By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV

NORTHFIELD (CBS) – It could be the best real estate deal in the state. A 200+ acre campus with dozens of iconic buildings is being offered for free if the owner’s criteria can be fulfilled.

Specifically, the old Northfield Mount Hermon School has to be converted into a religious based institution.

More than 30 proposals have been submitted to take over the bucolic campus.

Right now, the grounds feel as if time is frozen. The pathways are empty as there are no students hurrying to class.

The future of this campus is the talk of Northfield according to Joan McCrea Stoia, a local innkeeper. She said people are discussing the future of the school at lunch counters and in backyard conversations.

For more than a century this private boarding school was the lifeblood of Northfield, a town of about 2,800 which straddles the Connecticut River near the borders of New Hampshire and Vermont.

“At its heart, this is a real estate transaction, but it’s a transaction about a piece of property that has a deep history and meaning to people around the world,” said McCrea Stoia.

The entire campus was bought by the Green Family of Oklahoma for just $100,000 when the Mount Hermon school consolidated campuses in 2006.

The family has pumped five million dollars into the facilities and now wants to give the property to an evangelical institution.

One of the proposals has come from Liberty University, the school founded by the Reverend Jerry Falwell who created the Moral Majority. They are interested in a portion of the campus.

Word of that proposal has sparked a petition drive by alumni and area residents who fear an atmosphere of intolerance. The online petition has drawn more than a thousand signatures.

James Ault, class of 1964, has written on the school’s history and said he wasn’t surprised by the backlash against Liberty University. “There are a lot of progressive people, liberal minded people, who have been graduates of the school,” he explained.

An out of state consultant has been hired by the Green family to assess all of the proposals.

Former Northfield planning board member Don Campbell is confident the Green family wants a good fit for the community.

“I think people are starting to calm down,” added Campbell. “The presence of a new neighbor doesn’t change your values. You are who you are.”

Hundreds of new students on the campus, and their visiting parents would be good news for the local economy. “We’re expecting there will be a great deal of commerce, that the town will once again be a hub of activity for people from all over the world,” said McCrea Stoia.

The Liberty University proposal has one disadvantage. They have only expressed interest in a portion of the campus. The consultant assessing the applications tells WBZ-TV4 the Green family is most interested in plans that take all the grounds.

A decision is at least a month away.

Comments (9)
  1. William Burgess Leavenworth says:

    Jesus H. Christ. Just what we need in New England: a return to Puritan ideology and superstition.

  2. JuJu says:

    First off, how did someone from Oklahoma get a piece of property across country for $100,000 dollars. Is this something the conservatives are most adept at than liberals? Getting something at someone else’s expense? I think I’d investigate that purchase (newpapers use to long ago but have retreated under challenging economic times) before the statute of limitations sets in. And to offset figures anyone cares to throw out, all criminal records should state the party allegiance of everyone arrested. Criminal, tort, et al.

  3. Pamela says:

    I find the preceding comments intemperate and offensive. As an alumna of Northfield School for Girls (which occupied this campus before it was merged with Mount Hermon School for Boys to become Northfield Mount Hermon), I happen to know the answer to the question of its sale to the Green family for $100,000. The vacant campus was costing to school about $1 million annually to maintain, so they sold it to this family — owners of a retail chain called Hobby Lobby — with the understanding that they would invest in the property’s improvement and then make it available to a group starting a new collage named for Christian writer/philosopher C.S. Lewis. The C.S. Lewis group recently failed to meet the fund-raising conditions attached to the deal, so it has been opened up to bids from other Christian groups. What I (and many other alums of both schools) object to are the Jerry Falwell/Liberty U.’s extremist and bigoted beliefs, policies and politics. Hopefully another group can be found that will represent the Christian principles embodied in the Sermon on the Mount, which is what we students learned along with many other aspects of a fine preparatory education. Too bad WBZ-TV didn’t explain all this instead of sensationalizing the “best real estate deal in the state.”

    1. JuJu says:

      Good job Pamela: You give a reasonable explaination of half truths being the norm in the media. It was an academy of great repute in it’s day. It’s fate was unfortunate. Good luck.

    2. Willow says:

      Amen, Pamela!!

    3. The Batman says:

      Pamela, unfortunately, in todays’ world it’s not about journalism and integrity, it’s about sensationalism as you so appropriately and accurately stated.

  4. The Batman says:

    Most of the laws, morals and rules for decent behavior come out of the Book that you refer to as superstitions. I firmly believe that most of the people who trash the Bible, the Lord Jesus and the teachings associated with them are at their core individuals who don’t want to follow any rules and feel they should be able to do anything they want at any time regardless if it hurts or negatively affects anyone around them. But at the same time get highly insulted and indignant if someone else acts the same way or does something that affects them in some way. And it amuses me to no end to see how angry they get over an entity that they don’t believe exists in the first place.

    1. Ben says:

      Apparently you do not get out much. Rules and Laws were around for centuries before the supposed birth of Christ. As for people who bash the bible not wanting to follow rules, that is just a sad uninformed statement made by someone who doesn’t know any non-christian people very well.

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