Darlington will move its pre-K through fourth-grade classes to the main campus on Cave Spring Road at the end of this school year.
In a joint press release from the two institutions, Shorter President Donald Dowless said the university was happy to be able to acquire the property which was built on behalf of Col. Alfred Shorter and his wife, the former Martha Harper Baldwin, for whom the university is named. “We are proud that their legacy will live on in a new, tangible way and that our students, faculty and staff will benefit from it,” Dowless said in prepared remarks.
A sale price was not available Friday.
Col. Shorter started construction of the Thornwood residence building, which faces Shorter Avenue, in the late 1840s. It was occupied by Union troops in both 1863 and 1864. Some etchings believed to have been penned by the federal troops are still visible in the attic.
The property was sold to trustees of the Thornwood School for Girls in 1958. Thornwood was assimilated into Darlington School in 1973.
Dowless was not available for comment Friday. The press statement indicated the property at the corner of Shorter Avenue and Horseleg Creek Road will provide Shorter additional academic and athletic space.
Darlington Headmaster Tom Whitworth said enrollment at Darlington Lower School has been declining for several years. “We are hoping that maybe the market will expand if we move the Lower School over here because we’ll have nicer facilities ultimately,” Whitworth said. “We’ll be closer to some population centers, and maybe those folks will come to this campus before they’ll cross town and go to the other one. It’s a hunch we had, but we’re sure hoping that we can build a nice facility adjacent to the middle school, but we’re going to take it one year at a time.”
Darlington eliminated teacher aides at the lower school a number of years ago because the numbers did not justify the expense.
The headmaster said that initially, third and fourth grades would go into the middle school building while pre-K through second grades may have to function out of modular buildings. “We hope that we’ll phase those out each year as we determine whether or not we have to build a small lower school facility,” Whitworth said.
Whitworth, who will be retiring soon, said he envisioned a one-school curriculum on one campus. “I think the synergies that do exist between the kindergartners and seniors can be very meaningful and can lend itself to some great learning and role modeling,” Whitworth said.
As part of the terms of the sale, Shorter has agreed to make a concerted effort to have Thornwood added to the National Register of Historic Places within the next 18 months.