Letter: Campus history
Your recent cover article on the new Aspen Country Day School campus (“New digs,” The Aspen Times, Sept. 11) and related historical article by Tim Willoughby (“School ghost,” The Aspen Times, Sept. 11) brought back many memories about the founding of the school by my parents, Carter and Jamie Hall, with the backing of recent Ski Hall of Fame inductee Edgar Stern. In 1958, Edgar Stern bought a section of the Bonanza Placer, built his first house in Aspen on it and then donated it and the land to the music school as he went on to develop Starwood. Edgar’s family roots were in New Orleans, where he was involved with Metairie Park Country Day School, where my father was the headmaster. In 1969, we moved into his original house (where we still live to this day), and my parents worked tirelessly to get the school up and running on the music school campus, which was unused at the time during the winter. My father’s administrative assistant Jane Wright and several teachers including Charles Hemingway, who would become the school’s second headmaster, also moved from New Orleans to help get the school off the ground.
It was tough going at first. Even though I was only 6 years old at the time, I distinctly recall how excited my parents were to get enough students together to form a viable class. Needless to say, many scholarships were granted in those first few years, and budgets were very, very tight. My mother donated her time to the school to help keep it financially viable.
In more recent years, my parents worked to double the size of the campus from 20 acres to over 40 acres, a project I was heavily involved with. In 1994, we had the unfortunate experience of being sued for access by the owners of a section of the Bonanza Placer that had not been purchased by the Sterns in 1958. We won the lawsuit because the Bonanza Placer owners had an existing access through the music school campus. To make a very long story short, 20 years later and after winning a total of three lawsuits (only in Aspen), we granted the Bonanza Placer owners a much shorter and more desirable access across our property. This allowed them to vacate their easement across the music school and donate 20 acres of land in Keno Gulch to the school, including the now-defunct portal to the Newman Mine Tunnels.
We were aware that the school was considering leaving the music school campus and creating its own campus elsewhere. Needless to say, we were delighted when they were able to work things out and keep the founders’ vision of a shared campus. The new campus is stunningly beautiful and should help both schools have a prosperous future.
Your recent articles prompted me to write down some of this history, which I would not have otherwise done. Thank you.
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