Over the past several decades, to the detriment of Northeast Philadelphia, much emphasis has been placed on Olde City in Philadelphia to protect important historic buildings and sites. Unfortunately historic buildings in Northeast Philadelphia have not received equal protection and have been neglected. There are many people, whether educators, historians, civic associations, historical societies, and volunteers who have been working together to preserve these buildings and sites in Northeast Philadelphia.
This is the story of the oldest public school building in Pennsylvania, heading for a Sheriff’s Sale. Goodbye American History.
The Lower Dublin Academy at 3322 Willits Rd., Philadelphia, PA. 19136 has a vast history.
In 1694, by his Last Will and Testament, Captain Thomas Holme, Surveyor General of Pennsylvania under William Penn, bequeathed his descendants £4 for the purpose of education within Lower Dublin township. A circa 1723 Log School was built upon a small parcel of the remnants of Holme’s Well-Spring Plantation. The Log School continued in use until Public Spirited Men (most being veterans of the American Revolutionary War), in furtherance of Holme’s Will, formed a permanent Trust for education within the township and by an act of legislature established the Trustees of the Lower Dublin Academy.
The founding, development and naming of Holmesburg, including the Public Library are directly related to Thomas Holme’s Last Will.
In 1794, Edward Duffield, a clockmaker, close friend to Benjamin Franklin, and member of the American Philosophical Society, was chosen to design the building. Public money by lottery was solicited and construction began on a large stone academy named after the Lower Dubline township. The building and grounds of the Lower Dublin Academy have survived nearly intact for more than 225 years.
During the filming of The King’s Highway documentary, researcher and preservationist Joseph Menkevich worked on and completed an extremely detailed historic nomination that was granted a designation by the historic commission in 2016. This means that the property is locally protected by historic designation in Philadelphia. But that doesn’t mean it is protected from demolition by neglect, which is the current state of the building. You can read the lengthy 108 page PDF nomination here to fully understand the breadth of the history behind the building.
“This is by far the most historically significant building in Northeast Philadelphia,” said Fred Moore, one of the Trustees of the Lower Dublin Academy. “If we can’t save this building, then Thomas Holmes’ legacy will disappear forever, and we can’t let that happen.”
Thankfully, there is a solution.
The King’s Highway Foundation, along with the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Holmesburg Coalition, Trustees of LDA, and hopefully area politicians can save the building. We have written up a detailed plan of action as to what we plan to do with the property which you can read here.
A quick bullet list of what we propose to do is raise funds needed to restore the building and create:
- The Northeast Philadelphia Museum of American History
- Office for Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
- Office for King’s Highway Foundation / Northeast Philly Initiative
- Office for local civic organizations that don’t currently have offices
- Education and Community Center, and Event hosting
- Gift Shop & Cafeteria
We currently have architectural renderings and detailed plans being worked on by various groups and companies. This way we can show the public what we are proposing to do. But time is of the essence as the impending Sheriff’s Sale of the property is coming up in September, 2018.
The owner of the Lower Dublin Academy has offered to transfer ownership of the building to the King’s Highway Foundation.
In exchange, the Foundation must settle any tax debts to the City of Philadelphia. Thanks to the office of Councilman Bobby Henon, we have been able to bring the tax debts down from $54,000 to roughly $32,000 + insurance needed immediately. This way the building can be transferred to the Foundation without any legal liabilities attached to it.
This is where you, the politician, the business owner, the resident, the historian, the American citizen come in. We need your help to raise the funds for this bill. Whether it’s one check from a grant or fund, or various checks from the community. We can’t do this without you.
“Preserving the Lower Dublin Academy is a group effort. We are all residents of Philadelphia, but we are preserving American history here,” said Teri Grumbrecht of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. “Saving this building will be a catalyst for more positive improvements to the corridor. We don’t have a choice but to save this building.”
If you want to help us save this building:
Or you can mail a check with your donation to:
The King’s Highway Foundation, 4316 Sheffield Ave., Philadelphia. PA. 19136