The name Daycroft comes from the definition of “Day” in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, which reads:
“DAY. The irradiance of Life; light, the spiritual idea of Truth and Love.”
(Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures page 584:1)
It is combined with “Croft,” which means an enclosure for the sake of protection; a haven.
The school motto “Perceive Then Demonstrate” captures the essence of the school’s philosophy.
A Humble Beginning
It all began in the summer of 1928 when Sara Pyle Smart saw a need for a nursery school to accommodate two and three-year-old children growing up in Christian Science families. She was interested in group activities that would nurture the unfoldment of spiritual sense in these children. So, with $100, a tent, a few rugs, some tables and chairs, and four eager boys, the school began, and with it the opportunity to perceive and demonstrate spiritually, academically, and socially.
As autumn approached, Mrs. Smart began to consider how to provide a year-round classroom. The children were asked to name the spiritual qualities they thought should be the foundation for their tiny school. They responded with: love, good, gentleness, and kindness.
With these qualities in mind, construction began on a building—a wonderful English cottage to house the school.
Learning and Growing
Word soon spread, and the school grew. By 1930, the addition of a first and second year classroom was necessary. Besides the 3R’s—reading, writing, and arithmetic—the students were also taught to be leaders. They learned that Love is the measuring rod and Principle is the origin of justice and fairness.
Daycroft School’s first orchestra.
By the spring of 1932, plans were drawn up by Mr. Smart to build another cottage to house the second, third and fourth grade classes.
1934—A Milestone Year
The 1934 school year marked a new beginning for Daycroft. Mrs. Smart was asked to take in a nine-year-old girl who had a difficult home situation and needed the atmosphere that the school could provide. This one student marked the beginning of the Daycroft’s boarding department.
Another milestone was reached that same year. The mother of three potential students was certified to teach junior high and offered to exchange her teaching for the opportunity to have her boys attend Daycroft. This arrangement enabled the school to add a junior high school program. A new two-story building was constructed to house this group.
“International Day,” one of Daycroft’s most enduring traditions, was initiated during these early years as the result of the children having established a sense of God’s universal family.
From Nursery to Juniour High in Six Years
With its foundation firmly established on Principle, Daycroft experienced remarkable growth. In only six years the school went from a nursery with four students to a full pre-school, elementary and junior high school program. And this was just the beginning.
The Move to Stamford
By mid-1935, the original group of students was on the threshold of maturity. As the number of students increased, there was again a need to plan for expansion. During the 1935-36 school year, a portion of the Louis H. Porter Estate in nearby Stamford was purchased. The mansion was named “Adelaide Hall” in honor of Mrs. Smart’s mother who was a dedicated worker in the field of education.
The new location provided additional space for more boarding students, housed in two campus cottages. The new campus also brought the excitement of a sports program—including football, tennis, baseball, and track
With students joining the school and entering at various grade levels, it soon became evident that they did not have the benefit of the very early spiritual foundation which had blessed the original group of children in Darien. Mrs. Smart was concerned and sought the counsel of Mrs. Mary Kimball Morgan, the founder of The Principia in St. Louis, Missouri. As a result of meeting with Mrs. Morgan, she wrote Purpose, Policy and Procedure of Daycroft School, the guideline which was to be followed by the faculty and students for many years.
Students in Need of a School
In referring to the reason so much progress was made over the years, Mrs. Smart wrote in her book, Foundation Stones: “Right ideas have within themselves the power which, when united to wisdom, bring forth perfect solutions to our problems.”
In 1942, the Daycroft School was incorporated as a non-profit corporation under the laws of the State of Connecticut. At this time, Mrs. Smart was serving as the school’s President and Mr. Meredith Russell was the first Headmaster.
Under the wise guidance of Mrs. Smart, progress always came one step at a time, and only when the supply to proceed was already at hand. This policy applied to the purchase of Hill House, a much adored residence across the street, which the school acquired in the fall of 1947. Mrs. Smart’s focus was always on the welfare of the children, and the way was always found to provide for their best interests.
An important part of the Daycroft program was preparing the students to be a part of today’s world by helping them learn to practice Christianity in their daily lives. During the twenty-eight years on the Stamford campus—and all the years since – many people have helped students along this path and prominent among them was William Fisher, who was welcomed to the school in 1950. “Coach,” as he was affectionately known, gave in so many ways throughout his forty years as part of the school: as a houseparent, a coach, a teacher, Assistant to the President, and as Admissions Director. Faculty members who expressed this kind of dedication and love of Principle made major contributions to the school’s success.
The Move to Greenwich
By 1963, industry had crept up to the campus door, making it advisable to move the school from Stamford to neighboring Greenwich. A quiet country site was found there, a beautifully wooded thirty-acre estate called “The Boulders,” just off Rock Ridge Road. The estate, which was the former home of Margery Meriweather Post and more recently occupied by the Edgewood School, was updated and refurbished specifically to meet Daycroft’s standards.
The new campus setting with its roads arched by towering trees and magnificent Tudor style buildings surrounded by glacial rocks and the babbling Horseneck Creek, certainly provided a lovely backdrop for a rich educational experience.
The main estate house was renamed Laural House in honor of Laura Webb and Alice Hunter, special friends and supporters of the school. Laural House contained the great hall, the dining room, and the girls’ dormitory. Across the road stood the carriage house and stables that became the main academic building with the Headmaster’s office, the main library, classrooms, and the gym. Down the road was the Lower School, the science building, and the Headmaster’s residence, which looked out onto the athletic fields. Hill House, the boys’ dorm, was the last addition to the campus.
A universal purpose
Daycroft spent eight happy years in this beautiful setting. During this time, B. Cobbey Crisler served as the school’s President. In a talk he gave to open the 1966 school year, Cobbey noted that “Our purpose is a universal one; working together harmoniously is one of the primary objectives of education at Daycroft.” He continued Mrs. Smart’s idea of nurturing character development in all the children who were entrusted to the school.
Challenges and changes
By 1971, Daycroft again saw an opportunity for progress. With Cobbey Crisler still at the helm, the Rosemary Hall campus, located next door just off Lake Avenue, was purchased.
For the next twenty years, this beautiful setting with its picturesque buildings was Daycroft’s home. The chapel was the gathering point each morning for all students and faculty—a place to start the day with spiritual inspiration. The gym, the additional athletic fields, Founder’s Hall, the Girls’ Dorm, the Pink Building, and the Arts and Science Building provided the background for many achievements and many memories.
This tremendous improvement in facilities, however, came shortly before enrollment began to decline. Nevertheless, the school continued to progress academically. High quality programs throughout the curriculum gave students excellent preparation for college.
Strong leadership of three remarkable people—Mr. Dan Kinley, Mrs. Trude Harper, and Mr. Bob Clark guided the school during the 1980’s. At the end of the decade, it became apparent that a major change was on the horizon.
During the early 1990’s, the Rosemary Hall campus was sold. The class of 1991 graduated and another chapter in the school’s history was concluded.
The proceeds from the sale of Daycroft’s property were used to create The Daycroft School Foundation. Today, the Foundation’s purpose remains closely allied to the school’s objective:
“The purpose of Daycroft School is to provide an educational environment which embraces the teachings of Christian Science, giving opportunity for individual unfoldment and community responsibility.”
The Foundation makes grants to organizations that provide children and young people with a spiritually-based education. In addition, Daycroft offers its own educational programs, including online learning and conferences and workshops for Christian Science educators. The Daycroft idea, founded on Love, continues to bless children and young people and the Christian Science movement.
This history is based on the script for a slide show prepared by Cricket Johnson.