Thursday, February 8, 2018

Fact Friday- Ercildoun Seminary


On Buck Run Road, you may pass a rather large house that has seen a thing or two in its life time.
This house was once a learning institution, a beer hall, and now a shelter for families in need. Let’s start at its beginning and see how this building came to be.

The building first opened its doors in 1854 as a learning institution for boys. Three years later, it would be transformed into a Seminary for all girls. It was referred to as the Ercildoun Seminary.

The education received at the Seminary included, but was not limited to, Geography, Chemistry, History, Astronomy, Latin, French, and English. With a list like this, the education didn’t come cheap. It was $80 a semester to attend. This included room and board, tuition, and laundry.

A tornado hit the area in July of 1877 (this is explained in more detail in our previous post).  Its upper floor was ripped off and destroyed from the powerful winds. The building was then abandoned by Mr. and Mrs. Darlington, a couple who lived there full time in the Seminary. They went on to create a similar learning institution for girls in West Chester.

The building reopened in 1879, two years after the storm. Over the next decade or so, the Seminary was lead by a handful of Head Masters. Professor George Moore was the last to hold this position.

It became residential in 1906 and was no longer used as a learning institution. When Prohibition was tightening its grip on the country, the building was used as a beer hall and named The Academy. To keep this under wraps, it was disguised as a literary club. Authorities caught wind of this in 1933 and were shut down soon after. Ironically, 1933 was the year Prohibition ended.


What the building looks like today. Courtesy of Bimmerpost
With its drinking past behind it, the building was then used as housing for special needs children from the 1940's to the 1970's. 

As of today, it is now the site of St. Joseph’s House. This organization assists single mothers, widows, orphans, and families in times of crisis. If you are not familiar with St. Joseph’s House, visit their website and take a look.

Like many of the buildings in Ercildoun, it was adapted over time to fit the community’s needs of the time. They needed a school in the 1850's so they built it. They needed a residential area in the 1900's so they changed it. They needed a place to keep their alcohol in the 1920's and 30's, and then they made it so.

You don’t have to look far for historical treasures. Sometimes all you have to do is take a quick walk down the road. 

Source used: Polk Morris, Janet. Ercildoun: A Quaker Village in Chester County, PA. (2014): 71-74.

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