Brief History

Oregon Episcopal School began in 1869 as St. Helen's Hall, a boarding and day school for girls. It attracted students from the rural areas of Oregon as well as from Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, and Idaho. The school moved several times during its first century to different locations in downtown Portland. It was located at 13th and Hall Streets before moving to its present location in Raleigh Hills in 1964.

In 1972, St. Helen's Hall merged with Bishop Dagwell Hall, an all-boys school, and was renamed Oregon Episcopal School (OES). Over the years, the school has grown in the number of students and in the quality of its facilities. In the 1990s and especially since 2000, the school has gained a nationwide reputation for its research-based science program. Today our students regularly win awards in competitions such as the Regeneron (formerly Intel) Science Talent Search and the Siemens Competition in Math, Science, & Technology. The music program has grown dramatically over the past 10 years, offering numerous choirs, a cappella groups, bands, orchestras, and jazz bands. Alumni continue to praise the instruction they received in writing, saying it has been critical for them in their further studies and careers.

The scope and breadth of our facilities matches the education we provide our students. Meyer Hall was built in 1996 as a spacious new facility for Middle School students that was topped by a "green" roof with soil and plants in 2006. The Drinkward Center for Math, Science, and Technology opened in 2003 with state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment. 2016 introduced a new 45,000 square foot Lower School facility for our Pre-K through 5th grade students. Designed to serve our Reggio Emilia-based curriculum, its openness, transparency, and light reflects an openness to encouraging new ideas, cultures, and people that is at the core of OES's mission, vision, and values.

By the Decades

  • 1869 St. Helen's Hall is established by The Rt. Rev. Benjamin Wistar Morris, Bishop of Oregon, and directed by Mary Rodney and her sisters Lydia and Clementine. The School opens its doors to boarding and day students on September 6, 1869. The house and chapel that was the School's first site is now the location of Portland's City Hall, on 4th and Madison.
  • 1872 The five students of the first graduating class of St. Helen's Hall finish their studies. The class of '72 includes Sally Campbell and Mary Couch of Portland, Margaret Gearhart of Clatsop, Alice Henderson of Yamhill County, and Mary Taylor of Astoria.
  • 1890 Twelve lots, bordered by Vista Avenue, St. Clair, Main, and Park Streets, are purchased as a new site for St. Helen's Hall. On June 9, 1890, the cornerstone is laid, and on February 24, 1891, the new school is ready for students.
  • 1896 Miss Mary Burton Rodney, the principal of St. Helen's Hall, dies at the age of 62.
  • 1904 The Sisters of St. John Baptist come from New York to take over as directors of St. Helen's Hall.
  • 1914 Fire sweeps the School at its Vista-St. Clair address. Only the south wing remains, but classes continue to be held and boarders are housed in an Episcopal residence on 19th and Everett.
  • 1918 The decision is made to lease the old Portland Academy building on 13th Avenue and Hall Street and use this location as the site for the elementary and high school.
  • 1921 The Board of Trustees decides to purchase the 13th and Hall property. The grounds are developed and improved.
  • 1924 An official school uniform is required for all students for the first time.
  • 1930 Everglade, a house on Lake Oswego, is purchased to be used for recreational activities for the girls from the Hall. Classes include swimming, diving, lifesaving, boating, and canoeing. (Everglade was later sold, in 1950, to The Rev. Lansing Kempton.)
  • 1932 St. Helen's Hall Junior College is opened as the first accredited junior college in Oregon. Under the direction of Gertrude Houk Fariss, classes in nursing, secretarial skills, and commercial art are available. The Junior College remained in session until 1947.
  • 1944 The Sisters of St. John Baptist leave St. Helen's Hall and return to the East Coast, telling Bishop Dagwell that "…the shortage of Sisters and the work in the East make it necessary."
  • 1954 Gertrude Houk Fariss becomes Headmistress, a position she holds until her retirement in 1968.
  • 1964 Because the state highway department plans to build a freeway that will bisect the school grounds, the Hall has been given a deadline of June 1964 to leave the 13th and Hall address. The Board of Trustees purchases thirty-two acres of land in Raleigh Hills, which had formerly been the site of the Nicol Riding Academy. The cross above the chapel, the brass school bell, and the School's cornerstone are moved to the site of the new campus. St. Helen's Hall had previously been coeducational through the Eighth Grade, and the addition of Bishop Dagwell Hall expands the program for resident and day boys in grades seven through twelve. The boys' school shares the new campus but is run separately.
  • 1972 St. Helen's Hall and Bishop Dagwell Hall join, establishing a coeducational institution under the name of Oregon Episcopal School.
  • 1986 Mount Hood tragedy claims the lives of seven OES students and two faculty members.
  • 1988 OES acquires the Hampton Courts, a private tennis club, and renames it the Sports and Recreation Center (SPARC).
  • 1996 At the end of October, the entire Middle School moves into a newly constructed facility, Meyer Hall.
  • 1997 Bishop Dagwell Hall, former home to the Middle School, is renovated for the fine arts.
  • 2003 The new Drinkward Center for Math, Science, and Technology is completed. Upper School classes begin using it in the fall.
  • 2005 Renovation of the Upper School building is completed and opens in the fall.
  • 2006 Synthetic turf is installed on main athletic field.
  • 2007 Loop road around athletic field and new parking lot behind gym are constructed.
  • 2007 Addition to Middle School, including green roof and four classrooms, is completed.
  • 2008 Lower School asphalt playground is transformed to Aardvark Community Park.
  • 2011 Mo Copeland becomes head of school. Communication center funded by auction special appeal to enhance communication with people around the world.
  • 2016 The new Lower School is completed. Pre-K through 5th grades begin using it in the fall.

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