The Former Northfield Campus

What is now Northfield Mount Hermon was founded in 1879 as the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies on a hilltop in Northfield, Massachusetts. Two years later, the Mount Hermon School for Boys was established on the other side of the river, the current site of the consolidated Northfield Mount Hermon. As the school’s original site, the Northfield campus remains an important part of NMH’s heritage.

The Northfield School was founded specifically to serve girls from poor families who had limited access to education. In time, the school developed a reputation as an excellent academic institution, and it began accepting students from all socioeconomic classes. Its goal, however — to serve a diverse community of students and to provide financial aid to as many qualified, low-income students as possible — has remained intact.

In 2004, after years of intense discussion and thorough evaluation, the NMH Board of Trustees voted to sell the Northfield campus and consolidate the school’s educational program to its campus in Gill, Massachusetts. Consolidating the campuses created a more cohesive learning environment and reduced operating costs. It also increased the resources available per student and permitted significant capital investment in facilities.

Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the arts-and-crafts retail chain, 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 invested more than $10 million in renovations to the aging campus buildings before making an irrevocable donation of the campus in 2012 to the National Christian Foundation (NCF), a private, nonprofit charity.

In July 2016, NMH sold 1,287 acres of forest land in Northfield and Warwick to the commonwealth of Massachusetts. The land is now managed by the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation as part of the Northfield State Forest. It will be protected for public use in perpetuity.

In May 2017, the NCF gifted about one-quarter of the former campus’s acreage and 10 of its buildings to the Moody Center, a nonprofit organization established to honor the legacy of NMH founder Dwight L. Moody. The buildings donated to the center were: the Homestead, the Auditorium, Revell Hall, Holton, Duly, the Bookstore, Daley, Hibbard, Moore Cottage, and Betsy Moody Infirmary (which, later in life, was transformed into a dormitory simply called Moody). Despite the transfer of ownership, NMH continues to use the Auditorium for Sacred Concert, an annual event that traditionally has been held there each May.

At the same time that it made its donation to the Moody Center, the NCF donated the other three-quarters of the campus’s acreage and 40 buildings to Thomas Aquinas College, a California institution that plans to use the property to open an East Coast campus. The campus is scheduled to open in August 2018. Initially it will serve 36 students, but it will grow eventually to serve 350 to 400 students.

Both the center and the college have expressed a deep appreciation for the historical significance of the former NMH campus and its significance to past generations of NMH students. Both also have said they plan to maintain all the buildings, upgrading and renovating them as needed and as resources allow.

NMH still owns property in Northfield, including some residences, Moody’s birthplace, and the East Northfield Water Company. NMH also shares ownership of Round Top, Moody’s burial place, with the Powell family, who are Moody’s direct descendants. NMH’s share of ownership in that property is 25 percent.

The NMH Board of Trustees reached a preliminary agreement in May 2017 that could one day transfer ownership of the Birthplace and Round Top to The Moody Center. Under the terms of the agreement, the center would take over the maintenance and upgrading of both the Birthplace and Round Top for five years. If, at the end of that time, NMH deems the center’s stewardship of those properties satisfactory, the school would then donate the Birthplace and its share of Round Top to the center.
NMH also agreed to allow the center to display select Moody artifacts owned by NMH in the center’s museum, which will be open to the public. NMH Archivist Peter Weis will oversee all arrangements regarding the care and display of the artifacts.

Honoring the role of the Northfield campus in the history of NMH is a priority for the school’s board of trustees 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. The Honoring Northfield Fund helped bring aspects of the Northfield campus over to the NMH campus, including renovations to create the Mira B. Wilson Room and the Evelyn Hall Room. In addition, a photograph of every graduating class since 1879 is hung in Alumni Hall, honoring every matriculating student in the school’s history.

Starting in 2006, the now-retired Northfield Mount Hermon History Projects Committee created extensive photographic, oral history, and architectural records of the campus. Much of that work is reflected in the 2010 book Lift Thine Eyes, which honors the heritage of the schools.