1950s Chapel


None but golden hours.

Founded in 1911 in Lakewood, New Jersey, The Ethel Walker School’s first student body consisted of just 10 girls.

The School quickly outgrew its first home and was moved in 1917 to its present site on the former Phelps-Dodge estate in Simsbury, Connecticut. In 1991, Walker’s added the Middle School for grades six through eight, extending Ethel Walker’s vision to benefit girls during these formative years. Ethel Walker was a Bryn Mawr graduate whose vision of a changing world for women inspired her to create a school where young women would receive a rigorous preparation for college and create the foundation for lifelong learning and intellectual curiosity. This commitment to a challenging academic program strongly resonates among today’s faculty and remains central to the Walker’s mission.

Ethel Walker was very active in the life of the School. She attended every Commencement since the first in 1913 until her death in 1965 at the age of 94. Bryn Mawr College awarded a citation to Ethel Walker in 1960: “A woman of wit and vigor, a great lover of the outdoors, she has always emphasized strongly the necessity of the development of character as well as of brains. She chose Nullas Horas Nisi Aureas as her school’s motto, which means, “None but golden hours.” Lively as always and deeply admired by all who knew her, she has made many hours golden for her alumnae and for those privileged to share in the life and the work of her school.

The School celebrated 100 years in 2011 and in celebration, launched “It’s Walker’s Time!”, a $50 million capital campaign to keep pace with the changing needs of educating girls for the 21st century.

Ethel Walker shaking hands

To learn more about Walker’s history, visit our Digital Archives.

1916 May Day
Beaver Brook 1924
1933 Fire
1942 varsity uniforms
Dorm Room 1947
Dogswood Day
Maypole 1954
Studying in 1968
Ferguson Theatre 1969

May Day, 1916, in Lakewood, NJ. May Day later evolved into the School’s Dogswood Day tradition, a day of spirited games between the School’s two spirit clubs, the Suns & Dials.


Beaver Brook housed the School’s classrooms and dormitories in 1924.


Beaver Brook after the fire was extinguished in 1933. Because the country was suffering through the Depression, there were many workers available to rebuild Beaver Brook, and the next school year commenced only six months after the fires.


First formal varsity uniforms, 1942.


A dorm room in 1947.


When Ethel Walker married Dr. Terry Smith in 1921, she gave up her position as head of school, and moved to Dr. Smith’s West Hartford home, which he called Dogswood. Ethel Walker began to invite students to Dogswood each spring. Thus the annual “Dogswood Day” was born!


The Maypole Dance, 1954. Today, the Maypole Dance is an element of Dogswood Day and Reunions.


Walker’s Chapel was funded by an anonymous donor in 1956. The high point of its construction occurred when the steeple, adorned with fluttering yellow and purple streamers, was raised into place to the cheers of those assembled.


Two students studying in 1968.


The Isabel Ferguson Performing Arts Center (now known as Ferguson Theater) opened in 1969. The theater was named after Head of School Isabel Ferguson, who served as head from 1958-1972.


The Bell Library was a gift of the James E. Bell family in honor of Constance Lavino Bell, Walker’s class of 1948. Today, the library is a place where the community engages in reading, research, social and cultural events.