History of BCD
In 1946, BCD was founded with twelve students by a group of local parents who saw the need for an independent, co-educational school where children would receive the maximum individual attention in small classes. The first few students were taught in a small building off Stockbridge Road on the campus of the Lenox School for Boys, an Episcopal boys boarding school, and initially served students in pre-school and grades one through six. Tuition ranged from $150 to $310, depending on the grade. In 1957, the school moved to the former Starks home on Walker Street in Lenox, which became the main building of the school. Then serving preschool through eighth grade, BCD used a nearby building on the Lenox School property called Bassett Hall (which is now the Kemble Inn) for the seventh and eighth grades. Enrollment tripled between 1958 and 1963, from 58 students to 183. BCD was considered revolutionary at the time, teaching reading to kindergarten students; traditionally, public schools in the ’50s and ’60s did not begin to teach reading until third grade. In 1961, BCD launched a ski program, serving as the winter physical education effort, which continues to this day on “Ski Fridays.”
In 1963, under the guidance of principal Donald T. Oakes, BCD purchased from the Stokes family the current Brook Farm property, which offered much needed room for expansion. For one year, the school operated at both the Brook Farm and Walker Street locations. The younger students attended school at Brook Farm, while the older ones remained at Walker Street, busing to the new campus for arts and sports. The Walker Street building was later destroyed by fire. In the 1967-68 academic year, a ninth grade was added to the school.
In the early ’70s, the Lenox School closed, along with several other boarding schools in Berkshire County, and the Walker Street property subsequently changed owners several times. It is now owned by Shakespeare & Company.
The Brook Farm campus dates back to the 1890s and is included in the National Register of Historic Places. Originally, it was a working farm — with a farmhouse, barns, and stables — on the 1,000-acre Shadowbrook estate, whose mansion was built as a summer “cottage” in 1892-1896 by Anson Phelps Stokes, a prominent New York businessman. Atop the hill overlooking Brook Farm and the Stockbridge Bowl, Shadowbrook had 100 rooms and stretched to 410 feet, complete with grounds designed by the noted architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The Stokes family sold half of the Shadowbrook estate including the mansion after only ten years, keeping the farm and surrounding property.
Eventually, Brook Farm passed on to the Stokes’ son, Anson Phelps Stokes, Jr., an Episcopal priest, secretary of Yale University, and Canon of the National Cathedral. Canon Stokes moved his family to Brook Farm, where they lived in the renovated farmhouse. The farm, which had served Shadowbrook, included the family residence (Albright Hall); the cow barn (Furey Hall); the machinery and equipment barn (Ryan Hall); and the stable (Oakes Hall). The ice house had been converted into a library for Canon Stokes (Sprague Environmental Science Lab). The donkey shed and the calf barn are now the middle school science labs (Peseckis Hall), and the adjacent land has been converted into athletic fields and playgrounds. A pond was dug for swimming and skating, and the property features a nature trail created in memory of former student Michael Flood.
In 1969, W. Rankin Furey, a BCD benefactor, helped establish a library in Albright Hall, named the Martha Jane Furey Kittredge Library, in memory of his daughter. In 1972, a head of school’s house was built at the rear of the property. In the mid-’70s, the second floor of Furey Hall was transformed into art studios, and in the early ’80s, the former library was converted into the Sprague Environmental Science Lab. Fitzpatrick Hall was built in 1996, and in 1999 Peterson Hall was completed, along with a new maintenance and shop building (Clemons Hall).
In 2010, Berkshire Country Day School contracted Centerbrook Architects of Centerbrook, CT to lead an extensive and inclusive process to create a new Master Facilities Plan. The central goal of this process was to determine how the campus could best support our vision as a school and community. In addition, BCD sought to determine how best to preserve and maintain its historic buildings while making them more energy efficient and sustainable for future generations of students. A long-range master facilities plan adopted by the Board of Trustees in 2011 and it forms the blueprint for the evolution of Brook Farm to support 21st century educational practices.
Thank you to James Hatch ’56 for his work on this history.