In 1879, evangelist D.L. Moody founded the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies in Northfield, Mass., and two years later, he established the Mount Hermon School for Boys on the other side of the Connecticut River. The schools merged into a single coeducational institution in 1971, but continued to operate on the original two campuses.
After years of intense discussion and thorough evaluation, the NMH Board of Trustees voted in 2004 to sell the Northfield campus. This decision was part of the board’s plan to consolidate the school’s educational program onto its Mount Hermon campus in Gill, Massachusetts. The consolidation to one campus created a more cohesive learning environment and reduced operating costs. It also increased the donative resources available per student and permitted significant capital investment in new and existing facilities. Now, a decade later, the nonprofit National Christian Foundation (NCF), the largest Christian grant-making organization in the U.S., owns the Northfield campus.
The NCF became the owner of the Northfield campus on Dec. 31, 2012. Based in Alpharetta, Georgia, the NCF is working to find a long-term owner and occupant for the property that will honor the legacy of D.L. Moody. The organization appears to be open to multiple users, given the size and complexity of the property. According to the NCF, it has spent approximately $1.8 million each year to maintain the buildings and the campus infrastructure.
The prior owner of the Northfield campus was Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the arts-and-crafts retail chain owned by the Green family of Oklahoma City. Hobby Lobby purchased the 217-acre core Northfield campus from Northfield Mount Hermon in 2009, with the goal of giving the property to a Christian educational institution.
Hobby Lobby’s original plan was to gift the campus to the C.S. Lewis Foundation for a new college of “Great Books” and visual and performing arts, but the foundation was unable to raise the necessary seed money to secure the campus at that time. In 2013, however, its college subsidiary did purchase a building on the campus—"Green Pastures," at the intersection of Main and Moody Streets—to establish the C.S. Lewis Study Center, which will be home to non-credit education and discussion programs.
Hobby Lobby also contracted to sell the campus to Grand Canyon College, which determined not to complete the purchase.
Hobby Lobby invested more than $10 million in renovations to the aging campus buildings before making an irrevocable donation of the campus to the NCF.
As owner of the campus and as a private foundation, the NCF is managing the extensive, ongoing search for new users, owners, and occupants of the Northfield campus. This is an internal process; NMH does not play a role in it.
NMH still owns property around the Northfield campus, including The Birthplace, a few faculty residences, the East Northfield Water Company, the Northfield Forest, and other land parcels. The school shares ownership of Round Top with the Powell family. As part of the school’s continued consolidation, other properties have been sold to local community members and land conservation groups.
Because the consolidation is part of the NMH Board of Trustees’ goal to direct the school’s resources toward its educational program for current and future students, the retention of remaining Northfield properties will be based on whether the property meets an operational need or is central to the NMH educational program.
Currently, the school is continuing discussions with The Trust for Public Land concerning its possible acquisition of the East Northfield Water Company and the Forests.
NMH’s original agreement with Hobby Lobby contains provisions that transfer to new owners that restrict or prohibit certain uses or transfers. It prohibits a hazardous-waste treatment plant; waste transfer station; heavy industry, including fossil fuel or nuclear power generation; a correction facility; or any adult entertainment. NMH’s continued usage of the Auditorium for Sacred Concert also was part of the original sales agreement with Hobby Lobby and continues with the new owner.
The school currently operates a daycare center on the Northfield campus, and plans are in place to build a new facility on the NMH campus, opening, tentatively, in 2015. Archival materials that had been stored in Dolben Library have been relocated to storage facilities on the NMH campus. The monuments and memorial plaques on the Northfield campus are owned by NMH and maintained in cooperation with NCF.
Honoring the role of the Northfield campus in the history of NMH is a priority for the school’s board and administration. The Northfield School for Girls Scholarship Fund was established to provide financial assistance for a female student who embodies the spirit of the Northfield School for Girls—a young woman who possesses academic curiosity and dedication; who displays a strong work ethic; has great determination to succeed; and conducts herself with confidence, caring, and poise.
The NMH Alumni Association sponsors a series of Northfield School for Girls alumnae events to honor Northfield traditions and reflect on the past, present, and future of NMH. The idea for this new series came out of the 2010 annual meeting of the NMH Alumni Council; alumnae volunteers envisioned the program.
Finally, the Northfield Mount Hermon History Projects Committee made a photographic and architectural record of the campus; developed an oral history project; and published Lift Thine Eyes, a book that honors the heritage of the schools.