Headquartered in the Whitpain 1895 Public School, the Wissahickon Valley Historical Society serves to educate the public about the heritage and history of the people, institutions and events that have influenced and shaped the communities of the Wissahickon School District which encompasses Whitpain Township, Lower Gwynedd Township and the Borough of Ambler.

About Us

Founded in 1975 as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, the Wissahickon Valley Historical Society’s purpose is to preserve the local historical buildings, artifacts and folklore of the historic Wissahickon Valley.

The Franklinville School

The Franklinville School c.1858 is a white stucco one-room schoolhouse on an acre of ground, located at 1701 Morris Road, Blue Bell, between Normandy Farms Estates and the Windermere Community.  It is the only one-room schoolhouse open to the public in Whitpain Township.

The 1895 Public School

The two-story schoolhouse has a Library containing deeds, wills, photos, books, maps and genealogies, a 19th Century School Room and a Museum of local artifacts, focusing on items, pictures and records from the early farms and our industrial past.

Featured

Happy July! In this issue of The Valley Crier you will find news about WVHS – and about history in the news: 

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Read about a 1900’s baseball great who grew up down the street in July’s Stroll Blue Bell

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Update on the Ambler Train Station Freight House:

May 7th, 2024

Remarks (with a few updates) to Ambler Borough Council by WVHS President Carol Kalos

The WVHS mission is to promote and preserve the history and historic resources of Ambler Borough, Whitpain Township, and Lower Gwynedd Township. Ambler property owners have proudly done their part to preserve the borough’s old buildings. As a result of Ambler’s historic architecture, it’s a town that’s in demand. You may not realize that one of Ambler’s oldest and most valuable structures is the Freight House.  It is located –along with the building that is La Provence and what was Bussingers Model Trains –at what is called the “Old Train Station.” Decades ago, our historical society saved La Provence with a $50,000 grant from the William Penn Foundation.

That group of three buildings was constructed in 1889; however, the Freight House is older; it is Ambler’s original 1855 passenger depot, moved to its present location and added to in 1889.  We know for several reasons: First, it is narrow like a passenger station, not a freight building. Unlike freight buildings, it has many windows, and its roof has long eaves to protect passengers waiting for a train. To add to its beauty, under those eaves are decorative, carved rafters and brackets, examples of Victorian-era Stick architecture.  And, it is built from the area’s original timbers, cut my hand; hand-held tools have left their marks. Ask any carpenter how those virgin forests, Penn’s Woods, provided dense, heavy wood. Finally, beneath the Freight House’s present covering is the original clapboard.

In the future, we picture this historic structure as a monument, showing off Ambler’s connection to its railroad history. It could become a retail shop or the centerpiece for a farmers’ market, standing as a lovely welcome at the entrance to the town. I am here to ask Ambler to assist us in saving the Freight House; that means moving it. 

Sadly, today it sits over the Tannery Run culvert, which needs repair. 

In 2022, SEPTA notified the historical society that it intended to demolish the building. Because the Freight House is eligible for historic status, SEPTA was required to offer the historical society mitigation.

In October of 2023, we were waiting to hear from them about the mitigation when the historical society learned that SEPTA had notified its riders that there would be delays on the tracks because the building was to be demolished. 

Due to public outcry, including 1200 signatures in just a few days, the demolition was postponed, but now we have until August 1 to remove the building, or it will be destroyed. SEPTA wants to repair the culvert.

We have raised $8000, used for an engineering study of the structure, needed for further grant applications to save the building.

Our plan is to move the Freight House and do further fund-raising. We have an estimate from Wolfe House Movers, who did work at the Colony Club. They would charge about $30,000 and put clamps on the corners to stabilize the structure. To avoid building footings, the Freight House, which measures about 10 feet by 50 feet, would stand on a trailer for about two years to give us time to raise donations and work our way through the grant cycle.

We are here tonight to ask that we place the trailer in the parking lot across the street. It would take up about six parking spaces. The lot is owned by the Montgomery County Redevelopment Authority, who leases to the borough, and has offered it approval for placement of the trailer.

The safety of the building is important. The lot has a chain link fence, and we would add to the fencing to surround the structure.

Questions and answers followed.  It was noted that, prior to the meeting, the Borough Solicitor reviewed the lease agreement, and he stated that, according to the existing lease, the Borough is permitted to accept this request if Council approves.

For questions, please email info@wvalleyhs.org

You can find more news on the Freight House at Ambler Train Station in Committees

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From our friends at Historical Society of Montgomery County

https://hsmcpa.org/index.php/events

 

4500_046_Franklinville School House Postcard_Normandy Farm_Gwynedd Valley PA_Side View

 

 

Please click here to see our new video about the history of the Franklinville School, prepared by the Historical Society of Montgomery County to encourage donations to the renovations there.  WVHS appreciates the assistance of the HSMC

We invite you to sign up The Valley Crier newsletter to stay informed of upcoming events, educational programs and community activities. Please email us at info@wvalleyhs.org if you prefer to have our newsletter mailed to you. Be sure to include your name and address, thank you.