In 1923 a group of business leaders, educators, and parents set out to establish a premier college-preparatory school in a rural setting. They wanted to provide area students with the advantages of a boarding school campus but afford them the additional benefits of a day school.
The Sweetland Farm in East Providence offered the perfect location to bring their vision to fruition, and though the physical layout of the school has evolved over the ensuing years, the “farm” remains the center of the PCD campus today. Initially a small all-boys middle and high school, PCD was able to successfully navigate its commitment to becoming a coeducational institution thanks to a strict adherence to its founding principles. In 1991 the school admitted its first female students, and in 1998 the Board of Trustees hired Susan Haberlandt as Head of School to lead and secure the school through those critical transformational years and beyond. Coinciding with the school's demographic shift was a geographic shift: in 1997, PCD completed an extensive campus consolidation and building project, in which two historic buildings, Metcalf and Chace Halls (1927) were moved to the east side of campus and renovated. At the same time Murray House opened as the new administration building, and the Moran Annex was added to the West Field House, providing greatly expanded and improved athletic facilities. In 2021, the Henry Barnard School (founded in 1898 as The Observation School of Rhode Island Normal School) merged with PCD. Henry Barnard is now PCD's lower school.
Current Head of School, Kevin Folan, was appointed in 2019 and continues to lead a program and community that values and celebrates individuals. The school's diversity and gender balance are decidedly more reflective of real life, and the vibrant school community is a living testament to the vision of the school’s founders.