For over 50 years, The Willows medical complex — aka “Fort Apache” — has sat at the Kings Highway North/Wilton Road intersection.
But for 3 decades before that, it was the 3rd home to The Bolton School — aka The Westport School for Girls.
The school was opened in 1925 by Mrs. Mary E.E. Bolton and her sister, Miss Katherine Laycock. The founders’ main goal was to educate Bolton’s 2 daughters.
The women were “completely unknown in Westport,” a school history in the 1951 yearbook says.
But they put up a sign outside a 3-story Myrtle Avenue house. Bolton leased room for her school — and living space for herself and her daughters — there.
Besides Betty and Bunny Bolton, 2 other girls — all 7 years old– enrolled. By year’s end, 14 others joined them.
The next year the school moved to a large Greek Revival house on the corner of Post Road West and Ludlow Road.
Three years later, they relocated to the Kings Highway North site. The Bolton School occupied a large Victorian farmhouse, and 3 outbuildings.
Each year, a new grade was added. The first graduating class was 1935.
By the mid-1950s though, the old house, barn and sheds were fire traps. Mrs. Bolton’s lease was nearing an end, and the owner of the property wanted to sell.
A group of concerned parents and friends of the school, including Lucie Bedford Cunningham, approached the sisters with the idea of incorporating The Bolton School as a not-for-profit, which could raise money to build or buy new facilities. Mrs. Bolton declined, preferring to retain ownership of her nursery school and lower school, but Miss Laycock, headmistress of the Upper School, agreed.
Long story short: In 1956 the Kathleen Laycock Country Day School opened in the dilapidated house. After a search, the Bedford/Vanderbilt family sold 26 acres of property on Beachside Avenue — for $250,000.
In 1959, Kathleen Laycock School moved in. The next year, Mrs. Bolton’s younger school followed.
Both prospered. But by the end of the 1960s, single-sex schools were under siege. In 1969, after a year of study and deliberation, the trustees voted to admit males.
Knowing the difficulty of attracting boys to “Kathleen Laycock Country Day,” the trustees renamed the school. In September 1970, 23 young men joined 300 young women at Greens Farms Academy.
The rest is history. You can still see the remnants of what was once the Bolton School on Beachside Avenue.
If you close your eyes, you can visualize it too at Fort Apache.
(Hat tip: Bonnie Bradley)