From Brown Road to Warson Road, rustic to refined, classic curriculum to co-ed cooperation. This year, as we celebrate the centennial of St. Louis Country Day School’s founding, we remember all that encompasses Codasco’s rich history. While time has blurred the lines that once defined Country Day, the school’s legacy is very much alive in the philosophy that guides MICDS, in the memories of thousands of alumni and in physical and programmatic reminders sprinkled across today’s MICDS campus.
A brief journey back in time takes us to late September in 1917, a period and place when education in St. Louis and around the country was changing. That’s where the CDS saga begins, and as you peruse the pages that follow, you’ll see a vibrant history that comes to life through a collection of memories, photos and milestones.
THE OPENING CHAPTER
St. Louis Country Day School’s opening on September 29, 1917 reflected the evolving nature of secondary education in the region. Public schools were gaining momentum and respect, and once- indomitable private institutions like venerable Smith Academy in St. Louis— founded in 1856 as a boy’s feeder school for Washington University— faced new competition.
After Smith announced it would close its doors following the 1916-17 academic year, plans for a number of successor schools were formulated. One group of parents of students attending Smith and other area schools embraced the “country day” educational movement sweeping the nation—the concept of providing quality instruction comparable to East Coast boarding schools with one caveat: allowing children to return home each night. Equally compelling was the prospect of facilities outside the crowded metropolitan centers of major cities, whose skies were often clouded by thick coal smoke.
St. Louis Country Day School’s first home was on Brown Road in Berkeley, Missouri, just east of the fledgling St. Louis airport on a 54-acre tract that was once a private estate. Throughout its 40 years, Country Day’s original campus remained rustic and rural. It depended on well water for the first 15 years, and the Lower School building never had hot running water. Students initially came to school via a chartered electric streetcar known as “The Special,” trekking a quarter-mile from the trolley stop to the campus in all types of weather. That common commute, later provided by bus, was credited with fostering early school spirit.
Country Day’s financial fortunes and enrollment fluctuated, impacted by such global events as the Great Depression and World War II, but the school survived and eventually flourished. By the 1950s, CDS had outgrown its 1920s buildings, Brown Road was no longer “country,” and Lambert Airport had expanded ever-nearer, with noisy aircraft traffic increasingly disrupting classroom instruction.
A new campus was built on Warson Road in Ladue, with the move taking place during the 1957-58 winter holiday break. Here, Country Day continued to function on its own until joining forces with the neighboring Mary Institute girls’ school in 1992 to form the coeducational Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School.
CDS students and faculty who experienced life on both campuses say the character of the school changed along with the move. Classes were now conducted in stylish brick buildings, replacing tired red-roofed stucco structures where modern amenities were few. Gone were the long trips to and from school via trolley or bus. Parents—whose appearance on Brown Road usually spelled trouble for the child— became much more involved in daily school activities. And yet long-standing traditions endured, just as new ones evolved.
From Brown Road to Warson Road, CDS to MICDS. We chronicle Codasco’s 75 years as a stand-alone institution, during which it earned a respected place in the educational history of the St. Louis area. That legacy is part of the foundation of today’s MICDS, whose story as a leading educational institution continues. View, download or print Codasco’s 75-year timeline.
A CENTURY LATER
The student experience—not surprisingly— has changed considerably from that autumn day in 1917 when 48 boys took the trolley from the city for the first day of classes at the new St. Louis Country Day School.
“Country Day ‘grew up’ in many ways during the 75 years after its founding, and the evolution continues as part of MICDS.”
Today, returning alumni often comment on the differences, recalling such developments as the move to Warson Road from Brown Road, the construction of the Arts Center and the opening of the Library-Learning Center—with new facilities supported by generous alumni and parent donations then and now. They also note procedural changes. They marvel at the dining hall’s salad bar and other lunch options where, years ago, students all ate the same meal at long tables in charge of “masters” (teachers) who solemnly doled out the food. And coats and ties, once required every day, are now reserved for special occasions.
Country Day “grew up” in many ways during the 75 years after its founding, and the evolution continues as part of MICDS. In fact, CDS reminders are evident across the campus as MICDS carries with it traditions of academic rigor, athletic excellence, an appreciation for the arts and a sensitivity to cultural change. Looking back on the past century, it is apparent the statement of purpose from the school’s first (1917-18) catalog has remained an underlying premise: “By keeping the classes small and by laying stress on habits of mind rather than an accumulation of facts, the School expects to build the future high school work on secure foundations. The aim of the School is to fit boys for later usefulness of any kind.”
While we can’t recount CDS’s entire history in a few pages, we hope these images and milestones have stirred special memories of favorite instructors, Burroughs football games, Junior Prom, typing class, Red-White competition, study hall, the start of lifelong friendships and more. We encourage you to bring these recollections to Country Day’s Centennial Celebration in McDonnell Gymnasium Friday, November 17. In the meantime, we invite you to share what St. Louis Country Day School meant and still means to you by emailing us your recollections at firstname.lastname@example.org.