Orchard House School opened in September 1998, with twelve 6th and five 7th graders and a staff of nine in a sunny rented building on Richmond’s Northside.
The school began as a dream—the dream of four parents who wanted to create a small, all-girls' middle school in Richmond, Va. with a nurturing environment and diverse student body.
In 1996 they attended a symposium led by educator Nancy Davies. The topic was “Empowering Girls: Strategies for Parents and Teachers.”
Two years prior, Davies, a M.Ed. and teacher, had received a grant from the Jesse Ball DuPont Foundation that allowed her to research the development of middle school girls and the most effective strategies for educating them.
Inspired by Davies’ findings and her passion for girls’ education, the four parents met with Davies and together began to envision a new, purposely-designed, stand-alone middle school where girls could blossom.
These parents became the school’s Founding Mothers, and in January 1998, Nancy Davies agreed to be the school’s Founding Head. Orchard House School was born.
Seventeen students quickly became forty-seven, and in 2000 the first class was graduated. Enrollment soon grew to eighty girls, and, in 2004, Orchard House School purchased and moved into a historic building, its permanent home, at 500 N. Allen Ave. in Richmond’s historic Fan District.
Orchard House is named after the long-standing Concord, Massachusetts home of the famous literary family, the Alcotts. Louisa May Alcott penned her famous diaries of growing up at Orchard House, providing the text for Little Women, an American classic beloved by school-aged girls for decades. The book, like Orchard House School, celebrates the differences and tremendous affection among sisters growing up.
Nothing honors the Orchard House experience as effectively as the School's logo. The abstract purple design depicts a flower at the crossroads connected by a circle, a deceptively simple symbol of adolescence and the Orchard House experience. This symbol reflects the pioneering research by Harvard University educator Carol Gilligan, who in “Meeting at the Crossroads,” interviewed hundreds of adolescent girls and chronicled their journey of growth. At Orchard House, we honor those transitions and educate girls to navigate them successfully.