Concord Academy recently seized a rare opportunity to reintegrate a piece of its history. Last year, the school purchased a private residence that once belonged to beloved former headmistress Elizabeth B. Hall, a property the school owned for three years in the 1970s. Bordering the Sudbury River on the western edge of campus, the striking mid-century house was affectionately named Toad Hall after the grand red-brick, riverfront abode of Mr. Toad in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. And so, after many decades, it is once again called.
A Toad Hall crest created by the class of 1958.
The house was featured in the August 1961 issue of Better Homes & Gardens, where the “massive brick end walls, the absence of needless ornament, and restrained landscaping” of the contemporary saltbox were praised as a twist on tradition well-suited for contemporary living. The house is distinctive not only for its mid-century style but for the ability of its basement doors to open to accommodate seasonal flooding — a necessity, as it sits close upon the riverbank, a boat launch at the ready.
Having had Toad Hall built adjacent to the campus, Mrs. Hall had once envisioned remaining there with her husband, Livingston, until their retirement. However, in the spring of 1963, she announced that she would be unable to return in the fall for the new academic term. She decamped to Western Massachusetts to care for her aging parents but retained possession of the property, living in Toad Hall off and on, just beyond the western edge of campus, throughout the first year of Headmaster David Aloian’s tenure. The Halls finally sold the home in 1972, and in 1973 Concord Academy closed the sale on these desirable quarters.
Toad Hall was used as the headmaster’s house until, in 1977, financial struggles necessitated its sale to a private family. The property, a portion of which the school had earlier sold to a neighboring family, then passed out of the school’s hands for more than 40 years.
The reacquisition of Toad Hall has now enabled Concord Academy to consider the flow of West Campus as a whole and provided more options for long-term planning. For the time being, Don Kingman, longtime director of campus planning and construction, and his wife, Sue, are living in Toad Hall while the school makes plans for the property.