The Blake School: A History

For more than 110 years, The Blake School and its predecessors — Northrop Collegiate School (1900), Blake School (1907), and Highcroft County Day School (1958) — have provided excellent education and college preparation for students in the Twin Cities area. A small group of families, who wanted to prepare their children for schools in the East, founded Blake (for boys) and Northrop (for girls) in Minneapolis early in the 20th century. Migration to the Minneapolis suburbs led to the incorporation of Highcroft — a co-educational elementary school — in Wayzata in 1958. The three schools merged to become The Blake School(s) in 1974.

Many of the traditions of the schools that merged are preserved in today's Blake. From Highcroft came strong parental involvement and one of the school colors (green). Blue came from Northrop, as did a strong drama program and Cyrus the bear, the mascot that combined with the Blake Bear as the new school's mascot. Blake's strong assembly speech and debate programs are still ongoing and successful graduation requirements, and the athletic program for both boys and girls has grown tremendously in past years. Of course the most important continuing tradition is the quest for academic excellence. Blake and its predecessors have endeavored to meet the challenge of Charles B. Newton, early Blake headmaster, who envisioned a school "not only for the wealthy, but for the worthy." At the beginning, the schools were "privileged" in every sense of the word, but over time — especially after World War II — they became more inclusive, drawing students from a variety of backgrounds. Considering the high cost of private school tuition, Newton's vision has sometimes been an elusive goal, but the school community has worked to meet his ideal with an admirable record of efforts to reach out to the broader community.

During the last century, The Blake School and its founding institutions have maintained a high standard of education and have fostered long-lasting, personal relationships among students, their peers and teachers. During the centennial year, when many alumni reflected on their memories of the school(s), one graduate said: "The experience is intense — and it never ends."

Credit for text and historical information goes to Janet Woolman, author of "Expecting Good Things of All — 100 Years of Academic Excellence," Helen De Haven Bush '52, author of "The History of Northrop Collegiate School," and to Benjamin Sherman '71, author of "The Blake School 1907-1974, A Chronological History."

Northrop Collegiate School

The earliest predecessor of the present school dates back to 1900 and was originally founded as Graham Hall by Miss Zulema A. Ruble and Miss Carrie Bartlett. The school, which provided the opportunity for girls to continue their studies through their second year of college, was first located in a house near downtown Minneapolis. But the growing school soon moved into three neighboring houses about six blocks from its original location. In July 1914 a group of Minneapolis leaders joined forces to purchase Graham Hall and the following summer incorporated the school as Northrop Collegiate School. It was named in honor of Cyrus Northrop, president of the University of Minnesota from 1885-1911. Dr. Northrop was a speaker at the January 29, 1917 opening ceremonies of the school's new building (left) near downtown Minneapolis, which currently houses the Upper School of The Blake School.

The Blake School for boys

Downtown Minneapolis saw the emergence of another private institution in September 1907, when William McKendree Blake established the Blake School, a preparatory school for boys. Three years later, an area businessman took action to put Blake on the same plane as eastern preparatory academies. Aided by Mr. Blake, Charles C. Bovey asked 16 other local business leaders to contribute $2,500 each towards Blake's first capital drive. These original guarantors hired Charles B. Newton, who was educated at Princeton and Harvard, to replace William Blake as headmaster in 1911. All but two of the guarantors served as Blake trustees when the school incorporated on May 5, 1911. Their pooled resources enabled construction of a new building in Hopkins in 1912 (left); the site is still the home campus for the Middle School and one of the two Lower School campuses.

Highcroft Country Day School

Highcroft Country Day School was founded in 1958 as an independent, non-sectarian, co-educational, kindergarten through ninth grade school. Another strongly parent-driven project, Highcroft was designed to provide an exceptional education, near home, for students in the far western suburbs of the Twin Cities. The school building (left) was built in 1960 on land purchased and donated to the school, which had been part of the former Highcroft estate in Wayzata. Today, Highcroft is Blake's other Lower School campus.

Following graduation from ninth grade, many Highcroft students attended Northrop or Blake, and Highcroft later became a partner in the four-year process that resulted in the merger of Northrop, Blake and Highcroft on August 15, 1972.

The Blake School(s)

The Blake Schools, as the triumvirate was known until 1987 when it officially became The Blake School, graduated its first co-educational class in June 1975. In the years since the merger, The Blake School has grown and prospered. This can be attributed to the active involvement and support of the extended school community and to the students, faculty and staff, who strive to fulfill personal educational goals and to live up to the stands set by other community members throughout this century.

View Blake's pictorial history:

Hold history in your hands. Visit Bearwear Store (select "Books etc…" from drop down menu) to order your copy of "Expecting Good Things of All" today!