School History

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1890

These wood frame rowhouses (built c. 1890) stood at the corner of 81st Street and West End Avenue. They were torn down by 1900 and replaced with seven Queen Anne row houses designed by Clarence True—three of which were purchased in 1958 to house Calhoun’s Lower School. Two more were purchased—one in the corner and one adjacent on West 81st Street, before bulldozers came again in 1973 to make way for the current school facility. {photo: H.N. Tiemann, 1894; c. Museum of the City of New York]

1923

The school moved in 1923 from a small brownstone at 158-160 West 80th to 309 West 92nd Street (now West Side Montessori). Ella Cannon Levis was named Co-Headmistress, working alongside Mary Calhoun. This was the school's main building until 1974.

Imagined, 1955

This rendering of the proposed new building in Morningside Heights, by Bloch & Hesse & Gerald L. Kaufman Architects, was presented to the Calhoun community on the occasion of the school’s 60th anniversary. The building, for K-12, promised “flexible classrooms, well-equipped labs, large art studio, music room, regulation gym with locker room. It hopes to share with the community an expanded library for research or leisure reading, and a new auditorium for assemblies, plays, recitals and other activities.” The plan was scratched.

1973

In 1973, two adjacent brownstones to the Lower School were purchased, and all five are torn down to make way for a new school building on the 81st Street site, designed to house preschool through high school. Calhoun New building at West 81st Street and West End Avenue, designed by architect Costas Machlouzarides opens in the spring of 1975. Calhoun now had classes for pre-school through Upper School under one roof.

Imagined, 1983-1984

More space is needed once again! The Board began looking at all options: to build up, or move to another location to accommodate expanded enrollment in the Lower School and more space for academic programming for Middle and Upper School divisions. Talks with Donald Trump were dumped. Another plan: The possibility of merging with the McBurney School and, together, relocating to “The Towers” on Central Park West and West 106th Street--a former and vacated hospital modeled after a French chateau. The plan was to have a tower of apartments adjacent to the school.

Imagined, 1986-1987

Calhoun’s Board explored the possibility of expanding the current 81st Street facility to 11 floors, more than doubling the existing building. Designed by Eli Attia Architects, the plan was rejected--partially if not entirely because it was determined that the current building’s foundation wasn’t strong enough, and could not be shored up. Instead, the after looking at several sites, the Board purchases a school building at West 74th Street, from the Baldwin School which was closing its doors, to create a separate facility for 3’s through first grades.

1989

The Robert L. Beir Lower School building at 160 West 74th Street opened for pre-school through first grade. Once again, Calhoun is housed under two roofs.

2004

In September 2004, after three years of construction, Calhoun opened an expanded 81st Street facility—3-1/2 new floors—featuring state-of-the-art theater, full-sized gym, new science and art rooms. Calhoun’s Green Roof Learning Center opened later that school year, in May 2005.

2014

In June 2014, the school embarked on yet another expansion, enlarging the first floor to house the new dual-purpose "Calhoun Commons," and moving the library and related offices to the ground floor. Design by FX Fowle Architects.

Milestones

1896
School founded by educator Laura Jacobi as The Jacobi School in a brownstone at 158-160 West 80th Street. Started as a "brother and sister" school, it gradually evolved into a girl's school.

1916
Mary Edwards Calhoun appointed Headmistress.

1918
Jacobi/Calhoun school song written by Edith Mendel Stern '18.

1923
School moves to 309 West 92nd Street; Ella Cannon Levis named Co-Headmistress; Parent-Teacher Association formed.

1924
School name changed to The Calhoun School in honor of Mary Edwards Calhoun, Headmistress until 1942.

1939
Calhoun incorporated as non-profit institution; Board of Trustees formed.

1942
Ella Cannon Levis appointed Headmistress.

1946
Elizabeth Parmelee and Beatrice Cosmey appointed Co-Headmistresses.

1958
Calhoun reopens coeducational Lower School. Discontinued in 1937, the opening of the Lower School (under direction of Wilhelmina Kraber) marked the first time in 21 years that Calhoun once again offered classes form pre-K through 12th grade. Lower School located in two townhouses at 431 and 433 West End Avenue. (Middle and Upper School remain all-girls.)

1963
First Spring Fair (now Carnival) is sponsored by the Parents Association.

1969
Philip E. McCurdy appointed Head of School.

1971
The Middle and Upper Schools become co-educational.

1973
Dr. Eugene D. Ruth appointed Head of School. Groundbreaking for new school building on 81st St. site.

1975
New building at West 81st Street and West End Avenue opens in the spring of 1975. Calhoun now has classes for pre-school through Upper School under one roof.

1975
The last all-girl class graduates from Calhoun.

1980
Dr. Neen Hunt appointed Head of School.

1984
Calhoun becomes one of the first NYC schools to require Community Service for graduation.

1986
Calhoun's Elementary Division is one of 269 elementary schools nationwide (and one of the only NYC schools) to be designated an "Exemplary Elementary School" by the U.S. Department of Education.

1986
Edward E. Ford Foundation Grant awards the school a Minority Scholarship Fund, in recognition of Calhoun's aggressive program to promote diversity among its student body.

1988-89
1988/89 Center of Excellence Award from the National Council of Teachers in English is given to Calhoun's Middle School for its innovative 5th/6th grade interdisciplinary curriculum in language arts and social studies.

1989
Opening of the Robert L. Beir Lower School building on West 74th Street for pre-school through first grade meets expanding enrollment needs.

1990
Edward E. Ford Foundation Grant is awarded the school for its Professional Development Program for faculty.

1990/91
Tandy Technology Scholars Award recognizes Calhoun's Upper School teacher John Roeder as one of the top 100 science teachers in the country. John is also a finalist for the New York State Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching.

1991
Dedication of the new Neen Hunt Library at the 81st Street building

1991
The Cum Laude Society, an international honor society, grants Calhoun a charter to become a member of this prestigious organization. At the time of Calhoun's induction, the society had conferred the honor on fewer than a dozen other independent schools in New York City and only 324 schools nationwide. Calhoun's election was unanimous, based on a study of its academic program, faculty strength and stability, profile of Upper School students, test information (SATs, AP examinations) and selectivity of the school's college placement.

1993
Mariana S. Leighton appointed Head of School.

1994
DeWitt-Wallace Readers Digest Fund Grant awarded to Calhoun--one of the first NYC independent schools to be awarded a grant as part of this fund's Independent School Opportunity Program.

1995
Calhoun's Forensics Team wins six team sweepstakes awards in the New York Catholic Forensics League. (see Forensics awards for complete list.)

1996
Award is given to Calhoun for its pioneering website; school undertakes major push for technology.

1996/97
Calhoun celebrates its Centennial.

1998
Steven J. Nelson appointed Head of School.

1999
Calhoun announces major building campaign to expand 81st St. site.

2001
Calhoun purchases adjacent ("Jagger") townhouse, 304 W. 81st St., for use as administration building.

2001
Groundbreaking for Phase I of 81st Street Expansion, June 15.

2001/02
Lower and Elementary Divisions merge under one director and one name, The Lower School. [3's through 1st grade continues in 74th St. building, 2nd through fourth in 81st St. building.]

2002
Phase I of Growing Up With Calhoun building campaign completed in January, adding expanded teaching space to the 81st Street site.

2002/03
Chef Bobo hired to revamp the school's lunch program, developing Calhoun's Eat Right Now approach to healthier eating. The program gets international attention, with coverage from Fortune Magazine, The New Yorker, NPR, ABC's World News Tonight, Japan's Fuji TV Network, and Canada's National Post.

2003
E.E. Ford Foundation awards $50,000 matching grant towards creation of Calhoun's Green Roof Learning Center.

June 2003
Phase II of the building campaign commences in June, just after graduation. Construction begins to add four new floors, which will house a full-size gymnasium and athletic center, performing arts center, science labs, art studios, and eco-friendly Green Roof Learning Center.

Sept. 2003
Calhoun establishes School & Society Initiative and begins programming for the school's yearly theme.

2003
Calhoun becomes a member of the Black Rock Forest Consortium, a center for onsite research and teaching.

Sept. 2004
In September 2004, Phase II is completed: four new floors at 81st Street open in time for the school year.

Oct. 2004
Calhoun's Mary Lea Johnson Performing Arts Center is dedicated with a Gala Benefit and Festival of Arts in October 2004; yearly Performing Arts Series, all open to the public, features music, dance, children's theater and town hall meetings.

May 2005
Calhoun's Green Roof Learning Center opens with ribbon-cutting ceremony. It is the first Green Roof in New York City that offers an eco-friendly space for educational programming.

Aug. 2005
Calhoun recognized as one of the top "Green Schools" in the country by The Green Guide, for its pioneering Green Roof and award-winning Eat Right Now lunch program. Chef Bobo's Good Food Cookbook, based on the school's lunch program, was a finalist in the 2005 Int'l Assn. of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Awards.

May 2006
Calhoun launches new website.

Sept. 2007
Townhouse renovated; all administrative offices move in as of September.

Sept. 2007
Calhoun and FXFowle Architects receive the 2007 DesignShare Merit Award for the design of the four-story expansion at 81st Street. Calling it a "courageous design," jurors made special mention of the Green Roof.

Sept. 2008
Neen Hunt Library at 81st Street renovated and expanded.

2009
Calhoun helps found the Independent Curriculum Group (ICG), a national consortium of independent and public schools promoting alternatives to Advanced Placement.

Sept. 2010
Calhoun adopts 6-day block schedule, and Upper School goes to 5-mod schedule.

Sept. 2010
ERB and ISEES exam scores dropped as requirement for admissions applicants.

2010/11
Calhoun hosts delegations from five countries, local and national schools interested in progressive ed model and special initiatives.

Jan. 2011
Calhoun and 3 partner schools win $500,000 Edward E. Ford Foundation Leadership Grant for PEL program, a multi-site lab school for teacher-training.

Jan. 2012
Calhoun is awarded a $243,063 Grant by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to produce a national, 3-part multimedia educational project, "What Kids of Color Know & White Kids Don't – Deconstructing Racism."

August 2012
The first cohort of students begins with The Progressive Education Lab (PEL), a teaching fellowship program founded by The Calhoun School in collaboration with three other leading progressive schools. Funded in part by a $250,000 leadership grant from the Edward E. Ford Foundation, PEL is a two-year training program that provides a dynamic, experience-based training for future teachers.

June 2014
Calhoun breaks ground at 81st Street for a renovation that expands the footprint of the first floor, to accommodate the new Calhoun Commons--a multipurpose space for lunchroom/food service as well as community gatherings and events. Also on the first floor: new administrative offices and lobby. The ground floor houses the newly designed Neen Hunt library, plus offices and enclosed classroom. The facade of the building presents a whole new Calhoun!

Sept. 2014
Calhoun Commons: Renovation completed on facade and first floor of 81st Street building. Expansion allows for creation of the Calhoun Commons--a mixed use community space and lunchroom.

Jan. 2015
Library Resource Center Opens: The opening of the lower level at 81st Street marks the completion of the 2014-15 renovation. Included on the lower level: the redesigned Neen Hunt Library, new tech and learning resource offices, and a multi-use classroom.

May 2016
19 for 19 Campaign launches, to raise $19 million for the school's Endowment and annual operations. Campaign named in honor of the 19-year tenure of Head of School Steve Nelson.

July 1, 2017
Steven Solnick comes on as Calhoun's 11th Head of School, upon the retirement of Steve Nelson.

Calhoun's approach to progressive education hasn't changed much since this video was first created, c. 1984, by award-winning documentary filmmakers Albert and David Maysles.

Main Building 3rd - 12th Grades 433 West End Avenue New York, NY 10024 212.497.6500

Robert L. Beir Lower School Building 2.8 Years - 2nd Grade 160 West 74th Street New York, NY 10023 212.497.6550

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