Northwood’s Florida Home Unknown to Most Today

Most current Northwood School students have no idea that the school once had two campuses. That’s right, two campuses. In addition to the one that we all know best here in Lake Placid, there was a second campus originally in Coconut Grove, Florida and the to Hillsboro Beach, Florida, which is known today as the Hillsboro Club. So why was there a second campus in Florida?

HillsboroClub

Northwood School’s former beachfront campus in Florida, which is currently the Hillsboro Club.

In “History of Northwood School,” written by English faculty and alumnus Mr. Don Mellor, we learn how students traveled between campuses. Describing today’s Northwood, Mellor wrote, “It’s a school that would be represented in every Winter Olympics since 1964, a school with the most National Hockey Leaguers for its size anywhere. It’s a school with ice climbing, rock climbing, and white water kayaking. It’s a place where once a year on Mountain Day each kid is out of the classroom climbing an Adirondack peak, and most years if you add their cumulative mileages, students hike the equivalent distance from Lake Placid to their school’s original winter campus in Florida.”

OldNorthwood

A postcard depicting Northwood School circa 1943.

It all began with a man named John H. Hopkins, the founder of Northwood. Back in 1902, Hopkins had some health issues and he was sent to the Adirondacks to breathe it’s clean air, which was believed to have restorative effects. Hopkins found himself in Saranac Lake, which, according to Mellor, “was recognized as a center for healing, where patients would spend their days outside, bundled up in blankets, and breathing in the cool Adirondack air.” Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins had resided on Rainbow Lake and found that they needed a way to support themselves. They did private tutoring in a rental house and met three boys.

There, The Lake Placid School was established. One night, fireworks lit up the sky and coincidentally, Hopkins said it “signified the birth of a school.” In the first 23 years of existence, the winters would be spent at the Florida campus. Back then, this paper, now The Mirror, was called The Migrator to reflect the school’s two campuses and the students’ travel between them. Instead of doing winter sports, like skating and skiing, students occupied themselves with fishing, sailing, and even going into the everglades. Mellor wrote that “Hopkins’ original site for the school was in Coconut Grove, FL in a house built by an English sailor shipwrecked in the late 1800s. Later, in 1924, the school would relocate to Hillsborough Lighthouse near Tampa.” After the Christmas holiday, students would then pack up their bags and head back up to the Adirondacks. This dual campus existence for twenty years. By then, Lake Placid was known as a winter sports hotbed, which quickly became a part of Northwood School’s identity.

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