Nestled in the heart of the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, the campus was originally part of the historic Livermore Estate, and still holds special services at Trinity Chapel, built in 1797. The academics program was initially housed in the Revolutionary–period home known as Livermore Mansion, and the school opened with fifteen boarding students and “a dozen or so day scholars.” For the school’s first seventy–five years, enrollment generally ranged between thirty and eighty students.
From the very first, Holderness School students hiked nearby mountains, camped in the woods adjoining campus, and boated or swam in the rivers and lakes whenever they had the opportunity. In the early 1930s, the school welcomed a trustee who had been a member of the 1928 American Olympic Winter Sports Team; not long afterward, the school began cutting and grooming its own ski trails. From this day forward, Snow Sports became integral to the school’s athletic program.
Holderness School has consistently turned challenges to its advantage. Two campus–razing fires (in 1882 and 1931) became opportunities to design forward–thinking facilities for the future, even while historical buildings such as the Chapel of the Holy Cross, the Schoolhouse, and Carpenter have been maintained and expanded for continuing use.
Two World Wars and the Great Depression also left their mark on the school. Belt–tightening and the prioritization of service led to the creation of the Job Program, which required all students—regardless of means—to participate in the upkeep of campus resources. This served to underscore the school’s belief in the equality of all students and to encourage student pride in the school.
A remarkably successful venture, the Job Program
is still in existence today. Similarly, the annual school–wide election of student leaders has its roots in the post–War period. Every spring, students elect their peers to positions of leadership by rating all returning students on four qualities: fairness, dependability, initiative, and caring. Societal changes in the 1970s encouraged the school to explore alternatives to both its traditional curriculum and its single–sex educational model. The school took measured first steps toward co–education by developing campus facilities, hiring more female faculty, and enrolling faculty daughters and female day students.
Out of this period of intense change rose the now iconic Special Programs, which make use of a ten–day period in March to focus members of each class on a different aspect of their personal growth. Project Outreach
, Artward Bound
, and Out Back
provide opportunities for experiential learning while embodying a joyful celebration of the school’s values of curiosity, character, and community.
Senior Projects (a forerunner to today’s Senior Thesis
) also emerged during this era, allowing seniors to take ownership of their education during their final spring semester by exploring in depth real–world issues of personal interest to them.
Today Holderness has a $49 million endowment, an outstanding faculty, and a program built around educating the whole student. In its history of over 130 years, Holderness School has upheld its core principles, even while embracing the opportunities afforded by change.