From Farm to School

"Into a summer sunset we came up the hill and fell in love with its silvery loneliness. A long line of soft gray weathered buildings clinging to the ground: a house, a small shed, a larger house, a long 80-foot shed leading to a large barn--built in 1763 and enlarged by David Cram in 1838, but now deserted and lonely."

So began the time of our founder on this Hill we now call home. In her book, From Farm to School, Mrs. Emmet describes at length the Hill and the farm that would be come High Mowing. And though the reader can form a vivid mental picture of the farm and the landscape, what is most striking is the feeling that arises from her prose: that this school belonged here, that this place has a unique ability to educate and nurture.

"Places are important. The very earth on which human striving takes place carries, builds and holds atmosphere of its own... A doctor once said of the Hill, "Pine and birch on granite bring health."

The farm that she bought, here on Abbot Hill, consised of many old buildings. They were beautiful buildings. They complemented the land, and the land complemented them. The campus was a home in a wide expanse of forests and fields, and that setting was always appreciated:

"The terrace was very important to us. There we could live, not only with the earth but also with the heavens. Daily the sun rose in the east, swung the length of the terrace, and set over the dark pines behind the hills with all its wealth of colors--the cold bright reds of winter, the opalescent color of cloud-sheltered evenings, then the warm orange values of summer--never two days alike. And at night the moon took up the tale; crescent, full, waning. The buildings stood enclosed in the eternal sweep of the stars and the planets, a breadth of view that cannot be taken away."

Much of High Mowing burned to the ground on January 18, 1970. The home and the sheds, built in 1763, were lost.  Mrs. Emmet remembers: "A member of the faculty said to me after the fire, 'But the land and its trees are still here. The beauty is still with us.'" Indeed, what was lost were the possessions of the Emmets, faculty and others who lived in the buildings that burned. By that time, it had been a home for forty years.

She wrote:

"For 28 of those forty-odd years the hill has been a school. And many of the young living in it and many of those who have gone on have called it: Home. Several adults staying in the summer have said, 'There is a healing atmosphere, a creative atmosphere here--I can write my book.'... This atmosphere of spiritual strength and healing has been built by the aspirations, thoughts and deeds of those who have lived here. The place came to the school, and the school came to the place."

Throughout this campaign, those of us working to raise the funds necessary to preserve this land have, time and again, been greeted with overwhelming support. Our alumni/ae, in particular, have supported this project enthusiastically. But after reading From Farm to School, that enthusiasm is not surprising, for much of what makes this school special is the land itself, and this special place forms the experiences of the students who come to the hill.

So often money is raised to build a new structure and to start a new program; to knock down the rickety and to renovate the old. This project is quite the opposite. With support of our project partners, we are working to preserve what Mrs. Emmet found remarkable in this place: that is was "high enough for breadth of view and far enough for perspective on a busy world and a frantic struggle to get somewhere."

We have been working for more than two years to protect that which has inspired our community for over seventy years: this land we call home. We do this in honor of our founder, Mrs. Emmet, who gave her life, her fortune, and her home to the students of High Mowing.