"Education is a community service requiring community participation."
– Stephen Eckard, humanitarian, journalist, scholar, entrepreneur, founder and former head of ASL.
ASL was founded in 1951 by Stephen L. Eckard, an American journalist and former teacher living in London. Mr. Eckard was working for the North American Service of the BBC when several co-workers encouraged him to start a school that followed an American curriculum. The School began with 13 students, and all classes took place in his Knightsbridge flat.
Within half a year, the School had become so popular that three teachers were hired and it was moved to a more spacious property in Chelsea. An alumnus of ASL in its early years remembered Mr. Eckard wearing many hats: "Headmaster, counselor, teacher, administrator, even bus driver—Stephen Eckard did it all."
The School continued to grow, moving first to a large house in Grosvenor Square and then adding two houses in Gloucester Gate and four houses in York Terrace. Students played sports at Regent’s Park and on the lawn of Winfield House, the residence of the US ambassador.
The first High School graduation was held in 1960, an event that brought Mr. Eckard much joy. "It would be difficult to exaggerate the pride I feel in our school’s first graduating class," he said. "To the extent that it marks a milestone of achievement for me in the development of the American School in London, I hope this feeling is shared by the Senior Class."
In 1964, the newly formed Board of Trustees made the landmark decision to raise funds for a $7 million building to house the whole school. They broke ground in 1968 with the help of Ambassador David K.E. Bruce. The cornerstone was laid two years later by Ambassador Walter Annenberg. The Rt. Hon. Margaret Thatcher, MP, then secretary of state for education and science, spoke at the building’s dedication in 1971.
In September 2000, the School opened a new High School wing, which included an additional 24,000 square feet of space, a new gym, art studios, computer labs and a renovated library.
In June 2006, the School broke ground on the School Center for Education and the Arts, to create a 450-seat theater and new flexible teaching and performance space. The Center was completed in the winter of 2007 and officially opened in March 2008.
In 2011, the School marked its 60th anniversary by celebrating Founder's Day on 21 April, the date on which founding headmaster Stephen L. Eckard opened the doors of his Knightsbridge flat to begin the American School in London in 1951.
See some early footage of ASL below; you'll see Stephen Eckard in the film at 10m00s, 11m50s and 13m06s: