The year nineteen-eighteen reflected a growing concern within the educational community to provide not only for academic excellence, but also to provide for the healthful wellbeing of a child. In the midst of nationwide epidemics of measles, mumps, flu and tuberculosis, a few parents in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, members of the prestigious Hill School faculty, chose to provide a superior education for their younger children by founding a progressive "open-air" school. So began Wyndcroft's first incarnation in the sunlit porches and an open garage of a residence on the Hill School campus under the name of "The Pottstown Open Air School."
Within four years the school had changed its name to "The Wyndcroft School" and gained such popularity within the community that the parents purchased a "delightfully situated" rural property on which to expand. Here they constructed "scientifically designed buildings built for the comfort and convenience of the children," in which to hold their school. At this new Rosedale Drive address, (the present site of Wyndcroft), The Wyndcroft School flourished and by 1925 consisted of 50 pupils and 5 teachers. The buildings soon expanded to include "five outdoor bungalows, a school building with a large assembly room, office, classroom, [and] well-equipped kitchen and dining-room where the children have their noon meal."
For 23 years, from 1925 to 1948, Mrs. Mabel Day Steele focused her considerable talent and energy on the development of the small school from a curriculum based on fresh air and physical activity to one that emphasized sound academic training. Her goal? To prepare students for the best secondary schools and colleges through highly individualized instruction in small classes and a flexible curriculum. Plenty of physical activity, the stimulus of team sports, and the creativity of plays and pageants written by the students offered a diverse schedule for blossoming minds and bodies. The tradition of concluding the academic year with a May Fete including a May pole dance and other festivities flourished under her watch.
In the first year of Mr. Carlisle Snively's tenure, (Headmaster from 1948 to 1980), he enhanced Wyndcroft's reputation by bringing it into the fold of the Pennsylvania Association of Private Academic Schools and by expanding the facilities with a new building to house offices and 4 additional classrooms. A year later, athletic fields were designed and landscaped. In 1959, he oversaw the building of an addition including the first indoor area for athletics, and in 1969 he provided the upper school with 8 new classrooms. One of these rooms was a state-of-the-art laboratory, which he used as a springboard to introduce an innovative science program for kindergarten through upper school grades centered upon hands-on experimentation by individual students.
The modernization of the Wyndcroft facilities was not Mr. Snively's only contribution to Wyndcroft. He also ushered in the modern spirit of education based on freedom of inquiry and freedom of faith. In a non-sectarian environment, he sought to guide the mental, moral and religious growth of pupils. Through small classes and individual attention he encouraged students to learn through both independence and discipline, by freedom and responsibility, and by teaching each child to discover a balance between regard for self and respect for the rights of others and the common welfare.
These two Heads of School, Mrs. Mabel Day Steele and Mr. Carlisle Snively, through their many years of dedicated service, have exercised great influence over the shape and character of The Wyndcroft School. Each succeeding Head of School, taking her (or his) place at Wyndcroft, builds on the hard work and visions of those who have come before. Each helps to prepare new generations of children to compete actively within and to contribute to the world in which they will be taking part. The evolving history and tradition of the Wyndcroft School echoes through the generations. Their legacy is seen in each successive generation of students--from the Jazz Age to the Nuclear Age--whose voices still resonate in Wyndcroft's evolving tradition and vision for its future.
The world has changed over the ninety years since the first class met on the porch of a home on the Hill School campus. Life at Wyndcroft today reflects those changes, of course. Our physical campus and our curricular materials bear no relation to those of the early twentieth century. But in essence, we like to think the heart of Wyndcroft has not changed at all. Excellent academics, non sibi, and happy children still abound in Wyndcroft life. Join us here for a glimpse of Wyndcroft today, and see for yourself how, in an up-to-date setting with thoroughly modern children, Wyndcroft continues to reflect the same essential values imbued by our founders, almost 100 years ago.