The Village School, an alternative high school, was recently honored by the Great Neck Historical Society as part of their Heritage Recognition Program. The school was presented with a plaque, to “identify and honor” the Village School as among Great Neck’s “Most Notable Homes & Buildings,” and with a recognition certificate that contains a brief history of the Village School building.
The Village School was built in 1863 as the first church on the Great Neck peninsula on land donated by Henry Allen. It was known as the Union Free Chapel, and then the Union Chapel.
When the congregation dwindled, the building was donated to the Great Neck community. During World War I, at the urging of Louise Eldridge, the building was used by the Red Cross and French Relief. Afterwards, it was the Women’s Club headquarters.
In 1922, it became the Chapel Theatre. Celebrities who performed there include Ethel Barrymore, Clifton Webb, Fay Wray and a young Katharine Hepburn. In 1947, when schools were crowded, the building housed two kindergarten groups.
In 1950, the building was donated to the school district, which used it as a youth center for secondary school students and young adults. In 1970, it became the Village School. Except for an annex that was added in 1938, the exterior of this historic structure remains essentially unchanged after more than 150 years.