In 1917 a group of Rochester mothers (from widely differing social circles) decided to create a school experience for their 4-year olds. At the time the Rochester area did not have a program for children of this age. These original 10 women were widely criticized for their plan to “shirk their responsibilities and hand over their youngsters to the care of another.”
The school opened in the front rooms of a home on Oxford Street. The following winter it moved around the corner to a vacant tailor shop on Park Avenue. Over the next few years the school relocated several times—including Anthony Memorial Hall at the University of Rochester and the basement of the Third Presbyterian Church on East Avenue. In 1924 the school acquired a home at 242 Oxford St. The school purchased its current site on Clover street complete with apple orchard, barn, and small white farmhouse in 1926 from Kate Gleason. It consisted of 32 acres and cost $13,325.
“MLK Day On” began as a way for Lower School students to engage in service learning with their parents on this day off from school. It began by supporting child-initiated programs and organizations, showing how one small idea and dream can grow to help many people. Today, Horizons students and families join the day of service as well.
When the school opened in 1917 the monthly tuition was $8 and there were 10 pupils. The first commencement took place in 1927, as Fredericka Morehouse prepared to set out into the world. Today, 50 percent of families receive some kind of grant to help make a Harley education possible.
In 1972, athletic programs at Allendale and Columbia schools combined to form H-AC, which originally competed as the Harley-Allendale Columbia Braves. In 1997, students of both schools voted to change the team name from the Braves to the Wolves. Team supporters are known as the Wolfpack. The teams compete in Section 5 sports.
In 2013, Harley opened The Commons, the first K-12 education space in the country to offer students multiple dimensions of education around creating a sustainable future. The 14,000-square-foot structure is a “living building” that generates its own energy, heats and cools with renewable nontoxic resources, captures and utilizes water and carbon in its greenhouse, and operates efficiently with students responsible for managing its operations. It is also home to three educational resources at the school: the Briggs Center for Civic Engagement, Center for Mindfulness and Empathy Education, and a state-of-the-art science center.
Harley alum Rob Staehle (1973) was chosen by NASA to launch his high school physics project into space in Skylab, the United States’ first space station. Staehle links his career path in aerospace back to his time at Harley, when he pursued an independent study to in order to prepare his experiment for space. He now works for JPL (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and was the primary driving force behind NASA’s New Horizon mission to Pluto.
Harley students come from 30 different school districts and five counties.
Harley alumni live and work in 135 countries.
Harley’s mission statement begins with the words, “We are a diverse, inclusive school.” This reflects the school’s belief that diversity enriches all groups or communities, and the individuals that are a part of them. Diversity—of race, ethnicity, geographical origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, familial or economic status—forms the fabric of our society. The Harley School seeks out students, families, and employees who value and contribute to the diversity of the institution and the community.l