Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School’s rich history involves three schools: Chauncy Hall, Chapel Hill, and the Huntington School. Chapel Hill, a school for girls founded in 1860 in Waltham on the current campus, and Chauncy Hall, a Boston day school for boys founded in 1828, merged in 1971 to create Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall. To the merger, Chapel Hill brought its strength in humanities and the arts, and Chauncy Hall brought its first-rate curriculum in science and math. In 1974, Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall incorporated the Huntington School, a Boston school for boys founded in 1909. The Huntington School brought its emphasis on the individual student. Small class size, respect for the individual student, and nurturing environments were traits each school honored and that Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall continues to embrace.
Chauncy Hall was founded in 1828 by Gideon Thayer on what is now the site of Macy’s in Boston’s Downtown Crossing. The school originally trained the children of wealthy Bostonians for careers in business, and later prepared students to attend Harvard, MIT and other prestigious colleges. Chauncy Hall was known for its many innovations in education, including using literature for reading lessons, and implementing a department system to recognize teachers who were "gifted and accomplished in different directions." The school thrived in the mid-1800s under Thayer, who was also an advocate for better education nationwide. Chauncy Hall became a model for many new institutions.
Chapel Hill began on the site of the current campus in Waltham on what was once Jonas Clark’s farm. Clark and many other local families embraced the religious and spiritual beliefs of Emanuel Swedenborg. To meet the community’s need for a classroom, the Waltham New Church School was founded in 1860 at the west end of their church’s chapel. The school soon grew too large for the space, and in 1864, Wilkins Hall was built. The focus of the school for girls (and some boys in lower grades) was to provide a liberal education through training the powers of "observation, reflection, comparison, and drawing the right conclusions." In 1912, the school became the Waltham School for Girls, and in 1937, was renamed the Chapel Hill School.
The Huntington School was housed in the YMCA building on Boston’s Huntington Avenue. The school enjoyed an excellent reputation as a college preparatory school due to its demanding curriculum. The school also valued the individual student. Charles Henry Sampson, its head for 30 years, wrote that the Huntington School does not have 200 boys, as listed in the catalogue, but 200 personalities, and that not one of them "…is exactly like another physically, mentally, socially, or emotionally."
The social climate of the late 1960s and early 1970s brought a challenge to many independent schools. There was decreased enrollment in private schools due to better public schools, a growing aversion to the strict prep school atmosphere, and a desire on the part of parents to watch over their children more closely. Throughout the Northeast, schools were looking for options, and coeducational mergers were seen as both a financial and social solution.
Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall is proud of its history and recognizes it in many ways. The beautiful Wilkins Hall and its unique free-standing spiral staircase still welcomes students. Historic pictures of the schools contrast with brand new computers in the media center. At Head of School installations, the book of the school is passed from one head to the next. Charles Henry Sampson scholarships are annually awarded to deserving students. Additionally, the school continues to keep in contact with alumni of Chauncy Hall, Chapel Hill, and the Huntington School.