Old churches in Delaware County, and others not so old, have been enumerated in the last two issues of this column, along with a brief listing of many of them. The seven major denominations in the county have been the Lutheran, Quaker, Episcopalian, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist and Catholic. Among the churches of the last-named denomination which have not already been named are two of more than passing interest locally. These are the interesting old St. Thomas of Villanova on Lancaster Pike and St. Katharine of Siena, in Wayne. The latter was established about 60 years ago in 1890, with the cornerstone of the church edifice laid on June 9, 1895.
Two church denominations of these seven have been responsible for the establishment of three of Delaware County’s colleges, one of them in Radnor township. Villanova College history began in 1842 with the purchase of a tract of land by the Augustinian Fathers, a teaching order of the Catholic Church. This tract of more than 200 acres, located on Lancaster avenue, was then known as BElle Atre, on which was located the old Rudolph mansion. It was here that classes were opened in the fall of 1843. The following year a building program was instituted. In 1848, the Fathers had incorporated by an act of legislature as the “Augustinian College of Villanova in the State of Pennsylvania.” THe institution was then given power to grant and confer degrees.
From 1857 until 1865 the college was closed by a financial depression, followed by the Civil War. After it was reopened, however, it prospered greatly, with several new buildings and an enlargement of the faculty and curriculum. Since 1905 the School of Engineering, the School of Science, Chemical Engineering, Commerce and Finance have been added.
Haverford College and Swarthmore College were both established by the Society of Friends, the former in 1830 and the latter in 1864. Haverford stands as the oldest institution of higher learning in Delaware county and has ranking among the best academic colleges in America. Founders Hall, the first building on the campus, was erected in 1833. The college now has some 25 buildings on a site of 216 acres, with an endowment fund of several million dollars.
Swarthmore College was founded on a site in the community of Westdale, named for one of its famous citizens, Benjamin West, the painter. The town later assumed the name of the College. A co-educational institution, it now has more than 237 acres of land and 32 buildings. Its endowment is more than $7,000,000.
Two other well-known Delaware County colleges are Cheyney State Teachers College in Thornbury township and Pennsylvania Military College, located in Chester. The former is the only state-controlled institution of college status in the county. It was founded in 1832 when Richard Humphreys, a West Indian, left $10,000 to form an institution for the education of Negroes. The money was left to the Society of Friends with the understanding that the Society should have charge of the affairs of the foundation. Started in Philadelphia as the Institute for Colored Youth, it later came to Delaware county, where it functioned as a State Normal School, joining 13 other state teachers’ colleges.
Pennsylvania Military College might be called the oldest college in Delaware county if its beginning is considered as the opening of a boarding school for boys in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1823 by an influential Quaker, John Bullock. In 1853 the equipment and good will of the school were sold to Colonel Theodore Hyatt, who was succeeded by his son, General Charles E. Hyatt in 1888. The college is now conducted as a non-profit institution by the Hyatt Foundation, basing its curriculum and student life on a pattern such as is followed at West Point.
Crozer Theological Seminary, located at Upland, began classes with 20 students in 1868. These classes were held in the old buldings of the Upland Normal Institute. Many additions have since been made to the school, including Bucknell Library.
Outstanding among private educational institutions in the county is Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, with it modern plant of 16 buildings. Here boys may prepare for the United States military and naval academies. Another noteworthy county institution is Ellis College at Newtown Square, a fully-accredited boarding school for the education of fatherless girls.