Stead home (now open to the public to tour), Westover School in Middlebury, CT, reconstructing Theodore Roosevelt's birthplace in New York, NY, and of course — the Connecticut boarding school for boys, Avon Old Farms.
Theodate and John's Wedding
In May 1915, Theodate was a passenger on the R.M.S. Lusitania when it was torpedoed by a German submarine. She, along with 764 out of 1,962 passengers and crew were pulled out of the waters alive. Although she was unconscious and sent to a nearby morgue following the tragedy, she overcame her injuries and one year later married John Wallace Riddle. The Riddles traveled around the globe extensively and — true to her childhood dreams — Theodate took in several orphaned children, raising them as her own foster children.
Avon Old Farms' motto Aspirando et Perseverando embodies Theodate Pope Riddle's life of grit and determination. Her desire for excellence in her life, and her strength to pursue her dreams regardless of what society told her, continue to thrive in all we do at this unique Connecticut boarding school for boys.
“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.
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. From 1998 until 2019, Headmaster Ken LaRocque continued that legacy. Under his leadership, significant new buildings were raised, including 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.
Headmaster Jim Detora is continuing the legacy of strong leadership at the school: read Jim's welcome letter here.
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.