St. Margaret's School
In 1865, the first students arrived at the Collegiate Institute for Young Ladies, located on Cooke and Grove Streets in downtown Waterbury.
The Rev. R. G. Williams and his wife led the newly formed school for its first four years, after which time the school went through a number of principals in quick succession. After closing the school for one year because of severe financial problems, on June 8, 1875, the Rev. Francis Thayer Russell, assistant minister at St. John's Church, paid off the school debts, obtained a charter, and the property was presented to the Episcopal Church for a diocesan school named St. Margaret's School for Girls. Dr. Russell became rector and reopened the school the following September. The new Episcopal Diocesan school was named after Queen Margaret of Scotland for her exemplary values and virtues.
The first reunion for St. Margaret's graduates was held and the Alumnae Association was formed on June 16, 1882.
The Alumnae Association presented a portrait of Dr. Russell to the school in 1895, and this portrait still hangs in the dining room. Miss Hillard was appointed assistant principal to succeed Dr. Russell.
In the late 1890's, a tennis club and four basketball teams were formed. The Magpie, a literary magazine that also included the alumnae news, was published in 1898. The Glee Club was formed in 1899, and in 1900, the first yearbook, called Salmagundi, was introduced.
In 1907, after sixteen years as principal, Miss Hillard left this role and Miss Emily Gardner Munro became the new principal. The connection to the Episcopal Church was maintained as the Rev. John Lewis was appointed Rector of St. Margaret's. Miss Munro refined the general program courses to require proficiency in fewer subjects, and the college program courses were enhanced.
By 1921, the trustees recognized that the current enrollment had taxed the capacity of the building on Cooke and Grove Streets, so they began to formulate plans for a new campus.
It was Alberta C. Edell, a graduate of Columbia University, who came to St. Margaret's as an instructor at the Junior School in the fall of 1913. She gained experience, became a history teacher, and was named to succeed Miss Munro in 1923. Plans for the new campus moved forward, and in the fall of 1928 grades five through twelve moved to the new school.
The brick building stood on a knoll overlooking the city of Waterbury. A large pond graced the back of the school, and there were fields, woods, and beautiful gardens surrounding the building. The wisteria, which is still in evidence today, climbs to the balconies surrounding the north and south porches. Honor boards were hung on the walls, the Henry Peck organ was placed in the front of the room.
The library and drawing rooms were named after Frederick J. Kingsbury and Augustus S. Chase, two benefactors and trustees of the school. Soon a building named St. Margaret's "Little School" was erected on Columbia Boulevard in place of the old school and girls enrolled from kindergarten through grade four.
These girls went on to St. Margaret's on Chase Parkway. Boys attended the "Little School" until grade two, when they entered McTernan School for Boys which was located next door.
The Depression of the 1930s and World War II influenced the school's curriculum and activities. Miss Edell continued St. Margaret's traditions, organizations and activities. However, since gasoline rationing made travel to other schools impossible, intramural teams were created to replace interscholastic competition. Yet the academic curriculum and faculty remained strong, and the majority of graduates enrolled in college. During this period, graduates who kept abreast of school activities through the Alumnae Bulletin, and met annually at Commencement in June, decided to establish an alumnae day.
Miss Edell retired in June 1948, after twenty-five years as Headmistress. Miss Ruth Chandler (later Mrs. Douglas Auld Shepardson) was appointed to fill the position. Miss Chandler had come to St. Margaret's in 1920 and taught English for twenty-eight years. Under her administration, St. Margaret's was invited to form a chapter of the Cum Laude Society - the first girls' school in Connecticut to be so honored.
At this time, all students, faculty and classes were housed in just one building, so plans were begun to expand the school's physical plant to address the needs created by increased enrollment.
November 18, 1949, Miss Winifred F. Pine, was named Interim Headmistress until the appointment of Miss Pauline S. Fairbanks as Headmistress in June 1950. Miss Fairbanks quickly became involved in building maintenance and campaigning for capital development. In 1954, the Memorial Building which today houses the Lower School, was dedicated.
The St. Margaret's Alumnae Association was instrumental in securing the funds for the construction of the Memorial Building. In recognition of the importance of alumnae to the school, three graduates were elected to serve terms on the Board of Trustees in 1951. Then in 1956, Miriam Noble Camp '17 was elected as a regular member of the Board.
In 1961, the property in downtown Waterbury was sold to the McTernan School, and St. Margaret's was now wholly encompassed on the Chase Parkway campus.
The new campus continued to grow. Three properties located near the school were purchased to house faculty, administrators and the Alumnae Office. In 1962, as part of the school's Centennial Progress Program, a Butler building was given to the school by Charles E. Fulkerson and was restructured on the campus. Fulkerson Hall housed a gymnasium, auditorium, language laboratory and day student facilities. Known today as the Arts Center, the building continues to serve as a gymnasium and auditorium where an art studio and photography dark room are now located. The Arts Center is also home to "The Highlander Theater Company", the school's theater group.
In 1965, in celebration of the school's one-hundredth year, the Centennial Library was dedicated and the building known as the Upper School was constructed in 1967. Miss Fairbanks was replaced by Mr. Pierson Melcher in 1968, who served until 1972 when Dr. Audrey Cook was named Interim Headmistress.
The decline in the number of boarding students forced the Trustees to entertain the possibility of transforming St. Margaret's into a day school and the option of merging St. Margaret's with another school to create a coeducational institution.
Because there had always been a close association between St. Margaret's and the McTernan School, merging the two institutions seemed to be logical. This option was supported by the Boards of Trustees of both schools, and in 1972, the two schools merged to create St. Margaret's-McTernan School, a nondenominational, coeducational country day school located on the Chase Parkway campus.