On a wonderful corner lot in Ardsley, New York sits a beautiful Victorian home at 20 Prospect Avenue. It sits prestigiously on its corner hilltop perch, gazing out at today’s hustle and bustle. Originally built in 1895, few are alive today that recall the history of this building. But if you do your research or ask around you’ll learn that this quiet Victorian on the corner has an exciting, if not boisterous, history as the home of the Ardsley Heights Country School and Camp for Girls and if it’s walls could talk they would tell tales of this growing community and of the young lives that were molded under its roof.
It was 1922 when David Henschel, an attorney, and his wife, Henrietta Henschel , who was educated at Hunter College, came to Ardsley from Nepera Park, Yonkers. Their dream was to create a private, non-sectarian school with a focus on superior education and a warm, loving atmosphere. According to Henrietta’s daughter-in-law, Pearl Sandberg, the schools was created to, “provide a superior education and a nurturing family atmosphere to children whose parents because of professional or other demands were not able to provide them at home.” It has been said that the school catered to “families of diplomats, actors and musicians, career people and ordinary working people.” The first classes included the Henschel children: Vivian, aged 9, and Clifford, aged 7. At its full enrollment, there were about 50 students in the program, ranging in age from 8 years to teenagers and it was believed that the school served as an elementary and middle school. After Clifford graduated, the school was converted into an all-girls school and eventually a summer camp was added with an enrollment of nearly 75 summer campers.
Right: Ardsley Historical Society
At its height, there were three buildings, including classrooms, a dormitory, and a dining pavilion. Plus, there was an ice skating/roller skating rink, a fountain and a swimming pool as well. Stories abound about students swimming in the pool (even at night when it was off limits), playing games, and participating in various activities in and around town. Recent letters uncovered that in 1925 classes included courses in westward expansion in History, “Germany” in Geography, and Arithmetic. One school girl’s interests centered on Rin Tin Tin in the new movie The Lighthouse by the Sea and reading A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
The school eventually closed in 1942 when the United States’ involvement in World War II made it difficult to find teachers and other school personnel. Thereafter, the Henschel family eventually moved to New York City and the property was sold. For the past 31 years, the home has remained in the Monteleon family, with three generations residing under the grand Victorian roof of 20 Prospect Avenue—they too have created their own history.
So many wonderful memories were created at 20 Prospect Avenue. Children have grown, stories were told, experiences shared. But its history is far from over. Perhaps you’ll be the next one to continue the long legacy and history of Ardsley Heights Country School and add your memories to this wonderful Victorian home on the hill.