Built in 1948, the Dining Hall responded to the needs of a thriving school, created sufficient space for students and teachers to gather for meals, and represented a significant step in Mr. Boyden’s vision for Deerfield.
Mr. Boyden believed that learning was founded on the primacy and importance of human relationships. To him, learning was experiential, happening across the full range of school settings and, most importantly, through immersion in community.
The Dining Hall, perhaps more than any other campus setting, embodies our commitment to community and shared experiences, and it is vital to our culture, traditions, and identity.
“Shared experiences fuel Deerfield’s unique and powerful spirit. The Dining hall is the heart and soul of our campus.”
—Dr. John P.N. Austin, Head of School
“The Dining Hall is our community at its best. It’s where we all come together to share stories of our day, make new friends or confide in old ones. The relationships that we build here will last a lifetime, and create memories that define our Deerfield spirit.”
—Leila Govi ’93 P’26, President, Board of Trustees
*With a target enrollment of 650— a number we feel is the right fit for Deerfield—we face a challenge also faced by Mr. Boyden: Bringing the full school together. We no longer are able to seat all students upstairs in the main Dining Hall, requiring a large rotation of students to eat downstairs. In keeping with our historic commitment to community and connection, we embark on the expansion and revitalization of the Dining Hall—a project that will touch the life of every Deerfield student, teacher, coach, and mentor.
Total construction cost: $58 million
Gathering with friends, waiting tables, applauding favorite meals, and singing the Evensong are among students’ favorite moments at Deerfield, and remain cherished memories for alumni.
For decades, the Dining Hall has brought our community together, as students from across the country and around the world enjoy sit-down meals and wide-ranging conversations.
The Dining Hall was designed by architects William and Geoffrey Platt—who, along with their father, Charles, a leading architect of his day built several Academy landmarks.
Bringing Deerfield projects in on time and on budget—in spite of “hot debate”—has, in itself, become a Deerfield tradition.
In the past decade, Deerfield has seen the construction or revitalization of essential Academy buildings, including the Boyden Library, the Hess Center for the Arts, the D.S. Chen Center for Health and Wellness, the Athletics Complex, and Simmons Dormitory, among others.
Many of these projects were designed by award-winning firm Architectural Resources Cambridge (ARC), who has a long and successful relationship with Deerfield. Like the Platts before them, ARC understands the rhythms of Deerfield life and they have brought in every project on time and on budget. We are delighted to partner with ARC on this Academy priority.
With an ideal enrollment of 650—a number we feel is the right fit for Deerfield—we face a challenge also faced by Mr. Boyden: Bringing the full school together. We no longer are able to seat all students upstairs in the Dining Hall, and this requires a large rotation of students eating downstairs in the Parker Room.
In keeping with our historic commitment to community and connection, we embark on the expansion and revitalization of the Dining Hall— a project that will touch the life of every Deerfield student, teacher, coach, and mentor.
From The Deerfield Scroll, October 2, 1948:
“Up until the last day of school it was a subject of hot debate as to whether it would be completed on time. But true to Deerfield tradition, the Dining Hall opened its doors for the fall term, and food appeared on all tables on time”
The Dining Hall is such an important experience for all Deerfield students; sit-down meals are the time when the Deerfield community really comes together as a family. I love the formality of having the First Waiter and the Second Waiter, and I hope Deerfield never gives those up; these are important responsibilities, and, thinking back, they are experiences that cannot be repeated in any other environment.
One of my most memorable sit-down meals occurred on my revisit day in the spring of 2016. I remember how nervous I had been all day. I sat down at Ms. Emerson’s table, where I received the warmest of welcomes. The meal that day was broccoli fettuccine alfredo with raspberry thumbprint cookies. The combination of the comfortable conversation and the warm meal cemented the idea of Deerfield being the right place for me.
I think I made the final decision to attend Deerfield after a sit-down lunch on my accepted student visit day. (I had been admitted to Hotchkiss as well and was leaning towards that school.) The year was 1987 and after food had been served and we ate for a bit, Mr. Smith grabbed the podium and made the announcement that Graham Harden ’87 had won the New England football player of the year award while playing linebacker. The Dining Hall absolutely erupted in table-pounding synchronous applause, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I had never seen or heard something so cool in my life. I wondered if that could ever be me getting recognition in front of an entire school body. The smile on Mr. Smith’s face was unmistakably that of a proud coach. That one exciting day at sit-down swung my decision to DA over Hotchkiss, and I am very glad to this day of that choice. Go Big Green!
My friends and I will stay in the Dining Hall for hours after dinner, grabbing seconds and thirds of dessert and howling and laughing until we eventually have to start our homework.
Sit-downs are one of my favorite things about Deerfield. They’re special for me because it feels as if you are eating with your family back home but it's with a group of people that I have never met.
On September 11, 2001, I was a senior and my brother a freshman. Students learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon independently and together. Classes were canceled or delayed, and I remember friends crying, trying to reach their parents in NY. We didn’t know what would happen next, and I remember walking around, trying to figure out where I should be; who I should be with.
When it came for sit-down lunch, however, we all showed up, in our places. This gathering—a daily experience—was like muscle memory carrying some of us along, and it was holding a lot of us together. The Dining Hall was our lifeboat as a community at that time. We had a place to be, and in that dark moment of uncertainty it didn’t seem strange that everyone was there, in their places.
Mr. Widmer got up and said that as far as they had been able to establish, everyone’s “mom and dad were ok.” We clapped then, let out breath we were holding. But, Mr. Widmer also said, our fellow schools could not say the same. I remember looking around at everyone, and as much as we were grateful to be safe, there was this sense that everything had changed and we would need to hold each other closer than ever before in the days and weeks to come.
Sit-down meals are meant to help the community become a family, to come together once or twice a day and not just eat, but get a feeling of belonging to a greater whole. On 9/11, that purpose was absolutely achieved.