More on Windsor Mountain School

Roselle Charlock gave a talk Oct. 30, 2014 at the Lenox Library which rounded out the information from Rick Goeld on Windsor Mountain School.  Rosalie’s talk provided an introduction to her new book, Windsor Mountain School, A Beloved Berkshire Institution.  Roselle is professor emerita of education at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and the author of several books on education and on the Holocaust.

Progressive Education at Windsor Mountain with a European Flair

Her book provided additional information on the Bondy family (the founders of Windsor Mountain School) and their educational philosophy.  Max Bondy had a background with the German Youth Movement which, before it was co-opted into Hitler Youth, stressed healthy outdoor living  which Max and other faculty members brought to Windsor Mountain School.  Their educational philosophy also emphasized learning to control violent, destructive impulses natural to all of us by experiential learning, artistic expression,  and a self-defined path.  Freedom was seen as key to a self-defined life.  

Heinz Bondy was often quoted as saying, “adjust to the world, but not conform.”  In the early days of Windsor Mountain School (moved to Lenox in 1944), the school was also characterized by a small student body, individualized learning, counseling from Gertrude Bondy (who had studied with Freud), and a multi cultural student body.  In the early days, students and faculty were often, like the Bondys, refugees from the hardships of Nazism (and later Communism) and the school had a distinctly European feel.

As noted in the earlier blog about Windsor Mountain School, this combination of tolerance, personal attention, and high-quality faculty led to a student body that included children of the famous (i.e. children of Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Roy Campanella, and Charles Schultz).

In the beautiful setting of Groton Place in the Berkshires and this loving, supportive – but stimulating – environment, Windsor Mountain School, in the early days was characterized as a “utopian Oz.” *

Groton Place WM Berk Eagle 20140308__BondyObit09
Groton Place – Home of Windsor Mountain School in Lenox




By the Mid 1960’s Things Had Started to Change

By the late 1960’s society was changing and so was Windsor Mountain School.

  • As of 1951 (when Max Bondy died) Max and Gertrude’s son Heinz had taken over (somewhat reluctantly) as headmaster.  Faculty and students characterized him as lax in imposing what few rules there were.
  • The Bondys had always been generous in providing scholarships for refugees and other students who otherwise would not have had access to the kind of quality education Windsor Mountain offered (P. 154 – 15% of each class typically on scholarship.)
  • By the 1970’s, the school had gotten into a vicious financial cycle brought on by both this generosity in providing tuition-free education and by the costs of new buildings.  To cover these costs, the school increased the size of the student body.
    • Many of the students were of the same interesting potential as the students of the early days, but some were basically juvenile delinquents sent by the state to Windsor Mountain School as a last ditch effort.  The unstructured environment was, as it turned out, inappropriate for a small but impactful group that brought troubling behaviors to the school.
    • Not only the nature of the students but the size of the student body changed.  In 1952 the student body had reached a high of  80 students (15 faculty members).  In 1974 (p. 151) there were 84 students in the graduating class (probably 4x the 1952 student body.)
  • Finally, Gertrude Bondy, who had held daily counseling sessions in the early days, was less and less involved as time went on.

Sex between students (and faculty in some cases) became common as did the use of dangerous drugs such as heroin (including overdoses) vandalism and theft.  The reputation of the “hippie” school was going in the wrong direction.

“In addition to the tension between Windsor Mountain and the town’s police and health departments, there were, according to Peter Whitehead and Terry Hall, ‘town/school tensions’ in general.. There were differences in class and race, and there were the drugs.  They noted that several Lenox locals saw longhaired students as hippies, and Terry Hall said Windsor kids were called ‘kooks.’ ‘We looked different,’ said Peter Whitehead. ‘We stood out.  You couldn’t go into town without getting into verbal confrontations.  Heinz would tell us to be careful ‘Don’t be stupid.’ We didn’t feel free to go anywhere.” (P. 141)

Just as the school had more and more need for tuition-paying students, it was becoming less appropriate for intellectually oriented students.

Windsor Mountain School – And Others – Close

Windsor Mountain closed in August 1975.  The bank foreclosed on the heavily mortgaged property.  As noted above, some of the reasons the school closed were unique to Windsor Mountain.  However, there were general social and economic factors that contributed to the closure of a number of private schools in the Lenox area at about the same time.

  1. Oil prices skyrocketed in 1973 with the oil embargo.  Heating these huge, un-insulated houses became unaffordable.
  2. Society had changed.

“What had happened is that the entire market for private secondary eduction had changed by 1972.  A combination of an inter-generational leveling in the distribution of wealth, i.e., younger parents didn’t have the spare money that their parents had had to afford private school, together with changes in social attitudes, limited the market for paying students.  [Along with the 1960’s revolution in sex, drugs, students’ rights, civil rights and gender], there were anti-establishment, anti-elitist, attitudes that caused younger parents to disparage private schooling as ‘elitist.'” (P. 153 – Richard Neely wrote on the school’s website February 14, 2007).

The five other schools that closed in Lenox were:

  • The Stockbridge School had a progressive approach similar to Windsor Mountain.  Famous alumni included Arlo Guthrie and and Chevy Chase.  Sometimes students from the two schools would gather at Mundy’s Bar and Restaurant (1970-1989) in the Glendale section of Stockbridge.  Stockbridge School operated 1949-1976 and was replaced by the DeSisto School (1978-2004) The Stockbridge campus on West St. is currently vacant.
  • The Lenox School for Boys (1926-1972) – was founded by Episcopal churchmen but was non-denominational and proud of its focus on service and diversity.  Its campus is now Fairlawn, Kemble Inn and Shakespeare and Company (plus some other buildings)
  • The Cranwell School (1939-1975) was established by the Jesuits and Ted Kennedy attended eighth grade there.  It is now the Cranwell hotel and spa.
  • Richard J. Herbert, Jr. purchased Overleigh estate on Old Stockbridge Road for the Rockwood Academy (1964-1975). Like Bondy, he had had to scramble to cover costs by taking in wards of the state. In 1980 the property was sold to Hillcrest Education Centers, a private non-profit focused on students with behavioral difficulties.  It remains part of the Hillcrest Education network.
  • Foxhollow School for Girls had been founded in 1898 in the Hudson River area.  It moved to Lenox in 1939 with Aileen M. Farrell’s purchase of Margaret Vanderbilt’s estate (constructed on the site of the estate of George Westinghouse at the current intersection of Route 7 and Old Stockbridge Road).  In the 1950’s she expanded the campus by purchasing The Mount, built for famous author Edith Wharton.  Today the Vanderbilt/Westinghouse estate is condominiums and Enlighten Next.  The Mount has been restored and is a major Lenox cultural attraction.
  • The last Lenox private school to close during this economically challenging period was the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary (1961-1979) run by the Priests of the Sacred Heart as a school for young men interested in the priesthood.  It occupied the elegant “cottage,” Bellefontaine, on Kemble Street.  Since 1987, it has been operated as Canyon Ranch.

Windsor Mountain School – Afterward

In November 1975 Holliston Jr. College purchase the Windsor Mountain site for $270,000.  It was to be used for the training of paramedics, medical assistants, veterinary assistants, respiratory therapists and food technologists. The holistic program failed to get accreditation.   In 1976the Beatrice Macmunn, the owner of Holliston Jr. College, used the property for a Hearing Ear Dog Program.  Macon ended selling several parcels on the property.  From 1976- 1980 the site was rented to Pastor Carl H. Stevens of “The Bible Speaks West.”  In 1980, it was sold to Boston University for the Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI) for gifted high school age students.  During the school year, the property is used by Berkshire Country Day School.

Boston University Tanglewood Institute at Groton Place
Boston University Tanglewood Institute at Groton Place

Comments on Other Windsor Mountain School Properties

In addition to Groton Place, Windsor Mountain School occupied Beaupre, a 30 room “cottage” belonging at one time to George Turnure.  It was used as a boy’s dorm until burned by students.

Heinz Brody gave Franny and Jim Hall property on which to build a house.  It can be entered from 60 Hawthorne St. or 45 West. St.


*Windsor Mountain School, A Beloved Berkshire Institution, by Roselle Kline Charlock, The History Press, 2014, P. 123

In addition to the book above, please see the Lenox History You Tube channel for a video of Roselle’s talk at the Lenox Library.


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22 thoughts on “More on Windsor Mountain School”

  1. I attended Windsor Mt School in the early 70’s, for two years.

    As I look back, my time spent there played a huge part in developing my attitudes and sense of self worth…all for the better.

    My teachers were truly amazing, as was Hienz.

    I will always be grateful, especially to Gerdi Wiener, Sushil Mukargi and Jim Hall. Each showed me great respect and genuine encouragement…although sometimes I didn’t deserve it.

    Many years have passed, but I still reflect on those days as though they were yesterday.

    1. I graduated in 1971. If memory serves , when I started there , you lived in the Boys House in a triple , with Peter Condos and Bill Zimmer . I basically remember that because Bill and I had gone to the same public high school and I met your sisterling Pam there I guess I was shy, and a year younger , but I still recall how gorgeous Pam was . She was also nice to a new boy (moi).
      But for Windsor , I doubt I’d have finished high school , let alone college , and then Law School . So , it was a success for me too . Hope you (and Pam) are well , although I doubt that either of you have any memory of me , which doesn’t matter .

      A lot of us prospered and thrived on the unstructured , independent environment . I’m sorry for those who didn’t .

  2. A thread from earlier generations, in hope personal histories might be of value— my uncle Abbey Popper, second cousin of Max and Gertude attended the Bondy (we spelled the family name Bondi) school in Switzerland before WW11, and in its original location in Marienau, Germany. M+G were godparents to my mother Birgitt Traute Popper.The legacy of liberal, integrative, embodied thinking is potent indeed- thank you for sharing Roselle Charlock’s talk. Philip Beesley/Living Architecture Systems Group University of Waterloo

  3. Did the school ever become Windsor Mountain School for Girls?
    I was under the impression that they rented the old mansion behind Edgecombe Nursing Home as dorm space?
    This would’ve been in the early 70s, I believe.

    1. No I was a student from 69-73 and it was not a girl’s school.
      My mother bought Brookfarm Inn on Hawthorne st.and in lieu of tuition for me Heinz used part of it as a girl’s dorm much to my dismay! I went away to school to get away from family

    1. Rick Goeld, I see they’ve since corrected your name but there are several other typos or mistakes, among them, Henry Poitier instead of Sidney.
      Other than that, interesting and informative!

  4. I attended Windsor Mountain 73-74.
    I had issues and was already a senior who dropped out
    of a high-end public high school and was sent to Windsor Mountain by my grandfather, an Illinois politician. I wish I could have been there a few years earlier when it really was a utopia. By the time I got to W.M. sadly, there was crime, drugs and other illicit activities.Now I am a college graduate, published writer and friend/associate of reputable producers.
    I would love to hear more about the positive aspect of Windsor Mountain.

  5. I was student there for several years.
    HAVE too much to say in an email .
    I wil say Bob Blafield was the music teacher a greater man, i never knew I hope is well and reagrds to his family,
    not to gossip however
    yes there was lots of faculty and student sexual inter mingle
    some of to my benifit, some would today cosidered crimes.
    it allowed folks who could not fit in to attend school
    some used hard drugs more or less openly .
    where as i was told if cut class i might have to be sent home.
    it was unuiqe and wonderful if slighty daangerous as where the times 69 to 71 i belive

  6. I was a student at WMS from 1966-70 ,having previously been at Lenox Academy . I can honestly say that WMS saved my life and have only fond memories of my time there. It wasn’t so much an education as a shelter and home where I could learn and grow at my own pace and instinct. I witnessed the descent into madness brought by hard drugs beginning in 1970 and was able to avoid them as a result.

    1. Jeff Vogel..I remember your name and your 1968-9 look, from a little Sophomore’s viewpoint. You looked like a grownup to me. Windsor WAS an education.

  7. To the author regardin Windsor Mt. School:

    As you mentioned at the top of the article,
    >>>> “student body that included children of the famous (i.e. children of Harry Belafonte, Henry Poitier, Roy Campanella, and Charles Schultz).” <<<<
    I noticed that one of the actor/father's name is incorrect. It wasn't "Henry Poitier." It was actually, "Sidney Poitier." And I do know this to be factual.

    Thank you.
    (Branch) Aqilla Manna
    East Dorm
    Main House

  8. I was a lost soul in the last days of 1969….ended up as a stowaway at the of the students (Eric?)…had picked me up hitching ..I was crashing in the dorms, eating in the cafeteria, even sitting in on some classes…until Heinz politely ask me to leave or he’d turn me in as a runaway (which I was) ..but I believe the experiences there are the reason I’m still alive today….got my wings there, so to speak!

    1. While attending the Windsor Mountain school I learned to appreciate the arts and classical music which has remained with me through all these years.

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