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A Long Tradition

Horace Mann School was founded by Nicholas Murray Butler in 1887 as a coeducational experimental and developmental unit of Teachers College, Columbia University. In 1947, it became an independent day school for boys in grades seven through twelve. The reestablishment of coeducation was accomplished through mergers with the New York School for Nursery Years  in 1968, the Barnard School in 1972, and the enrollment of girls in the high school beginning in 1975. In 1887, a full year's tuition for a high school senior was $150. 

The School’s founding fathers named the school after Horace Mann (1796-1859).  Horace Mann was a lawyer who served in the Massachusetts State Legislature. He was the first Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education, a Member of the United States House of Representatives, and President of Antioch College. He used each of his positions to proclaim that every person, regardless of their background, should receive a public education based on the principles and practices of a free society. He also proclaimed that slaves should be free, women should vote and the mentally ill should be cared for. Although Horace Mann’s ideas were revolutionary, he did play a leading role in establishing the elementary school system in the United States. 

Chronology: A Sampling of Important Dates

1886 The Barnard School was founded

1887 Teachers College and Model School founded at No. 9 University Place

1891 Nicholas Murray Butler leaves the Presidency of Teachers College. Dr. William Hervey becomes President

1894 Horace Mann School and Teachers College move into a single building on 120th Street.

1894 Virgil Prettyman becomes Principal of Horace Mann School

1901 Horace Mann School moved into its own building at 120th Street and Broadway in Morningside Heights. The School was across the street from the former Bloomingdale Insane Asylum which was being used as a students’ dormitory at Teachers College. By this time, however, Horace Mann was becoming less of an experimental school for the students of Teachers College to try out their new ideas, and more of a well-recognized school in its own right. Teachers College eventually created the Lincoln School as a new co-educational school in which to practice their experimental teaching methods, leaving Horace Mann more and more independent.

1909 Teachers College purchased lots on 246th Street in the Fieldston section of the Bronx. Alumni Field opened there as an athletic facility. The property is reported to have cost $20,001 which was paid for by Mr. Prettyman.

1914 Horace Mann School for Boys opened on 246th Street. Henry Carr Pearson became the Headmaster of the Horace Mann High School for Girls, still on 120th Street.

1920 Charles Carpenter Tillinghast was appointed Headmaster

1924 Prettyman Gymnasium and Pool opened

1940Horace Mann High School for Girls merged with the Lincoln School

1946 Horace Mann-Lincoln School closed

1947 Horace Mann School for Boys obtained complete financial and administrative independence from Teachers College.  The new Board of Trustees received a provisional charter changing the School's name back to Horace Mann School

1950 Dr. Mitchell Gratwick becomes the third Headmaster

1951 Horace Mann's permanent charter from the New York Board of Regents was granted

1954 The New York School for Nursery Years was founded

1956 Pforzheimer Hall was built, named after Mr. Carl H. Pforzheimer, who was chairman of the Board of Trustees

1962 Alfred Gross Hall, housing the Van Alstyne Auditorium and new cafeteria, opened. The old auditorium became the Theresa H. Loeb Library. The fourth floor of the newly-renamed Tillinghast Hall was converted from a gymnasium into classroom space

1965 The John Dorr Nature Laboratory, 85 acres of land in rural Washington Depot, Connecticut, was left to the school by John Dorr, an inventor and a neighbor of Headmaster Gratwick

1968 Horace Mann established the Horace Mann School for Nursery Years through a merger with the New York School for Nursery Years (which had been founded in 1954 and housed in Andrew Carnegie's old carriage house on 90th Street)

1968 Harry Williams named Acting Headmaster

1970 R. Inslee Clark became Headmaster

1972 Horace Mann merged with the Barnard School.  Horace Mann Elementary school moved into the former Barnard facilities. 

1975 Girls were admitted to Horace Mann High School after almost 60 years of separate schooling; the Gratwick science wing was added onto Pforzheimer Hall

1987 Horace Mann celebrated its centennial anniversary

1995 Dr. Eileen Mullady appointed first female Head of School

1999 Rose Hall, home to the Horace Mann Middle Division, and Fisher Hall, home to the Arts and Dining, opened

2002 The newly renovated Tillinghast Hall reopened, and Mullady Hall, home to the Katz Library and Alfred Gross Theater, opened

2005 Dr. Thomas M. Kelly appointed ninth Head of School

2009 Newly built, LEED certified, lodge and barn/classroom opened at the now-275 acre John Dorr Nature Laboratory

2010 Horace Mann School reaccredited by the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS), following a year long self-study and a visit by a 19-person committee of educators

To find out more about Horace Mann’s strong history, check out Horace Mann-Barnard: The First Hundred Years, by Harold J. Bauld and Jerome B. Kisslinger, copyright 1987. 

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