The Blue Ridge Industrial School was founded in 1909 by the Reverend George Pickett Mayo of the Virginia Diocese of the Episcopal Church. As the name indicates, the School’s early mission was to provide a vocational education for boys and girls who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to realize their rich potential. The School opened to approximately thirty-five students in January 1910. When the word “Industrial” was removed from the title years later, it added to the School’s stature as an academic institution. Blue Ridge School held its first commencement in 1918 when two graduates were awarded diplomas.
Today, Blue Ridge School is dedicated to providing a sound college-prep education for capable and willing young men. Blue Ridge is a supportive, structured community where self-esteem is founded upon solid accomplishment in the classroom, on the athletic fields, in the arts and in a host of co-curricular activities.
Funding of Blue Ridge
In January 1907, the Reverend George Pickett Mayo received permission to make exploratory, data-gathering visits to several of the most successful industrial schools in the eastern mountain region. Not more than a month later, he had his report ready for the Board. He gave his report on February 26th, 1907. The Board unanimously adopted the plans as outlined, asked for assistance from Judge J. M. White, President of the Peoples National Bank of Charlottesville, and gave Reverend Mayo authority to solicit funds to finance the purchase of land and the erection of the first building.
As early as June 30th, 1908, The Blue Ridge Industrial School’s existence was noted. The 148 acres of this land at the foot of Powell’s Gap extended westward to Chesley’s Creek and was purchased from Mrs. Frances Snow. The price for this property was $3,100 cash. Before the year was out, land was acquired from Genus Morris, Melroy Shifflet and C.R. Shifflet. In nearly every year up to 1914, more acreage was acquired from neighboring landowners. Other families had also sold land to the School by 1956. They included the Douglas Family, W. A. Crawford, J. Herbert Morris, W. T. Snow, Killis Roach, Aubrey N. Roach, James and Zeb Shifflett, Dollie Shifflett, L. E. Morris and Austin Morris.
A New School
The Reverend George P. Mayo of the Virginia Diocese of the Episcopal Church officially founded the Blue Ridge Industrial School in 1909. As the name indicates, the School’s early mission was to provide a vocational education for girls and boys who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to realize their rich potential. Pictured left is Neve Hall the first building.
The First Headmaster
The Reverend George P. Mayo was named the Superintendent of The Blue Ridge Industrial School. He would lead the School until 1944.
After Neve Hall was built in 1909, Blue Ridge added several more buildings the following year. The Old Farm House, Office, Commissary, Laundry, Clothing Bureau, Machine House, Poultry House, Blacksmith’s Shop, and Mill were built in 1910.
The School opened to approximately thirty-five boys and girls in January 1910.
Fire destroyed the Old Farm House.
Two New Buildings
Richards Hall was constructed in honor of Martha Richards. It housed five classrooms and a 200-seat auditorium. Richards Hall was destroyed by a fire six years later in 1918. Also built in 1912 was the Boys Building. It was used until 1930.
The Old Rectory
The Old Rectory was built in 1913. It was renovated in 1947.
The Refectory was built in 1914. It was used as a main dining hall for the School.
Mr. O. N. Davis 1915-1948
Mr. O. N. Davis, the Assistant Superintendent and Farm Manager, was another of the “old guard” who helped develop the School in its first decade. From 1915 until he retired in 1948, Mr. Davis used his versatile skills to help in many ways. A graduate of the Georgia Architectural and Mechanical School, he made Greene County his home during his Blue Ridge years. He owned a farm where many school outings were held and which helped supplement the Blue Ridge dairy herd when necessary. He owned the only private automobile in the area other than Reverend Mayo, and he chauffeured groups to picnic grounds or other off-campus entertainments.
A hospital was built on campus. It served as the Blue Ridge hospital/infirmary until 1962 when it burned down.
The boys of Blue Ridge received a workshop. The building was renovated in 1999 to house the Outdoor Program’s climbing gear and mountain bikes.
The First Graduates
Blue Ridge held its first commencement in 1918 when Eveline and Bannie Morris were awarded diplomas.
On August 20, 1920, the new Mayo Hall was dedicated to Reverend Mayo. This building (pictured left) was crucial to the life of the School until it was demolished years later.
The enrollment at the Blue Ridge Industrial School had risen to 112 students by 1922.
Anna Boykin Memorial Building
The “little girls” of the Blue Ridge mission school received a gift in 1928 as the Anna Boykin Memorial building was created. The “little girls” of Blue Ridge lived in this building. Boykin was later turned into faculty housing. It now houses four separate apartments.
Enrollment by 1928 stood at 165 students, an increase of fifty-three students since 1922.
The Gibson Memorial Chapel
The cornerstone for the Gibson Memorial Chapel at Blue Ridge was laid on August 14, 1929. Built of native stone, the Chapel was completed in 1932. Special guests were the representatives of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Diocese whose extra efforts had been significant in raising money to build the Chapel. All the work on the building was done by local craftsmen, many of them students of the School who had been trained in shop work by Clinton Marbut, one of the stalwart’s of the School staff from 1926 to 1942.
World Famous Architect
The architect of the Chapel was Mr. Ralph Adam Cram, a noted architect whose work could be seen throughout the northeast region of the country. Mr. Cram was a consulting architect for Princeton University from 1907 to 1929. He was responsible for the first real master plan that the University followed for future development. He oversaw the erection of some 25 buildings during his career. Perhaps Mr. Cram’s most famous work is the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.
The visit of Viscount and Lady Astor in November 1932 was one of the red-letter days in the early history of the School. Lady Astor was a long time devoted friend of Dr. Mayo. She also supported the School. In the library at Blue Ridge is a large collection plate in memory of Dr. Frederick W. Neve, Archdeacon of Blue Ridge, given by Nancy Viscountess Astor. Some years earlier the new infirmary had been given and named by Mrs. Reginald Brooks, Lady Astor’s sister.
The New Rectory, orignally known as Memorial Hall, was constructed in 1935. It became the Martha Bagby Battle House twenty-eight years later. It was used as a girls’ dormitory for a brief time. It also served as the Headmaster’s residence for a period of time. It now houses the Admissions, Alumni and Advancement Offices on its second floor. The first floor is frequently used for receptions and other important gatherings.
Bakery & Smoke House
Blue Ridge received some culinary help in the creation of a bakery and a smoke house in 1936. This building was a great help to Blue Ridge. Eventually it would serve as the Advancement Office. In 2012 it became a faculty residence.
FDR Visits Bacon Hollow
President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his official party were on their way to a big celebration at Big Meadows where he would make a speech praising the completion of Skyline Drive in August 1936. A White House official called Blue Ridge personnel earlier to let them know that President Roosevelt would make a brief stop at Blue Ridge School on his way to Skyline Drive. The students were very excited about this visit.
John Morris was the first alumnus to be elected to the Board of Trustees in 1939. By virtue of his capable and loyal service as Board Secretary and member of the Executive Committee, he was instrumental in the progress of the School during that time. He also served as the School’s Counsel and was a trial justice in Greene County. He seemed to know every foot of the land and all the details and history of the School — legal and otherwise. Before his untimely death, it was customary when any question came up to reply, “Ask John Morris.”
The Blue Ridge Gateway
Since August 1940, the first structures to be seen on the Blue Ridge campus have been the stone gates.
Mrs. Will Reeves Gregg
As a result of Mrs. Battle’s teas, Mrs. Will Reeves Gregg and her sister Mrs. Winston Fowlkes spearheaded the formation of the New York Auxiliary. In 1942, Mrs. Gregg was appointed to the Board — one of the first two females to serve the School in that capacity — and was an active member until April 1984. She would eventually be named Board Member Emeritus. Mrs. Gregg was of great help by organizing the support team for Blue Ridge’s hurricane relief in 1959. During the transition from the Old School to the New School, no individual offered more continual emotional, psychological and financial support than did Mrs. Gregg.
The Second Headmaster
Reverend Dewey Loving took the reins of Blue Ridge School in 1946. He led the school through the thick and thin until 1959. Dewey Loving had graduated from Blue Ridge in 1923, making him the only alumnus also to become the Headmaster of the School.
A Place to Learn
Blue Ridge opened a beautiful new academic building in 1947. This building is still used as the main academic building today.
A Busy Year
Miss Ethel Baker, a talented and devoted faculty member for a decade, decided to retire. Another blow to the functioning of the administration was the withdrawal of Mr. and Mrs. Browne. Mr. Browne felt that he should return to England to resume his work there. The resident faculty helped Dr. Loving to carry on. Great help came from Mr. Ansel and Mr. Way. The School was briefly assisted by Mr. Ted Theobald, who served as principal; however, personal family matters eventually forced his withdrawal. His replacement was Mr. Robert S. Brown. He served Blue Ridge from February 1958 to sometime in 1959.
Gift from the Daughters of the American Revolution
The Daughters of the American Revolution dedicated a beautiful new building, a boys’ dormitory called the DAR Building, on October 29, 1952. It was an outstanding gift among scores of other gifts the Society made during its forty-year sponsorship of the School. The DAR building was later renovated into faculty housing.
A Gymnasium for Blue Ridge
A gymnasium was built in 1956. It was used for basketball games for sixteen years until it was renovated into the New York Auxiliary Student Center. A Tuck Shop and conference room would eventually be added. It remains today a valuable multi-use facility — faculty housing, a game room, conference room, Tuck Shop and Center Court.
On September 30, 1959, a tornado hit Blue Ridge School. In the five minutes it was on campus it damaged Boykin, the infirmary, Mayo Hall, the schoolhouse and the post office. The old rectory suffered heavily with roofs and porches torn off and windows and doors shattered. Robert Morris was found pinned between a sidewalk and roof. He was rushed to the hospital but died of injuries. Over 150 trees were damaged or uprooted.
Mr. A. Preston Moore
Mr. A. Preston Moore was a friend of Blue Ridge School for many years. He joined the School’s Board of Trustees in 1960 and was an important helper during the crucial interim year of 1961-62. This was the time that the Board of Trustees was deciding the future of the School. He brought independent school experience to the Board as he was the Business Manager of Woodberry Forest School.
During the summer of 1961, for the first time since 1909, there was no academic program in Bacon Hollow. Instead, extensive planning was underway. Committee meetings, private consultations and thoughtful study were proceeding based on the 1961 report to convert the old Blue Ridge School into the new Blue Ridge School. Members of the Board in April 1961 accepted the challenge of starting an all-boys boarding school with a mission that would be different from other college preparatory schools.
Mr. Robert A. Wilson
The announcement that Robert A. Wilson had been appointed as the new Head of Blue Ridge School was made on September 14, 1961. He, as well as the trustees, managed the development of the new Blue Ridge School. Mr. Wilson was instrumental in his determination to create the School’s lake. He left in 1963 to found the Little Keswick School.
First Football Season
Even in the School’s first year as an all-boys boarding school and with a student body of only sixty-six boys, Blue Ridge played a three-game schedule against other private school opponents. Newly appointed Athletic Director James “Stimp” Hawkins coached the team. Mr. Hawkins remained Athletic Director and head football coach until 1968 when he left for divinity school.
While the School was under study from June 1961 to September 1962, some additions were completed on campus. A dam was created, and the new school lake was filled. The lake is still the main focal point on Blue Ridge’s campus. Also, the William Allan Perkins Hall was built. This housed the dining hall and kitchen as well as several study hall rooms.
The Hatcher Era
Halfway through the first academic year of the new Blue Ridge School, Hatcher C. Williams was appointed Headmaster. He brought over ten years of experience with boys boarding schools, including several years as an Assistant Headmaster. Mr. Williams was an adamant proponent of the School’s mission of educating boys who had not yet achieved academic success. Blue Ridge flourished under his leadership. The School enjoyed full enrollment, improved facilities and a stellar, experienced faculty. He also proved to be an extraordinary fundraiser. Hatcher C. Williams served the School well from 1963 until his retirement in 1984.
Mr. John Trimmer
John Trimmer served Blue Ridge School as both a classroom teacher and Business Manager from 1963 to 1990. He was an integral part of the School’s growth and development. John’s greatest contribution was found in the quality of the life he led and the example he set for all. He conducted his affairs with the greatest of integrity. John, by his constant example, taught everyone how to be a decent and kind gentleman.
Mr. Joseph M. Mercer
In September 1964, Blue Ridge opened with full enrollment and an experienced faculty. Of particular note among those men was Joseph M. Mercer, formerly Headmaster of Woodberry Forest School, who desired to return to teaching. He taught Spanish and became Head of Modern Languages at BRS until his retirement in 1971.
The US Postal Service mandated that the School use Dyke as its address, not St. George. The change was made mainly because of the implementation of zip codes.
A New Dormitory
The Homan H. Walsh Dormitory was dedicated in October 1965. Today Walsh Dorm houses seventy percent of the Blue Ridge student population.
Mr. Jordan C. Churchill
When Mr. Jordan C. Churchill joined the faculty, he brought a wealth of experience, an indelible faith and an integrity that would have a lasting impact on the entire school community. He chaired the History Department and was Dean of Students during his tenure. Mr. Churchill retired in 1987 after serving the Lawrenceville School and Blue Ridge School, for a total of fifty-seven years of educating boys.
A New Infirmary
Blue Ridge built the Bessie Thornton Turner Infirmary in 1967. Ms. Turner was a beloved teacher of the students and other faculty members during the pre-60’s era.
George P. Mayo Hall
The George P. Mayo Hall was constructed in 1968. The new Mayo Hall is now home to the auditorium, which was dedicated to Jay Jessup ’69 by his classmates. Years later, the stage was dedicated to Frank DeAngelis. Mayo Hall also holds the dining hall and administrative offices.
Mrs. Alice Wesley Ivory
Blue Ridge School hired its first African-American teacher in 1970. Mrs. Alice Wesley Ivory, teacher of art and Head of the Art Department for a number of years before leaving the School, was one of the outstanding artists in Virginia. Her work was represented in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as well as in a number of shows, public and private. A woman of dignity and culture, she was a graduate of Virginia State College and earned her M.A. degree in fine arts from the University of Wisconsin.
The swimming pool at Blue Ridge took on a new look in 1971. The School purchased a bubble to give the pool an indoor atmosphere and make it an all-season pool. Several storms that damaged the bubble soon ended the attempt at an indoor pool. To this day, the pool is for outdoor enjoyment only.
Mr. Bill Davis
Coming out of college, Bill Davis had a few different directions he could go. The All-ACC player from Virginia had two job offers — a spot on the Pittsburgh Steelers professional football team or Head Football Coach at Blue Ridge School. Thankfully for Blue Ridge, he chose to be a Baron. Bill served many roles during his seventeen years at BRS – health teacher (first five years), head varsity football coach (thirteen years), head varsity basketball coach (ten years), head varsity golf coach (five years), head varsity tennis coach (two years), assistant track coach (nine years) and Athletic Director (last fifteen years). Even though he left Blue Ridge in 1989 to pursue positions at other schools, he has remained close to his Blue Ridge friends over the years.
Tenth Anniversary Celebration
On November 11th, 1972, Blue Ridge School held its ten-year anniversary celebration. Dedication services were held in the Gibson Memorial Chapel at noon, and the students gave tours of the newly dedicated buildings around campus.
Blue Ridge School received its very own fire truck in 1973. This led to Blue Ridge’s first and only fire department, which was comprised of a few teachers and students. It served the Bacon Hollow community for five good years until the water tank was punctured. The fire truck was consequently put out of commission.
The First Art Show
Blue Ridge School’s first art exhibition in April 1973 was inspired by Mrs. Ivory and her art students. It was held on the second floor of the building that had recently been re-dedicated as the New York Auxiliary Center. A tea put on for the community, outside friends and patrons marked the opening of the first invitational exhibit of the work of 160 professional artists from the Charlottesville area and twenty-nine student artists. This invitational art show was held for several years. A student and faculty art show is still held annually in the same location.
Wrestling: First in the Nation
The 1975-1976 wrestling team coached by Dick Glover had a phenomenal year as they finished with a 13-0-1 record and finished first in the National Prep Tournament.
Soccer Season White Out
The Barons were eager for the winter soccer schedule to begin as the coaches and returning players were anticipating a winning season. The Blizzard of 1978 on January 10th and other snowfalls covered the fields until the end of March. The Barons attempted to play a game with charcoal lines, but the boys could not keep their footing. The season was cancelled. As a result, the Prep League made soccer a fall sport for the future.
Dudley A. Boogher Dorm
A second dorm named in honor of Dudley A. Boogher was dedicated in November 1979. This air-conditioned dorm housed approximately thirty percent of the students. It included a top-floor faculty apartment. A second faculty apartment was added to the main floor in 2008.
First Win Over Woodberry Forest
The varsity football team defeated Woodberry Forest for the first time in its seven-year rivalry. It was a game for the ages as it went down to the wire. With a first and goal at the three, the Barons pushed the ball over the goal line. The extra point gave Blue Ridge a one-point lead. Blue Ridge Coach Bill Davis called for an onside kick, the first time his team had tried the trick all year. It worked! The Barons could not quite run out the clock, though, and turned the ball back over to Woodberry with forty seconds left. The exciting game ended as the Barons intercepted a Woodberry pass. The entire student body rushed the field.
The Massey Athletic Complex
When Bill Massey ’70 looked at the current field house, he realized the facility needed a quality hardwood basketball court and more seating for games. The Massey’s gave $500,000 to BRS and challenged the Trustees to raise an additional $1,500,000 over the next three years. Now the Massey Athletic Complex is a first-rate facility that serves the School well.
The Ruoss Era
Mr. Eric G. Ruoss came to Blue Ridge in 1984; during his tenure he did many great things for the school. He was Headmaster for eight years; he left in 1992.
State Champions: Basketball
The 1986 Basketball team was a true underdog success story. After a slow start, the team won eleven of their next thirteen games to earn a bid to the State Tournament. The Barons had many key wins during the 1986 campaign, including a tough 57-51 win over Woodberry Forest. After earning the eighth and final bid into the tournament, the Barons cruised to the title game as they beat Norfolk Collegiate, Benedictine, Kenston Forest and Christ Church.
The End of the Churchill Era
The 1987 Commencement Exercises marked the successful conclusion of the teaching career of Jordan C. Churchill. His career spanned fifty-seven years and thousands of students. His teaching has had a more profound influence on more Blue Ridge students than perhaps anyone else. Mr. Churchill will be remembered for his United States History classes, demanding yet enlivened by his personal reminiscences, for his sense of justice and fairness as Dean of Students, and for his deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ as witnessed by his weekly chapel talks. We will miss his gentile wit, his brilliant scholarship, and his inexhaustible patience. (From the 1987 Yearbook)
Farewell Bill Davis
We bid farewell to Athletic Director Bill Davis, who served Blue Ridge School masterfully in many capacities for seventeen years. He arrived in 1972 and coached nearly every sport available at one time or the other — but most notably varsity football and basketball. Bill became one of the most popular and respected and even beloved members of the School community.
Blue Ridge bid farewell to Headmaster Mr. Eric G. Ruoss in the spring of 1992. He had served the School since 1984. During his tenure, the School saw many changes and continued growth. He instituted an effective residential life program and hired the School’s first Development Officer to coordinate all fundraising activities. This was especially important to the new library campaign at the time.
The McFarlane Era
Dr. Edward McFarlane began his tenure as Headmaster at Blue Ridge School in the fall of 1992. He had previously taught and coached at Davis & Elkins College. He was the varsity basketball coach and Director of Development at Blue Ridge School for several years before being named Headmaster. He guided the School with a steady hand until 2000.
Hatcher C. Williams Library
On May 9, 1992, Blue Ridge School broke ground for the Hatcher C. Williams Library and the Administration Center. The facility opened in September of 1993. The library has over 20,700 volumes, 7,500 square feet of library space and 68 work stations. Today the Library is a strong focal point for the entire Blue Ridge community.
See Slideshow[JS4] .
Virginia Historic Landmark
The Gibson Memorial Chapel was named a Virginia Historic Landmark on April 17, 1993.
State Champions: Football
The Blue Ridge football team of 1994 accomplished something no other Baron football team had ever accomplished – a State Championship. A major highlight for the Barons came in the fourth quarter when Curt Weaver made an over-the-shoulder catch from senior John Carter Hennessy with 1:52 left in the game. This started the comeback drive for Blue Ridge that ended with a memorable dump pass to Robert Ross with nineteen seconds left to win the State Championship.
Back to St. George
Blue Ridge School was able to convince the U.S. Postmaster General to allow the School’s address to once again be “St. George, Virginia,” while still using the zip code of Dyke, Virginia.
A Gift for the Outdoor Program
An exciting new structure was built on campus in May of 2009. The thirty-foot climbing tower to the right of the front gate is an amazing asset to the School and greatly helps the Outdoor Program.
The Bouton Era
Dr. David A. Bouton became the School’s fifth Headmaster in the fall of 2000. During the time of his leadership, Blue Ridge accomplished much needed improvements to nearly every facility on campus. It was his idea to showcase senior class composites in the main hallway of the academic building. He retired in 2009.
State Champions: Basketball
The 2001 Blue Ridge Basketball team was incredible to watch. They defended their 2000 state title and brought the championship home for a second straight year. They also won the Virginia Prep League Basketball tournament, which had never been done before. Also, in front of 4,000 people they took the #1 team in the nation, Oak Hill, to double overtime.
Throughout the school year the students and faculty had to make adjustments to the ongoing renovations of Walsh Dorm, Boogher Dorm and the academic building. The bathrooms were finished and air conditioning was installed in every dorm room in Walsh. A layer of bedrock required several weeks of continuous drilling for the placement of new pipes. The dining hall received a facelift, and the Tuck Shop found a new home on the lower level of the Student Center. A larger recreation area was added to the upper lever of the Student Center, and a boardroom was created on that same level. The auditorium was painted, the stage was extended and new blue theater seats were installed.
In 2005 the centerpiece of the campus was fully drained to repair a cracked overflow pipe. The lake was drained down to an extremely small pond. After a new overflow pipe was created, Chesley Creek was dammed so that it would flow into the lake. With the help of natural springs and Chesley Creek, the lake was filled by graduation for the annual senior swim.
John O’Reilly Era
Dr. John O’Reilly began at Blue Ridge as a math instructor and assistant football coach. He was also the Academic Dean and was responsible for the Character Education Program. Dr. O’Reilly served as Headmaster from 2009 to 2011. Under his leadership, Battle House was opened to the community and became the centerpiece for life on campus.
Trip Darrin Era
Trip Darrin became the Acting Headmaster at Blue Ridge in 2011. The following year, he was named Headmaster. Mr. Darrin assembled a competent administrative and academic team to lead the School into the future. Under his leadership two new faculty homes were completed in 2013. The Advancement and Admission offices were moved to Battle House to present a welcoming space for visitors. The Baron Athletic Complex was begun in March 2015 and both phases were completed on time and on budget by October 2016. The complex includes a multi-sport athletic field, track, golf practice range, new soccer fields and upgraded baseball stadium. The School's enrollment has grown since 2012 as well exceeding the goal in both 2015-2016 and 2016-2017.