Horace Mann School: Cultivation Rather Than Manipulation

| July 13, 2010

The Horace Mann School was founded 1887 as a coeducational experimental and developmental unit of Teachers College by Nicholas Murray Butler. The school moved to Morningside Heights with the newly-accredited Teachers College and into its own building in 1902.

The school was named after Horace Mann, the first Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education; a United States congressman; and President of Antioch College. Mann believed that every person, regardless of their background, should receive a public education. He played a leading role in establishing the public elementary school system in the United States.

The new Horace Mann School building spanned the west end of the block from 120th Street to 121st Street. The entrance was on Broadway, then often referred to as The Boulevard.  In addition to classrooms, recitation rooms, conference rooms and art studios, the building included a gymnasium, a 1,000-seat auditorium with a stained glass ceiling, and a lunch room that accommodated 300.  The entrance hall was decorated with a large statue of the Lemnian Athene, and on the double staircases and on the opposite wall of the corridor were bas-reliefs of the Madonna and Child by Benedetto da Maiano, Madonna and Child by Michel Angelo, and Boys and Girls Singing and Playing on Instruments, by Luca della Robbia. A large Otis elevator ran from the basement to the fifth floor.

Samuel T. Dutton, the Superintendent of Teachers College Schools, remarked on the special nature of the college-school relationship as reported in the Teachers College Record:

… The best that experts could devise has found its actual application in the school-room work. Results have been secured through cultivation rather than though manipulation; so the Horace Mann School has been to Teachers College much more than an experiment station or a laboratory. It has been a garden in which every plant receives its proper fertilization and care. What flowers and fruit are to the gardener, the interesting and ever-changing phases of child life and achievement have been to professors and teachers.”