Darien’s Monument of the Month — Cherry Lawn School

The plaque today at Darien’s Cherry Lawn Park.

Cherry Lawn School, one of the first co-educational boarding schools in the country, was founded in Stamford in 1915, and moved to 28 acres at 120 Brookside Road, Darien in the fall of 1920. Cherry Lawn was largely an accident of fate. Beatrice, a young daughter of Leo and Gerda Stein of Stamford was stricken with polio and unable to walk. Her uncle, a pediatrician Dr. Fred Goldfrank who had recently received his M.D. from Harvard left his practice in New York City  to tutor Beatrice and the other Stein children. Traditional schools of that period were not equipped to deal with the needs of the special education, which Beatrice required.

Beginning with four students on the Stein’s property in Stamford, the idea of establishing a school based on a progressive and innovative approach to education focusing on the development of the whole person emerged. Penned by Dr. Goldfrank in 1930, the Cherry Lawn Credo was read aloud at Cherry Lawn graduations and mentions his belief that it is incumbent on each of us to do what is in us to improve the world and to so live that the world is a better place for our having lived.

The name Cherry Lawn is derived from the cherry trees which flourished on the Stein’s Stamford property. During World War II, the school’s enrollment rose to over 150 students. However, declining enrollment and financial problems caused the school to close in 1972. Today, Darien’s Cherry Lawn Park is home to tennis courts, softball fields, community gardens, walking trails and the Darien Nature Center.  The oval brass plaque and stone monument located near the sidewalk at Cherry Lawn Park were designed by Cherry Lawn School alumnus, Peter Lewis class of 1971, and portray images of cherries, a likeness of the school’s gazebo and the bridge in bas relief with the following inscription:

Cherry Lawn School Established 1915- Closed 1972

Founded by Dr. Fred Goldfrank

On these grounds, thousands of students over six decades made their home, learned tolerance and respect and received a full and liberal education. This plaque placed in 1999 by the members of all classes in memory of our school, our classmates and our teachers and the extraordinary experience they created and shared with us. “Our Hearts to Thee.”

Information for this article obtained from: “My Memoir,” by Mrs. Clarice Strasser online at: http://cherrylawnschool.org/history/history.html

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