History of Saint Ann’s School

If history is meant to provide a definitive narrative for institutions, Saint Ann’s School may never have an official history. The School’s reality lives in the minds of its students, its faculty, its parents, its administrators and alumni: continuously evolving, deliberately challenging our own traditions as well as those of the world around us.

The Rector of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, Canon Melville Harcourt, had long envisioned a non-sectarian church school for intellectually gifted children. With the support and encouragement of the Vestry, which was interested in attracting parishioners, he founded St. Ann’s Episcopal School. As for the sixty-odd children who came to the Clinton Street undercroft of the church in September 1965, they thought of Saint Ann’s as a kind of amusement park (these words are from a graduation speech by one of them) — and, indeed, some of that early creative chaos has survived many years of institutional continuity.

The founding headmaster, Stanley Bosworth, gave Saint Ann’s, from its first year, its three most remarkable sustained commitments: a deliberate rejection of formal letter or number grades, curricular rigor and richness, and the familiar community style. It was also Stanley Bosworth who insisted that the curriculum range over all the major symbolic languages of the culture, instead of just words and numbers, and that it be entirely rigorous in each of them. Actors, painters, and musicians joined the faculty, and rapidly established Saint Ann’s reputation for artistic as well as academic excellence. The extraordinary social atmosphere that harbors so many seemingly different, yet coexisting, sets of values was present from the beginning.

The Crescent Athletic Club in 1906, newly completed.

The Crescent Athletic Club in 1906, newly completed.

Even in the 129 Pierrepont Street building, purchased in 1966 and today home to the middle school and high school, the atmosphere of the undercroft remained: a one-room schoolhouse expanding over thirteen floors, a one-man show with a highly calibrated staff of over one hundred, and an amusement park in which the amusements were Aristophanes, Darwin, and Baudelaire. When five of the twenty-one graduates of the Class of 1972 went to Yale, Harvard, and Princeton, it was clear that Saint Ann’s was more than an amusement park, but it has never been less.

In a corporate sense, the School did outgrow its parent. By mutual agreement of the Church Vestry and members of the Board of Governors of the School, a petition was sent to the Regents of the Education Department of the University of the State of New York for a charter for “Saint Ann’s School,” and in September of 1981, an absolute charter was granted. On May 1, 1982, Saint Ann’s School formally disaffiliated from the Church. Although the structure changed, the administration, teaching policy, and educational goals remained unchanged.

The final transaction in the separation of the School from the Church took place on March 4, 1985. At this time the church transferred the title to 129 Pierrepont Street to the School, and the School purchased what is today The Rubin Building at 124 Pierrepont Street from the Church. Thus Saint Ann’s School achieved full independence from its parochial beginnings.

Saint Ann’s has continued to enlarge its reach. A preschool, located in the Alfred T. White Community Center at 26 Willow Place, was opened in 1982. Two facilities were leased in 1989 (one at 124 Henry Street for the youngest lower school children and another at One Pierrepont Plaza for the Computer Center) and in 1994, the Pierrepont Plaza Classrooms for middle and high school students were added by dint of another leased space at One Pierrepont Plaza.

In March of 2001, a seven-story building at 153 Pierrepont Street was purchased by the School. The Farber Building, which opened at the start of the 2003-2004 academic year, provided a new home for the first through third grades, and released much needed space for the middle and high school in the main building. In the fall of 2009, 122 Pierrepont Street was purchased from the Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity (St. Ann’s parish relocated to the Holy Trinity church building in 1970). The building had been leased from the Church for a year prior to purchase and provides five additional classrooms. In the summer of 2010, Saint Ann’s purchased a townhouse at 229 Baltic Street to serve as the residence for the current and future heads of school and as a place for gatherings of members of the school community.

Stanley Bosworth retired as Headmaster following the 2003-2004 academic year. In the spring of 2007, the main building at 129 Pierrepont Street was dedicated to Stanley and named The Bosworth Building.

Stanley was succeeded as Head of School by Dr. Larry Weiss, who used his unique perspective and deep experience as an educator to articulate the special qualities that characterize Saint Ann’s, and, in doing so, nurtured and developed the educational environment of the School through important years of transition.

Vincent Tompkins assumed the position as Saint Ann’s third Head of School at the beginning of the 2010-2011 academic year following a career in higher education. Under his leadership Saint Ann’s continues to pursue its mission of artistic and academic adventure as a true community of learners.