The First 300

Friends’ Central School

Friends’ Central at 15th and Race Streets, Philadelphia, in 1880.

Friends’ Central School was founded in 1845 by a joint committee of three Philadelphia Hicksite Meetings. All children of Quaker families were welcome to attend as were children of non-Friends families. On opening day in September 1845, there were 98 boys and 102 girls in the five classes …a 15 dollar tuition for each term. There were many difficulties in the first few years. However the desire of the education committee to have a school and maintain its program of education never wavered despite the competition of free public education in Philadelphia and earlier Quaker schools. During the next 68 years, the school’s enrollment dramatically increased. Despite several relocations of the schoolhouse, the need for more classroom space increased and there began a search to expand their city school facilities. The spot was found on City Line Avenue, near 66th Street, the Wistar Morris Estate. Here were 15-1/2 acres surrounding the mansion house.

The Morris residence, modeled after a Scottish castle, became the main school building. The surrounding cottages were used as a science laboratory and residence for the headmaster; the barn for art classes, locker rooms and maintenance. The site also had spacious land for playing fields. A gymnasium was soon built.

Here the school has remained since 1925, surrounded by the beautiful campus which is part of the land grant to William Penn by King Charles II of England. New buildings have been added: science labs replaced the old gardener’s cottage behind the residence; two buildings were added nearby to increase classroom space. The Linton gymnasium enlarged the playing courts for the Rex gym. A swimming pool was an important addition for the summer day camp and neighbors.

In 1986 the barn was gutted and transformed within the original stone walls into the Blackburn Library.

With the school’s purchase of the Montgomery Country Day School in nearby Wynnewood, it was able to greatly expand the Lower School facilities.

Over the years, the educational process and programs have developed a unique process for preparing the students for life. The school’s strong mission and commitment to the principles of the Society of Friends have continued since 1845.

1930s aerial view of the campus off City Line Avenue.
The school’s relocation to Wistar Morris’ Green Hill Farm.
Reception room in the estate, pre-1925.
Mr. Crouch’s chemistry lab, 1926.
Library, early 1940s.
Recent campus scene.