"Effective December 28, 2012, Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. made an irrevocable donation of the Northfield Campus in Northfield, MA, to the National Christian Foundation (NCF).
NCF is a nonprofit charity, based in Alpharetta, Georgia. Hobby Lobby has made donations of other properties to NCF in the past and is confident they will care for the property with the same commitment demonstrated by Hobby Lobby over the past three years. NCF will continue the work of finding a long-term owner 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. [Updated June 4, 2013.]
Established as a community foundation, NCF is the largest Christian grant-making organization in the US. In 2012 alone, they’ve sent $590 million to over 10,000 charities around the world. NCF Vice President of Communications, Steve Chapman said, 'We're thrilled with the opportunity to further preserve the heritage of the Northfield campus and to serve Hobby Lobby with their charitable giving objectives.'"
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.
After investing more than $5 million in renovations of campus buildings, Hobby Lobby announced in September 2012 that it intended to transfer the property to Grand Canyon University (GCU) of Phoenix, Ariz. GCU, a for-profit school, hoped to open a Northfield branch in fall 2014 with 500 students and increase that enrollment to 5,000 students in five years.
A little over a month after that much-anticipated announcement, GCU president Brian Mueller said his school was unable to accept Hobby Lobby’s gift and had decided to dissolve the deal. GCU had begun conducting a due-diligence process to obtain the necessary legal, regulatory, and accrediting approvals. “As we got further along in the process, additional infrastructure and possible environmental costs became apparent, and we realized it did not make a lot of economic sense,” said Bill Jenkins, GCU’s vice president of communications and public affairs.
Hobby Lobby consequently renewed its effort to find a recipient organization for the campus, which concluded with its donation of the campus to the NCF.
Yes, the agreement includes some restrictions. For example, it prohibits use of the land for a hazardous-waste treatment plant; transfer station; heavy industry, including fossil fuel or nuclear power generation; correction facility; or adult entertainment. The restrictions transfer to the new owner.
The NCF is a private foundation and is managing its selection process as an internal matter. NMH has no role in the decision-making process.
In March 2012, during the time that Hobby Lobby was considering prospective organizations, the NMH board issued a statement about the campus.
"Preserving Northfield Mount Hermon's mission and educational program is at the heart of everything the school's board of trustees does. The board takes this responsibility seriously and acts carefully. Making the decision in 2009 to sell the Northfield campus properties to Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. was no exception to these principles.
Recently, the future of the Northfield campus has been the subject of discussion in the media and within the Northfield Mount Hermon community. We on the NMH board understand that many individual members of the school community feel strongly about the Northfield campus, and we respect their rights to hold and express their personal opinions.
As the owner of the Northfield campus, Hobby Lobby naturally has the right to determine the new user or owner of the Northfield campus. The NMH Board does not have the ability to control the way in which Hobby Lobby transfers its property.
Northfield Mount Hermon remains focused on its mission and on providing the best educational program possible."
In 2004, the NMH Board of Trustees voted to consolidate to a single campus in Gill, Mass. After a thorough evaluation process, NMH sold the Northfield campus in 2009 to Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., an Oklahoma City-based corporation.
Hobby Lobby's original plan was to gift the campus to the C.S. Lewis Foundation, which was to open a new college of "Great Books" and visual and performing arts in Fall 2012. Some time later, the opening date was rescheduled for Fall 2013, to allow the foundation more time to raise necessary funds. Hobby Lobby extensively repaired, restored, and renovated campus buildings and infrastructure in anticipation of C.S. Lewis College's opening.
The C.S. Lewis Foundation missed the December 31, 2011, deadline to raise the initial seed money to purchase the campus for its new college. Consequently, the foundation lost its exclusive option to be gifted the campus by Hobby Lobby. The foundation remains interested in being considered as a recipient for the campus.
In September 2013, the foundation purchased "Green Pastures," located at the intersection of Main and Moody Streets. The C.S. Lewis College Foundation, a subsidiary of the C.S. Lewis Foundation, intends to use the property as a C.S. Lewis Study Center, where it plans to launch several programs open to the surrounding community. These noncredit programs, which include a lecture series, Great Books seminars, and performing arts concerts, are intended to reflect anticipated offerings at the future C.S. Lewis College.
[This section was updated September 18, 2013.]
What Northfield properties were included in the 2009 sale?
The sale included academic buildings and several faculty houses deemed necessary to start a college on the core campus. Also included were the bookstore building, Revell, Holton, the nursery school, and Moore Cottage. In total, the transaction included 217 of NMH's 2,184 acres in Northfield. (NMH continues to operate the nursery school.) Please see the Northfield campus map
for a visual representation of included properties.
Excluded were the Birthplace, Round Top, the Homestead, the golf course, the pool, the timberlands, 28 faculty residences, other land parcels, and the East Northfield Water Company. The school granted to Hobby Lobby purchase options—for the Homestead, Green Pastures, the golf course, and 17 other faculty houses—that extended through December 2014.
Yes. As part of NMH's process to consolidate to one campus, which started in 2005, the following properties were listed for sale: the Homestead; Green Pastures; the golf course, which includes the pool, four houses, and adjacent vacant land; and 22+ acres of vacant land on Mill Street. They were released to MLS in March 2013.
In June 2013, Hobby Lobby exercised its option to purchase the Homestead, and the company took ownership in mid-August. The company did not exercise its option to purchase Green Pastures, which the C.S. Lewis Foundation purchased in September 2013; and, it declined its option to purchase the golf course properties.
[This section updated October 28, 2013.]
What is the status of the Northfield golf course properties?
In January 2014, Northfield Mount Hermon and Snow & Sons announced the purchase of the golf club properties by the Snow family of Leyden, Mass. The Snows are the owners of Snow & Sons Tree & Landscaping of Greenfield, Mass., which has had a long-standing working relationship with the school, including maintaining the golf course since 2011. The two organizations entered into an agreement to sell the properties to the Snow family in October 2013.
Snow & Sons has agreed to honor all memberships, which are due to expire, and any outstanding gift certificates. Snow will consider ways for area golf teams to play on the course.
The Snows’ plans currently include making upgrades to the golf course, the pool facility, and the roadways and irrigation system on the property, and possibly building a new clubhouse that eventually would house a restaurant and bar. They also hope to restore one of the four homes (Dickerson House) to its original use.
Snow’s long-term goal is to build a family-event center that could accommodate social events and other gatherings.
[This section was updated January 28, 2014.]
What is the status of the Northfield Forest and East Northfield Water Company? [NEW]
In March 2014, the school and the Trust for Public Land reached an agreement for the potential sale of the 1,650-acre Northfield Forest and the East Northfield Water Company (ENWC) by NMH to the Trust. The agreement is structured through options, which will afford the Trust with time to work with the town of Northfield, state agencies, and other partners to address the funding for future ownership and management of those resources before committing to buy. In addition to being managed as a working forest, more than 300 acres of the land protect the water quality in Grandin Reservoir, the water source for the ENWC, which provides water to more than 200 customers as well as to the former Northfield campus. The Trust needs to raise substantial funds for the purchase and stewardship of these properties, and many details regarding the use and management of the land and the ownership and operation of the water company remain to be settled. The Trust for Public Land will lead efforts to raise public and private funds, while working with local leaders, neighboring towns, and regional land trusts to ensure the project’s overall success.
[This section added March 26, 2014.]
Since starting the consolidation to one campus, it has become clear that some of NMH's Northfield properties are not central to the school's educational program. The board of trustees decided it would be most beneficial to the school to put these properties up for sale. Using the school's resources to provide the best educational program possible remains the board's top priority.
It is possible that other NMH Northfield properties will be put on the market in the future. The sale of any remaining Northfield properties would be based on the school's operational need for the property or its centrality to the NMH educational program. The board of trustees and the school are exploring ways to best steward the Birthplace and Round Top, which is co-owned with the Moody descendent family, the Powells. The board of trustees will continue to carefully monitor all of the school's holdings. No timetable for any future actions has been set.
The school intends to use the nursery school in Northfield (and the residence Wilson House) through September 2014. NMH is pursuing options for moving the nursery school to the NMH campus, possibly into Social Hall or a new building.
The largest portion of the Northfield-based archives is kept in the basement of Dolben Library. NMH is currently planning to relocate these holdings to a storage area in Blake Student Center and then to Schauffler Library. [This question and answer added June 4, 2013.]
The transaction has assured the preservation of the historic Northfield campus. NMH is avoiding significant maintenance costs while retaining forestland, most faculty residences, and the East Northfield Water Company. NMH values the expense avoidance over 10 years at $15 million and the retained properties at $9 million. This does not include the savings associated with avoided future costs of capital renewal of 500,000 square feet of historic buildings or the $100,000 purchase price.
Yes. Usage of the Auditorium for Sacred Concert was part of the agreement with Hobby Lobby and continues with the new owner.
Hobby Lobby invested millions of dollars preserving the campus, including restoring Sage Chapel and Stone Hall, repainting most buildings, replacing campus paths, cleaning Perry Pond, and repairing roofs and steam lines.
The Northfield Mount Hermon History Project has made a photographic and architectural record of the campus; developed an oral history project; and published Lift Thine Eyes
, a book that honors the broad heritage of the schools, with emphasis on the landscape, the architecture, and the Moody legacy.
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.
The Northfield School for Girls Scholarship Fund
was established to create a scholarship that provides 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.
NMH owns all of the monuments and memorial plaques on the Northfield campus, and is in the process of relocating and rededicating those that should move to the NMH campus and deciding which should remain in place. NMH has the right to maintain, repair, restore, remove, and replace any or all of these monuments and markers. The NCF may request that the monuments be moved.
No. Northfield Mount Hermon is, and will remain, Northfield Mount Hermon.
(Updated March 26, 2014)