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Location, Location, Location: A College for Westdale


Crum Creek was a favorite spot for boaters in 1900 and skaters (below), circa 1920.

By the end of 1863, the proposed school had stockholders (contributors) and a Board of Managers, but it did not yet have a charter and did not have a campus. A committee of the Board of Managers identified three possible locations, all rural, all within 20 miles of Philadelphia and convenient to a railroad station. The list was submitted to the stockholders for a final decision. The choices were Wissahickon in Montgomery County, the Radnor Farm in Radnor Township in Delaware County, and, the site chosen, Westdale.

There would be no borough of Swarthmore for nearly 30 years, and the rural neighborhood was named in honor of its most famous local resident, Benjamin West. The description of the property shows the interest of the founders in the aesthetic setting as well as in more practical matters:

Skaters.jpg“The plot … embraces from 80 to 90 acres of land, most of which rises by a gentle ascent from the railroad, furnishing a fine building site upon high ground sloping to the south and commanding a fine view of the surrounding country and of the Delaware River in the distance. There are ample springs rising on the premises, several acres of woodland skirting the northern and western sides of the hill, and a small grove in the vicinity of the building site. A tenant house and spring house are the only buildings. On the western boundary of the property runs Crum Creek, which is here a rapid stream of from 15 to 20 feet wide … near the southern line of the property the stream becomes deeper, in consequence of it being dammed about three-quarters of a mile below; this furnishes fine bathing and skating facilities, while no place offered … affords such romantic and secluded rambles as the rocky and sloping hill-sides which bound this stream.”

Quaker plainness did not preclude an appreciation of the natural world so the stockholders chose the site with “romantic and secluded rambles.” Next on the agenda: Get a charter.

—Christopher Densmore
Curator, Friends Historical Library

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