The Whitpain Historical Society 1983 - 2015
Update: July 2021
Blue Bell, PA : The Wissahickon Valley Historic Society has completed the first phase of its renovations to Whitpain Township’s Franklinville School, and the society is seeking donations for further work.
The 1858 Franklinville School is the only remaining one-room schoolhouse in the area that will be open to the public. Others have become private residences or have been torn down.
The school is located on Morris Road and was once part of the historic Normandy Farms.
The Franklinville School is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role, not only as a school, but as an early 20th-century community center. Thousands assembled there each summer for community picnics.
The start of the renovation project, which began earlier this year, included a new electrical panel, improved drainage, and waterproofing of the foundation.
Initial funding was obtained primarily through a $20,000 PA legislative grant, offered by the Keystone Communities Program, and made available through Representative Liz Hanbidge. Individual donors have also supported the project.
Several essential renovations are still planned for the school, including rewiring, a new roof, new HVAC, rebuilding the front and back porches, and painting, inside and out.
The work is important to ensuring the integrity of the structure and to making it accessible to visitors. When all the renovations are complete, the building, furnished as a 19th century, one-room classroom, will be used to educate students and the community about the history and customs of our area.
To complete the renovations, fund-raising continues. “We certainly appreciate every donation, large or small, and we will make sure each one is recognized publically,” said Joe Langella, WVHS vice president. “The contributions are important because we still have much costly work to do! In addition, when we preserve historic buildings, we enhance our neighborhoods.”
Donations of any size can be made online at www.wvalleyhs.org or by mail to WVHS, P.O. Box 96, Ambler, PA 19002.
The Wissahickon Valley Historical Society promotes and preserves the history of Ambler Borough, Whitpain Township, and Lower Gwynedd Township. Its headquarters and museum are located in Blue Bell at the historic 1895 Public School. The society welcomes new members.
The Founding of the Historical Society of Whitpain
The Historical Society of Whitpain (HSW) was formed in 1983 by a group of concerned, historic preservation-minded citizens with the goal of restoring the Franklinville School, a one room schoolhouse built in 1858. At that time the schoolhouse was owned by Peter Strassburger and was in deplorable condition from years of neglect. Peter was interested in historic preservation and was pleased the HSW was willing to restore the schoolhouse.
The HSW members raised funds by having attic sales, bake sales and plant sales. Several state grants were eventually awarded to the HSW. The members began working on restoring the schoolhouse and property. Members patched and painted the interior walls, washed and white-washed the exterior walls, repaired and painted the shutters, and renewed the windows by replacing the ropes and weights along with re-glazing and painting the windows. Electricity was installed and the porch floor boards were replaced.
In 1997, the developer of the property donated the schoolhouse to the HSW.
In 1998, the cedar wood shingle roof was replaced and a non-functioning pot belly stove was donated and placed in the center of the room surrounded by period student desks. The interior floor boards were replaced in 2000. The members also gathered historic photos and artifacts to be used as displays in the schoolhouse. The interior of the schoolhouse resembles a nineteenth century school.
The HSW meetings were originally held at members’ houses. As renovations progressed, meetings were held at the schoolhouse. In 1993 the HSW started leasing the Boxwood House from Whitpain Township. Meetings were held there until the HSW merged with the WVHS in January 2015.
The Franklinville School was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 2014.
Thanks to the concern, ingenuity and work of the HSW members, the historic one room schoolhouse was saved. Since then the schoolhouse has been used as a museum of early education and open to the public.
Wissahickon Valley Historical Society is a certified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization