Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall is located on the once open fields of Jonas Clark's farm. The area of Lexington and Beaver Streets was known as Piety Corner and as Benjamin Worcester candidly points out in The Early History of the Waltham New-Church School, "let not the Alumni imagine, from the reputation they left behind them" but named thus because many of the Deacons of the First Church of Waltham lived in the area. As Clark and many other local families embraced the religious and spiritual tenets laid down in Emanuel Swedenborg's Arcana Coelestia, the need was felt for a school which carried Swedenborg's philosophy into the classroom. The Waltham New-Church School was founded in 1860 to meet their need and was the first name for what is now known as Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School.
John Clark, oldest of the Clark children, attended Harvard College where he was part of a group of nine students who found an interest in Swedenborg's writings. Among them were some of the founders of the Waltham New-Church School - Thomas Worcester, Nathaniel Hobart, Sampson Reed, and Timothy Harrington Carter. Often, the men would spend time at the Clark farm and eventually all four married Clark's sisters — Alice, Lydia, Catharine, and Martha, respectively.
As the Clark extended family grew, a need was felt for both a meeting house and a school for the many New-Church families in the area of Piety Corner. In 1859, the Waltham Corporation of the New Jerusalem Church was founded and land was procured on which the original Chapel was built. In 1860, the New-Church School opened in the west end of the Chapel, separated by a movable partition, with 18 boys and girls, 10 from Waltham and 8 from outlying towns who boarded in the neighborhood. The first teacher was Edwin A. Gibbens, a Harvard graduate who had been teaching at the Boston Latin School.
By 1863, the school had 60 pupils and was running out of space. Land was acquired through the generosity of a few New-Church members and by September of 1864 the School Building, built in the shape of a Greek cross, and the "Cottage," both still in use today, were built. The ownership of the school was then transferred to the New-Church Institute of Education which had recently been left a generous sum of money by John H. Wilkins, an original member for whom the school building is named, so that it could assume the large mortgage incurred by the construction. The Corporation put the school under the charge of a Board of Managers with the Reverend John Worcester as the superintendent in charge of the "special care of the moral and spiritual welfare of the pupils."
Gibbens left in 1866 and was replaced by Charles B. Chace and a girls' dorm was built, "irreverently called the 'soap box'." This building was later replaced by Harrington Hall. Sometime in the late 1800s a boys' dormitory was also built, known as Brown Gables.
Mr. Chace remained at the New-Church School for only two years and in 1868 the school dropped to only 40 students and experienced financial difficulties which led the Institute to consider closing the school. At that time, the Institute "put the School with all its responsibilities into the hands of the one they thought most interested in it, for this reason among others, that he had nine children to be educated in it," and Benjamin Worcester took on the duties of both superintendent and headmaster, under the title of Principal.
During Worcester's 43-year tenure, the school ranged in size from 40 to 100 pupils. A paying basis for attendance was instituted while financial assistance came from the Institute as well as the Boston Society of the New Jerusalem Church. Students were admitted for preparation for "College, for Harvard Scientific School or for the Institute of Technology." For students not wishing to pursue a college education, "the equivalent of a high school education, with the addition of any specially desired studies" was offered.
The increased number of pupils called for changes to the physical plant as well as the financial structure. In 1894, a new building was built next to the pond containing workshops for manual training and labs for chemical and physical sciences on the first floor, and a gymnasium on the second floor. This building burned in 1979 and the site remains lawn area for the present school. Harrington (formerly North) Hall and South Hall, the gift of Arthur A. Carey, former teacher and friend, were built in 1903 and were lauded for their fireproof construction and modern facilities. While Harrington Hall replaced the "soap box", the boys' dorm known as Brown Gables was not razed for a number of years.
Benjamin Worcester served the school faithfully until his death in 1911 and was succeeded by Dr. George B. Beaman, a teacher and associate principal. In 1912, the name of the school was changed to the Waltham School for Girls as the times showed a trend away from coeducation. The school continued to accept boys in the lower grades and since the boys did not take kindly to the school's name, the lower school became known as Chapel Hill.
Miss Martha Mason replaced Dr. Beaman as principal in 1917, and initiated the first graduation as well as the traditional Vesper services which continued through 1973.
In 1926, the school catalog lists Louise Fay as Principal and Jessie Beals as Acting Principal. As was true with most principals at Chapel Hill, both Fay and Beals taught classes as well. The curriculum in 1926 consisted of Math, Languages (French, Spanish and Latin), History, English, Science, and Electives which included Music, Art, Cooking, Sewing, Textiles, and Household Physics.
The focus of the school from the beginning was to provide a liberal education and in the 1926 catalog the stated aim of the school was to train the powers of "observation, memory, reflection, comparison, and drawing right conclusions, and giving of fit expression by voice and hand." Of equal importance, though, was "the moral and spiritual development" of the students and "constant effort" was made to "instill and foster love for doing what is right because it is right." Much of this aim reflects the teachings of Swedenborg but are also indicative of Benjamin Worcester who is attributed with leaving an impression on the school of his "rich and thorough scholarship" and of "a personality remarkable for poetic and artistic appreciation of beauty of every kind — in literature, in art, in music, and in science." As a consequence of these attitudes, the school's extracurricular offerings were diverse and included the production of plays, literary magazines, various clubs, and intramural athletic activities such as archery, basketball, bowling, and others.
In 1937, Mr. Philip E. Goodhue was named principal and the name of the school was changed to Chapel Hill School. The school continued to accept both day and boarding students and was regarded as a country day school. The Student Government concept was introduced and implemented by Katherine G. Rusk during her two years of service as principal in the early 1940s.
Marjorie Rounds became principal in 1943 after serving as a math teacher for 2 ½ years. During the first 7 years of her principalship the school prospered, averaging about 100 students. The decision to discontinue the lower school was made around 1950 and by 1956 the last of the boys and lower school students had completed the 6th grade. With only 40 students in grades 7-12 in 1956, Mrs. Rounds resigned, recognizing that the school needed a "promoter" and Mr. Wilfred Clark was hired to help revive the school.
During his 12-year affiliation with Chapel Hill, Mr. Clark built up both the enrollment and the facilities. A number of houses were bought and used as dorms in the late 50s to accommodate the increased boarding enrollment. Of those still owned by the school are East Hall, the president's residence; Peebles Hall, the present admissions building, the present Emery residence located behind the Barn; and the Barn. In 1959 the pool was built and in 1960 dedicated as Caughey (pronounced Coy) Pool. In 1963, Worcester Hall, then known as the New Dormitory, was built and in 1967 the 7th and 8th grades were discontinued and the first Remedial Reading class began as the precursor of today's Individually Guided Studies Program.
Mr. Clark was an energetic man who ran the school with the assistance of his wife Gladys, co-Principal, and his daughter Shirley Clark Warden, Assistant Principal and Dean. By 1960, enrollment had increased significantly and a student handbook of the mid-60s reveals a comprehensive set of rules for a very structured school. The rules stated in the handbook were typical of schools during that era. Published strictures included:
· No dungarees, tight 'stretch pants' or short shorts are to be worn on campus or in the dormitory at any time.
· Provide yourself with rubbers, raincoats or umbrellas and snow boots, and use them in stormy weather when going from building to building. The penalty for not wearing them in stormy weather is 10 demerits.
Discipline was based on a point system allowing students to earn positive "points," for participation in school offices and activities, and negative "demerits" for "infractions of student standards." These infractions included lateness for meals or classes; untidy rooms, dress, or hair; and violation of telephone rules.
The next transition occurred in 1968, Clark's last year, when Clifford Erickson was hired as Academic Dean and Headmaster Elect. But, no "grooming" could prepare Erickson for the challenge of the late 60s and early 70s —decreased enrollment in all private schools due to better public schools, a growing youthful distaste for the strict prep school atmosphere, and a desire on the part of parents to keep a closer eye on their children in light of a widespread rejection by adolescents of traditional adult values. By 1970, Chapel Hill felt the effects of this trend as enrollment decreased by 30 students. Schools throughout the northeast were looking for options and coeducational mergers were seen as both a financial and social solution.