Friends' Central School

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Friends' Central School

2014-11-17 10:10



Friends’ Central School is a co-educational, Quaker, private school for children in nursery school through 12th grade. The school was established in 1845 in Philadelphia and originally located at 4th and Cherry streets. It earned its name of Friends’ Central because its student body was comprised of the students of three different Quaker elementary schools who attended the “central” school for secondary education. In 1857, the school moved to a new building at 15th and Race streets, but by the 1920s, the Board of Trustees determined that Friends’ Central needed a larger campus and that students might benefit from learning in an environment away from the congestion of the city. In 1925, the school purchased the Wistar Morris estate formerly known as Green Hill Farm and moved to its current location on City Avenue in Wynnewood, Montgomery County. Today, Friends' Central's Middle and Upper schools (grades 6-12) occupy the City Avenue campus, while the Lower School, consisting of the nursery school and grades 1-5, re-located to another property, formerly known as the Montgomery Country Day School, in Wynnewood in 1990.

An image of the Friends' Central School building on 15th and Race, taken by a former student

One of the barns on the Wistar Morris property was repurposed to house Friends’ Central School’s Blackburn Library. On the second floor of the library you’ll find the school’s archives, which contain the Friends’ Central School records, 1785-2014 (bulk 1845-2014). This collection consists of administrative and financial records, enrollment records, personal papers, school publications and ephemera, photographs, scrapbooks, slides, various audiovisual materials, objects and other materials from and relating to the administration, faculty and staff, students, and alumni of Friends' Central School. A few materials, such as the Girls Department records date back to the school’s founding in 1845, while a couple of property documents, mainly deeds, date from the 18th century. The remaining materials are largely from the late 19th century to the present.

An enrollment book from the Boys Department showing names and ages of students, names of parents, and addresses, 1873-1890

 One highlight from the collection is the student records, 1845-1970s, which include grade reports, enrollment and roll books, financial records of tuition and fees, student notebooks and autograph books, and other documents. The Girls and Boys Department records list the names, ages, parents, and addresses of the enrolled students, which could be a valuable resource for genealogists. One of the student autograph books is signed by the school’s Writing Master, Benjamin Eakins, father of artist Thomas Eakins. Benjamin worked at the school from its opening in 1845 until 1896.


Images from a student autograph book, including Benjamin Eakin's signature

Other collection highlights include the papers of faculty and staff members such as those of Clayton Farraday (1914-2004), who served as upper school principal for several years and wrote a history of Friends' Central, and Eliza Engles Blackburn (1904-1988), a teacher and dean noted for her service to the school; minutes, annual reports, and financial records of the Board of Trustees and various administrative committees; materials relating to the buildings and grounds of the school’s multiple locations; and Alumni materials such as the minutes of the Alumni Association, 1881-1937 and the Old Pupils Association, 1902-1944.

Ladies from the Class of 1910

A large portion of this collection is photographs including class photos beginning with the class of 1880 and continuing to the present and faculty photographs starting in 1890. There are also images of student activities such as school clubs, sports teams, field trips, drama productions, and other subjects. Because this collection has a wide variety of document types and the records span the life of the institution, it is not to be missed if you are interested in researching or learning about Quaker schools, education, or the history of Friends’ Central and those who attended and worked there.

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