Some History of Nether Providence Schools

The previous post got me wondering how the schools in Nether Providence ended up as they are. I looked back through the newspaper records to find out. In particular, in 1958 the Chester Times did a series where they wrote a full page on each school district of the time, including Nether Providence on Nov. 14th.

The first school came about due to Pennsylvania’s 1834 public school act. In 1841 Henry Forest donated a property near Hinkson’s Corner on Brookhaven Rd. where Union School had been created in the 1930s. The Old Union United Methodist Church at Rose Valley and Brookhaven that recently closed is thought to have taken its name from this school, where the congregation met at one time (Chester Times, 25 Sep, 1954).

In 1839, residents in the south part of the township petitioned for a school and land was purchased from Henry Sharples at what is now the corner of Chester, Providence and Harvey Rds. This school was named after the area, Pleasant Hill School. It was rebuilt in 1870 and ultimately closed due to low attendance in 1914 (Chester Times, 29 Aug, 1914). There are 19th century mentions of a grammar school (separate from the others), but its not clear where this school was.

In 1857, property was bought to create Briggsville School at Shepherd and Providence. A 1946 Chester Times article gave a history of the Briggsville name. It was originally a row of houses and a church that were built from the leftover bricks when Mr. Briggs closed his brickyard. It was known for some time as “rotten row” because it was built from leftovers. For over 50 years, Union and Briggsville schools served as the township’s polling precincts until they both closed in the early 1900s.

At the turn of the century, teacher appointments were listed in the Chester Times as well as student attendance (including a listing of students with perfect attendance). In 1898, the list was

  • South Media Primary – 67 students
  • South Media Intermediate – 44 students
  • Pleasant Hill – 49 students
  • Union – 47 students
  • Briggsville Secondary – 41 students
  • Nether Providence High School – 43 students
Wallingford High School in 1902, from the Chester Times.

Briggsville is not listed in a similar list in 1902 and likely closed around the turn of the century. South Media Intermediate is never mentioned anywhere else I could find, and likely didn’t exist soon after 1900. There are references to a new school in 1902 and Wallingford School is mentioned by 1919, so it was probably built some in the early 20th century (the newspapers often used the term ambiguously). A Chester Times article on 25 Oct, 1918 tells how the long-time polling place at Union School was moving and the building had been sold to a local resident for conversion to a house, marking the end of the township’s first school. In a 28 Aug, 1919 Chester Times article, the new state requirement for students to show proof of vaccination before attending school that year was noted. By the time of a 19 Aug 1933 Chester Times article, there were only three schools remaining in the township – South Media School, Wallingford School, and Nether Providence High School. In 1939 there was a call for bids to connect WES to the town sewer system.

A Chester Times article on 25 Oct, 1902 announced the creation of the Horace Howard Furness Free Library with 500 books already purchased, to reside in the new high school building. However, a 9 Sep, 1955 article states that the Helen Kate Furness library (which was then in financial trouble) was originally located at the Union School on Brookhaven in 1902. Furness moved to its own building around 1916 through a land bequest by Dr. Horace Howard Furness. Dr. Horace Howard Furness Jr. bequeathed a further $1000 to the library, which was named for his mother.

In 1939, the rapidly growing Chester suburb of Garden City had grown to the extent they required a new school, and Nether Providence Elementary was built. There were numerous articles about the great expense to the taxpayers of the new school in 1939 and 1940. A playground was built there later in 1940 as well.

The high school, “suggests an atmosphere of the highest academic pursuits.”, Chester Times, 1958

In a 11 April, 1957 article, the board asked residents to suggest names for the new school to be built at what became Summit School, but the article relates that the board had suggested two names – Summit School and Providence Elementary. I guess they went with their own idea. Another article on the same page details a 4.7% tax increase and a $2.50 rise in the per capita tax to $10 (probably the last increase ever as the remainder is shared with the township), raising the budget to just short of one million dollars. If the per capita tax had kept up with inflation since then, it’d be over $100/person now

In 1970 the new high school was built on Providence Rd. and the existing high school became the new middle school according to an article on Jan 10, 1969. There were meetings of the PTO to explain the rational for separating grades 6-8 and 9-12. Around that time was the merger of the school district with Swarthmore. The high school was the last new school established (although buildings have been changed since then), which means WSSD has never established a new school. South Media’s closure has already been covered here and Summit School closed a few decades later leaving us with the schools we have today.

Categories: History, WSSD