The College Settlement of Philadelphia: A History
This book, published in 1989, was written in 1986 by Executive Director Leonard C. Ferguson, and covers the decades from our formation in Philadelphia in 1890, through the purchase of the Farm Camp property in 1922, to the year 1986.
Our attempt to write a history of the College Settlement of Philadelphia can only be described as a labor of love for an organization which consumed most our of lifetime.
We thought it important to put our writing into a time sequence which would enable the reader to relate what was going on in the Settlement and Camp to events happening at the national, state, and local levels.
We deeply appreciate the time and effort provided by Helen Jackson who did a tremendous job of excerpting the minutes of the Trustees over the ninety years covered by the operation of the College Settlement of Philadelphia; and by Elizabeth Simons for her thoughtful reading and additions to our first draft. To them both we extend our most sincere thanks. In addition, we appreciate the cooperation of Robert Capanna, Executive Director of the Settlement Music School, in supplying us with detailed historical background of that organization.
It is impossible to put into words the admiration which is felt for the Trustees and Staff of the College Settlement over the many years. Their unwavering support and cooperation cannot be described but each and every one is etched deeply in our memory and our heart.
Our efforts at putting it all together, we hope, will bring back many memories.
Leonard C. Ferguson
Sunset Beach, North Carolina
April 28, 1986
A Green Country Town
William Penn, a Quaker visionary, founded the city of Philadelphia on the banks of the Delaware River in the year 1681 in the colony which was to become the state of Pennsylvania. Penn wanted his new city to be different from any habitable place in the New World with no fortifications, soldier garrisons, or municipal institutions. Penn’s policy of religious toleration led to immigration from many parts of Europe where these early settlers had been persecuted for their religious beliefs. These colonists— Quakers, Baptists, Anglicans, and Presbyterians—had a considerable effect on Penn’s original concept of what his city was to be and what it became. The settlers’ insistence on maintaining the traditional values brought with them from Europe eventually caused considerable change from Penn’s original plans. In time, it was the demands of these early colonists which dominated the development of the city.
Penn’s original plans for the city called for the development of a 10-acre plot at High and Broad Streets which was to be bordered by the principal public buildings. The city would look inward from the wharves and docks along the Delaware. The city lots were to be in the dimensions of 102′ x 396′ along Front Street; the Second Street lots approximately 51′ x 300′. One thinks of these lots as being the length of a modern football field or more. We can understand the immediate action of the early settlers in becoming the first sub-dividers by cutting alleys through the lots and erecting homes thus creating a crowded living situation which still exists, in parts of the area, today. It is necessary to know of this early action if one is to understand the tenements and slums of the future and why they developed where they did. This was the area where the College Settlement of Philadelphia was to have its beginnings.
In 1682, Penn arrived in Philadelphia and acquired a mile of river frontage on the Schuylkill parallel to his holdings on the Delaware. Basic Philadelphia was to be contained within this 1200 acres of land rectangular in shape and approximately one mile by two miles in circumference.
For the next 100 years the city was to expand supplied with a cheap source of labor in the increasing numbers of immigrants who helped the various industries to grow. By 1755 the largest ethnic group in Philadelphia were the Germans with 60,000 living within the city or in the area called Germantown. Scots-Irish and the English-Welsh made up about 25% each of the balance of the population.
Physically, the city in its beginnings was typical of most colonial cities. The streets were unpaved, garbage was disposed of by tossing it into the streets, law enforcement was practically non-existent, and burglary was a favorite pastime. Government was quite primitive.
There were two sides to the city’s society. There were the affluent made up of the Quaker merchants and traders who, along with the Episcopalians, helped in the development of institutions of learning and refinement. The other side of the colonial society consisted of the workers engaged in the various commercial enterprises which made the city grow. Their situation in life was no better nor worse than the working classes of other cities although there did seem to be a softening influence in Philadelphia absent in Boston and New York, perhaps a part of the Quaker heritage.
In the Beginning, 1890-1920
Two hundred years after its founding the City of Brotherly Love had been transformed into one of the industrial centers of the world. By 1880 heavy industry predominated and Penn’s “Greene Country Towne” was covered with steam and smoke. The three-story red brick working man’s home — originally the home of the “wellto-do” — had become the symbol of Philadelphia housing. The Pennsylvania Railroad, Baldwin Works, Cramp Shipyards, Kensington Iron and Steel Works, William Sellers & Co., Keystone Watch Company, Atwater Kent Mfg., Leeds & Northrup, Bayuk Cigars, Stephano Cigarettes, Schmidt’s Beer, Bassett’s and Breyer’s Ice Cream, Whitman’s Candies, Fels-Naptha Soap, and Smith Kline and French Pharmaceuticals were but a few of the well-known industries familiar to the average man across the country.
In 1890, Philadelphia was the largest city in the United States, by area, with 129 square miles, but was distinguished by the small villages or homogeneous settings within the city — Kensington, Frankford, Manayunk each had its special characteristics, ethnic grouping, and political thinking. The population of the city had changed from a predominantly Protestant North European stock to one increasingly Roman Catholic and variegated in ethnic background. Approximately 24% of the population of 1,046,964 in 1890 were foreign born with the Irish making up the largest percentage.
For those with a nostalgic yen for the “good old days,” the Gay Nineties has a special appeal. Punting on the river, the social balls, riding over hill and dale pursuing the wily fox, a little polo on the side, these were the pasttimes of the upper social class. These were the days when Grover Cleveland was President of the United States, Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, and John Philip Sousa were leaving their indelible mark on the history of the country, and “Teddy” Roosevelt was to make his charge up San Juan Hill.
In Philadelphia, at this time, the city was being flooded with waves of immigrants fleeing Europe. By 1894, the Jewish population of South Philadelphia was 30,000 living in the river wards south of Spruce Street. By 1905, 100,000 Jews were in the city, 70,000 of them Russian with 55,000 living in the southern wards. Philadelphia’s Italian population, mostly unskilled laborers from southern Italy and Sicily, were grouped in South Philadelphia with 7th and Montrose Streets as the hub of their community. Philadelphia’s black population consisted of 62,000, 5% of the total census of 1900. Most of the black population lived in center city with the heaviest concentration in the Seventh Ward, Spruce to South Streets and Seventh to the Schuylkill. 40% of the total black population was in the Seventh Ward. The area centered at 7th and Lombard Streets formed Philadelphia’s first black ghetto. The heavy influx of Jewish immigrants during this period steadily forced the blacks of the area westward spreading the ghetto factor and creating living conditions which were terrible.
South Philadelphia remained a more or less isolated enclave within the city itself. An area of squalid slums and unskilled workers living in their three-story houses with little light, no sewerage or decent water supply. Jewish sweatshops occupied the upper floors of their dwellings and, in the Italian neighborhoods, chickens and goats were not a rarity. Compared to other Eastern seaboard cities, however, Philadelphia had less of a slum problem than most. There was within the city those who recognized the problem of poverty and its many evils and were active in trying to improve the lot of those forced to live in these deprived areas. In 1878 there were 800 active charitable organizations, most of which were sponsored by religious organizations, working in the slum areas. A Society for Organizing Charity was founded in 1878 and during the same period the settlement movement began in a rather haphazard fashion.
Inspired by the efforts of Arnold Toynbee and Samuel Barnett in combating poverty in the London slums, settlement houses opened in the United States with the Neighborhood Guild of New York City in 1887 followed by Hull House in Chicago and the College Settlement of New York in 1889. Much of the effort provided by the programs of the settlement houses was concentrated in two areas: helping in the transition of migrants and immigrants from a rural life pattern to urban survival, culture, and language, and with the transition from a known to an unknown as with the immigrants.
The College Settlement Association, of which the Philadelphia Settlement was an original member, was formed in May 1890, by representatives of four colleges — Smith, Vassar, Wellesley, and Bryn Mawr. By 1899, chapters of the Association had been established in eight more colleges: Radcliffe, Wells, Packer Institute, Cornell, Swarthmore, Elmira, Barnard, and Women’s College of Baltimore. The evident purposes of the Association were not only to provide a joint effort to promote settlement work in slum areas of the major cities on the eastern seaboard but, when possible, advance funds to help in the settlement programs and involve students of the colleges in the programs. By 1921, the Association had changed its name to Inter-Collegiate Community Services, but records indicate the organization folded in 1923.
Perhaps the most illustrious graduate of the Association was Eleanor Roosevelt who, through her acquaintance with Mary Harriman and Nathalie Henderson, who were raising funds to help finance the “College Settlements,” volunteered to work with the Rivington Street Settlement in New York City. This Settlement was two blocks south of Houston Street in one of the most densely populated areas of the city. Eleanor Roosevelt continued her association with Rivington for several years and it is felt the experiences she had at this location played a major role in shaping her lifelong concern and interest in the betterment of those in our society who were less fortunate than the average citizen and exploited by the industrial society in which they lived.
There is no record of the decision to establish the Philadelphia Settlement of the College Settlements Association — exactly when, or by whom — but the year was 1892 and the location was on Ludlow Street where the organization functioned until its incorporation November 5, 1899 at which time its name was changed to the College Settlement of Philadelphia. In the first minutes, reference is made to Stuart Memorial Hall, probably the first location on Ludlow Street. The building was used both as a settlement house and a church. The first minutes of the organization are dated January 4, 1896. It is evident from the early minutes (1896) when the first executive committee was formed consisting of J. Rodman Paul, Miss E. I. Richards, Frederick W. Speirs, Miss K B. Davis, James Wister, Miss Hannah Fox, Miss Louise Gibbons Davis, Dr. Butler Davis, and Dr. Bertha Davis, the organization was handicapped by the lack of a continuing professional leadership. During the period of 1896 to 1898 no less than four headworkers were employed. On January 1, 1898, Miss Anna Davies, a recent graduate of Lake Forest College, became the headworker of the agency and provided a vibrant, positive leadership in the professional field until her retirement in November 1941.
In reviewing the early minutes there are recurring themes which are ever present. First of these is the continued search for a physical plant which could accommodate the programs in effect at various sites in the neighborhood and those envisioned for the future by the Trustees and staff. This search was not resolved until June of 1914 when properties which had been acquired by the Settlement on Queen Street were exchanged for properties of Mrs. Edward Bok, a representative of the Settlement School of Music, on Christian Street namely 423, 425, and 427. In May of 1901 the property at 429 Christian Street was offered to the Settlement free of charge and taxes. The offer was accepted, the building razed and the site paved for a playground. The building at 433 Christian Street was deeded to the Settlement by Miss Fanny Fox in 1921 although it is evident the Settlement was using the building long before the transfer. By 1914, the organization had secured its physical plant from 423 to 433 Christian Street which was to be its home until 1950. It is quite difficult to follow matters of property through the early minutes. Buildings were being traded, sold, bought, mortgaged, and torn down both on Queen Street and Christian Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets with little detail in the minutes of the transactions. Where property was concerned, early trustees of the agency grabbed each and every opportunity to consolidate their physical plant.
The second concern, which is ever present in any social work organization, was that of finances. The first minutes of the Executive Committee (1896) lists the total assets of the organization at $285.57. From the beginning every source from which funds might be secured was explored with each day bringing new financial crises. The financial pressures were staggering and were to continue on into the future. In 1897, a legacy of $3,000 from the estate of Elizabeth Hemphill helped keep the organization functioning; appeals for help were constantly going out in an effort to pay operating costs. In July 1898 an appeal to build a gymnasium resulted in $1,400 which was placed in a building fund. This fund was continually dipped into when emergencies arose. A rummage sale netted $839.58 in 1900, sub-chapters of the Settlement were established in various schools and colleges with the dues received helping to pay operating costs; buildings were constantly being mortgaged. In October 1905, the Settlement was $3,000 in debt with house bills so far behind stores refused further credit. A loan of $2,500 by Hannah Fox, a Trustee, kept the agency functioning. In 1908 the Treasurer reported a balance of $357 in the bank but debts amounting to $4,000. Another building was mortgaged. It is noted the financial help given the Settlement by various groups in Philadelphia. A benefit at Swarthmore College featured the Taming of the Shrew; a carnival was held by neighborhood members; the Orpheus Club sponsored a benefit at the Bellevue Stratford Hotel.
Friends Select School, in particular, had a close association with the Settlement not only in raising funds for the agency but in other ways. The President of the College Settlement Committee at Friends Select was an elected officer of the Senior Class. The school tradition of giving to the College Settlement was an ongoing matter. An annual Christmas Fair was held by the school each year with the proceeds of these Fairs eventually being used to dam up the Pennypack Stream at the Camp and create Friendship Lake.
In reviewing these early years great respect must be given to the members of the Trustees who went far beyond the usual call of duty as witness the personal guarantee of the Finance Committee to cover the loan needed from the Pennsylvania Company for summer expenses of 1913.
The third theme, clearly discernible, is the continued interest of Trustees and staff in providing opportunities for the children of the area to escape into a rural setting whenever possible. This is first noted in 1896 when $90.93 is in the Summer Program Fund and cooperation with the Country Week is urged. In 1908, a “Country Club,” as it was called, was located on the estate of Richard Young in Morton, Pennsylvania. The farmhouse, twenty acres of farm and woodland, milk and vegetables, and extra expenses were paid by the owner for a nine-week period. For this experience two dollars a week for board was charged. 3,300 meals were served the first summer at 68¢ per day. The Country Club required an hour’s ride on the trolley at a cost of 10¢. Dr. T. C. Van Goshen of Women’s Medical College served as the resident-in-charge. In addition to the Country Club, Chalkley Hall, owned by a Mrs. Wetherill, was offered to the Settlement in 1903 for summer outings. Chalkley Hall was used each summer until 1917 when it was sold. In 1911, a farm near Westtown was used by the Settlement for summer trips.
The interest in securing a landed property in the country for the Settlement’s summer excursions culminated in November 1922, with the purchase of the MacGregor Farm, a 90-acre tract located four miles west of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. The purchase price was $17,000 which consisted of $13,000 in cash received from gifts for the purpose and, as was usual by this time, a $4,000 mortgage. The College Settlement Farm Camp was in existence.
The years 1910 to 1920 were years, nationally, of considerable turmoil. The Gay 90s were a thing of the past. William Howard Taft was President, Teddy Roosevelt was forming his Bull Moose Party which split the Republican vote, and Woodrow Wilson became the 28th president of the United States. The nation went to war in Europe with a vow it would be a war to end all wars. The 16th amendment to the Constitution made possible the first federal income tax; national prohibition was adopted by the ratification of the 18th amendment January 16, 1919; the era of the gangster and bootlegging was yet ahead along with the Great Depression.
In Philadelphia, traces of earlier times were to be found. Horse-drawn vehicles still traversed the city streets but were rapidly being replaced by that infernal machine, the automobile which brought with it air pollution, accidents, and a demand for bigger and better streets. Roosevelt Boulevard opened the way to the Northeast (1914) and the Market Street subway provided access to West Philadelphia. Typhoid fever deaths in Philadelphia were cut from 1063 in 1906 to 109 in 1915 by the enlargement and modernization of the Torresdale water filtration plant.
Population change from 1901 to 1915 was the greatest numerical increase in the city’s history with a 33-1/3% increase. Such growth was brought about by the large families and the waves of immigrants. The percentage of foreign-born increased to 25% between 1900 and 1910 most of whom were settled in the central and southern wards of the city along the Delaware.
In the Settlement’s area Little Italy developed around the market area at 9th and Christian. The Italian settlers were drawn to Philadelphia by reports of jobs and the fact earlier Italian immigrants had located in the area. Most of these people were laborers who found employment, if possible, in construction work, street cleaning, railroad maintenance, and trash collection. The Russian Jewish immigrants spread from the South Philadelphia area north of Market Street and dominated small business life in the north-central part of the city. A large majority of the Jews were found in skilled occupations and were the backbone of the “needles” trade.
The new immigrants found acceptance difficult. Native-born workers were fearful of their loss of jobs as the newcomers would work for lower wages in industry and the competition for low-cost housing was fierce.
World War I put an end to European emigration but was closely followed by black migration from the South basically brought about by better economic opportunities. By 1917, 800 black migrants were arriving in Philadelphia each week and by 1920 the black population had doubled that of 1900.
The College Settlement of Philadelphia in its early years found itself in the middle, geographically, of the immigrants and migrants to the city. It is interesting to note in 1898 the physician in residence at the Settlement reported the following nationalities treated:
American 27 Hungarian 1
Austrian 2 Irish 24
Arabian 1 Italian 36
Colored 26 Polish 7
English 1 Russian 34
German 18 Scotch 3
These figures tie in directly with the pattern of incoming population to Philadelphia from Europe and the southern part of the United States. By 1920, however, the German and Russian Jews were moving northward in the city; the Irish moved to West Philadelphia.
The programs offered by the Settlement to the residents of the area were varied with considerable emphasis on providing service to the children of the neighborhood. Three kindergartens were established by November 1903 and a probation officer was in residence at the Settlement. In January 1908, the gym at B’nai Brith Training School was used two nights a week, one night for boys, one for girls. A nursery school for children two to four years of age was opened.
A Music Club was established which later developed into a separate organization, the Settlement Music School. The inspiration for the Music School originated with two volunteers involved with teaching gym classes at the Settlement. Blanch Wolf, later Mrs. Isidore Kohn, and Jeanette Selig, later Mrs. Edwin Frank, thought the idea of teaching music, particularly for the piano, would be a very good thing. Space was provided at the Settlement, the word was spread, and the price was set at 5 cents per lesson. Any child without the 5 cents could receive services. In 1909, Johann Grolle became the first director of the program and by 1914 there was an enrollment of 250 students. The Music School became a separately-chartered institution and in 1917 funds were provided by Mrs. Edward Bok to erect a new building at 416 Queen Street. This location is still the central headquarters for the Settlement Music School.
In addition to its neighborhood programs, the Settlement took an active part in improving conditions for child labor particularly in the clothing and textile industries. The Settlement joined the Civic Club in an appeal addressed to members of City Council and the Director of Public Safety urging the employment of sufficient police matrons to care for arrested women and children and sponsored a dance for the benefit of those strikers taking part in the Shirt Waist Strike of 1910. An appeal was sent out calling for cooperation by all in promoting improved working conditions for the children involved.
Effort was put forth to establish clubs for various purposes in the neighborhoods served by the Settlement. Women’s groups were organized for cooking and sewing classes; manual training classes were held for boys; a course was held, twelve lessons, for neighborhood residents on how to manage a home including laundry, preparing nourishing meals, and serving afternoon tea. Citizenship and language courses were provided to help newcomers better adapt to their new environment. All did not go smoothly in some instances. At the Front Street house an attempt was made to organize clubs for general purposes. A quote from the minutes states: “The Irish got there first and thought they owned the place. The Poles hesitated to go. The Italians were not well known in that neighborhood and a few Jews came.”
In February 1917, a Handicraft Shop Committee was formed for the purpose of providing an outlet for the sewing work done by the Italian women in the Settlement area. This work was mostly beautifully embroidered linens which were exhibited at the Art Alliance and other Philadelphia locations. In addition, brass and copper artifacts purchased by the Settlement from immigrants who wanted American pots and pans for their kitchens were in turn sold through the Handicraft Shop. A collection of this copper, which had been contributed to the Settlement at a later date by Miss Emma Miller, an outstanding staff member and person, occupies a display area in the present offices in Horsham, Pennsylvania, and is still as attractive as it was eighty plus years ago. The Handicraft Shop remained under the direction of the Settlement until April 1954 when it was purchased by Miss Helen Clark, the director of the Shop for many years.
The influenza epidemic of 1918 took a terrible toll of lives in the city of Philadelphia. Schools, theaters, movies, and saloons were closed for nearly four weeks. At its peak the epidemic claimed 700 lives each day with corpses accumulating faster than they could be buried and eventually leading to mass burials at Second and Luzerne with the city guaranteeing burial expenses up to $75 each. More Philadelphia lives were lost during this epidemic than were lost in World War I. The epidemic took a heavy toll of lives in the Settlement neighborhood leaving many women widows. The work of staff, volunteers, and residents can be described as heroic in scale. In addition to physically caring for the ill and bereft, considerable action was taken by the Settlement in demanding legislation which would increase the appropriation of the Mothers’ Assistance Fund.
It was in 1919 that Miss Gertrude Abbott became associated with the College Settlement of Philadelphia and was elected to the Board of Trustees. Miss Abbott was to remain active with the organization for over thirty years as a friend and benefactress providing the means in many instances for the agency to continue its work.
Boom and Depression Years, 1920 – 1941
On the national scene the “Roaring Twenties” provided much in the way of excitement for a populous trying to recover from the war years of 1917-18. Al Capone shot up Chicago, rumrunners and bootleggers profited from the 18th Amendment, Lindbergh made his famous flight to Paris, membership in the League of Nations was a hot topic, the young danced the Charleston, ladies bobbed their hair, and Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover were the nation’s presidents. The Teapot Dome scandal convinced many that politicians were a bunch of scoundrels; Babe Ruth swatted the ball far and wide over the right field wall at Yankee Stadium; Jack Dempsey mauled any opponent who climbed into the ring with him. Al Jolson revolutionized the movie industry with the Jazz Singer; the boys liked Tom Mix; and on the world scene Nazism was beginning in Europe.
In Philadelphia, politics was the name of the game with the Penrose-McNichol forces battling the Vare machine for control of the Republican party and the city. A new city charter gave the city a one-house City Council with paid members and J. Hampton Moore became mayor. The Delaware River Bridge was begun in 1922; the Frankford El was completed the same year. The Sesqui-Centennial was held in Philadelphia in 1926 and Municipal Stadium was built on marsh land filled with dirt from the Broad Street subway excavations. The Tunney-Dempsey heavyweight championship fight is remembered by most people who never heard of the Sesquicentennial celebration. Gang warfare was rife in South Philadelphia and the Senate refused to seat William Vare after his election to that august body. The 1928 election was a beginning of revolution in the city political structure with Albert M. Greenfield, Matthew McCloskey, and John B. Kelly creating a viable Democratic party.
At the beginning of the Great Depression, Philadelphia was the third largest city in the United States with a population of 1,950,961. 1,359,833 were native born whites; 219,599 were blacks; and 368,624 were foreign born. The financial crash affected all levels of society. Between the years 1930 and 1933 fifty Philadelphia banks closed including the Bankers Trust Company and the Franklin Trust Co. with a total of $72 million on deposit in the two banks. By April of 1930, 15% of persons living in Philadelphia were unemployed and from November 1930, to June 1932, 14 million dollars were raised through private charity to help those in need. For five years, 1932 to 1937, Philadelphia city government contributed nothing to direct relief. The worst year for Philadelphia was 1933 when 11.5% of whites were out of work; 16.2% of blacks and 19.1% of foreign born. Housing was a critical problem during these years. Private sources constructed several housing developments including the Frances Plaza Apartments at 19th and Lombard Streets built by Benjamin and Pearl Mason with the aid of Raymond Pace Alexander. This development, built by and financed by blacks, is now called Rittenhouse Village. In January 1936, the first public housing was built, the Hill Creek Housing Project at Adams and Rising Sun Avenue, with the Philadelphia Housing Authority being established in 1937. It was during these hectic years the city of Philadelphia became a union town with many strikes in many industries resulting.
The College Settlement, in 1920, joined the newly formed Federation of Social Agencies hoping for a stable funding source to aid in the maintenance of the organization. In the autumn of 1920, the By-laws and Constitution were revised, and a budget system was adopted under a Finance Chairman with the hope that fees charged would cover costs. The program of the Settlement was placed under departments such as the Drama League, the Glee Club, and the Handicraft Shop.
In March 1921, Mrs. Andrew Lippi, who was to do an outstanding liaison job for the Settlement among the Italian clientele in South Philadelphia, and Helen Yarnall (Mrs. J. David Jackson) were elected as Trustees. Helen Yarnall was to continue as an active member of the corporation and Board until her retirement in 1982 although her term of service as a Trustee was interrupted on two occasions by service with her husband in Puerto Rico and Colombia.
In October 1921, the Welfare Federation was organized, and the College Settlement applied for membership but was not accepted because a budget was lacking. Upon budget submission the College Settlement became a member of the Federation with Anna Davies appointed as Chairman of the Department of Community Organization. The hopes of the Settlement for financial security through the Federation were dashed when the Federation ran out of money on July 1, 1922 and the members had to finance themselves until the next campaign. The Settlement again tapped the Building Fund hoping the loan could be repaid when the Federation had its fund drive in the fall. With the Welfare Federation raising 105% of its anticipated goal in the fall drive, everyone breathed a little easier.
During the early twenties considerable enthusiasm and thought was given to the Farm Camp after its purchase in 1922. On the site a farmer was maintained to till the fields and do the routine maintenance necessary for the upkeep of the plant. The farmer, whose name is not available, wanted a fixed wage as a part of his agreement with the Settlement and to provide security for himself and his family. An agreement was finally reached for the payment of $65.00 per month in cash wages, 5% of the first $1,000 received for farm produce, 10% of the second $1,000, and 15% of the third thousand.
During these beginning days of the Camp, the basic functions were carried out during the summer months with picnics and weekend groups using the facilities. There is no evidence Settlement staff was involved in creating program for these groups. In order to furnish the buildings for the groups, extensive solicitations were made to secure furniture, bedding, and kitchen utensils whereby the groups could be self sufficient. In 1924, cash gifts to the Camp made it possible to pay off the $4,000 remaining on the mortgage.
By 1925, the farmer’s monthly salary was increased to $80 per month with the basic percentage he received for produce raised and sold starting at $2,000.
In 1926, the Trustees decided to exclude the Farm Camp from the Welfare Fund budget as a large budgetary increase was going to be needed for repairs to the Christian Street properties.
It was also at this time a Farm Camp Committee was established to serve as the governing group for the Camp. Gertrude Abbott was named head of the Committee with Nancy Woolston, Marie Rumpp, Helen Yarnall, and Edwin Elliot committee members.
In 1928, Charles Cain was employed by the Camp and during his tenure the roof of the Main House was raised, actually not figuratively, for housing space, Friendship Lake was constructed through funds received basically from Friends Select School and electricity was brought into the Camp from Welsh Road. It was decided the farmer employed should go into the chicken business with less emphasis on raising crops. The abandoned chicken coop was used for summer housing of Italian families.
There was some reorganization within the Trustee’s structure. Up to this time, Anna Davies had served as Chairman of the Executive Committee, which situation was rather unusual in a corporate structure, and Gertrude Abbott, a Trustee, replaced her in this position.
At the Settlement House, the operation was proceeding as usual. A building at 421 Christian Street was purchased; a Negro Methodist Church began to hold its services at the Settlement resulting in a larger number of blacks becoming involved with the Settlement activities. In 1924, a survey of the Settlement neighborhood was made to ascertain the ethnic and racial composition. Italian families comprised the largest group, Jews were second in numbers, and black families were third. The house at 435 was given to the Settlement by a Mrs. Fels and the Settlement carried on a program for boys and young men at the Seaman’s Church Institute, Front and Queen Streets. The general programs continued as in the past with emphasis on activities for children and youth and concern for those at the subsistence level. Considerable emphasis was placed on preparing the dwellers in the area for citizenship and economic survival.
The Great Depression hit the Settlement and its operation hard but also presented new challenges. In May of 1930, the first benefit supper was held at the Camp and was to be the first of such annual dinners given each year up to the present time. Held the second Thursday of each June, the June Supper has become a confirmed part of the camp operation.
At the Camp, the farmer was dismissed in April 1931. The terse note in the minutes of the Trustees states, “There was no further farm business.” Work parties of more than 100 men, jobless because of the economic situation, were involved in tearing out floors and partitions in the barn to make a recreation room. At the Settlement, a sewing room was opened for jobless women and a canning club was established to raise and preserve vegetables. It was reported 5,000 jars of canned goods were divided between the women, the Camp, and the Settlement. During the summer of 1932, 7,000 people were registered at Camp, 66 organizations had picnics, 16,000 meals were served and 80 organizations contributed to the Unemployment Relief fund sponsored by the Settlement. Under this program, 2,011 days of work were provided by the men involved with the expenditure of $5,840 for payment. It was during this period the campsite on the northeast side of Friendship Lake, called Camp Witmer, was constructed. This site was to be used by the Lutheran Social Mission Society for many years as a part of its city program.
In 1932 the Welfare Federation Campaign was able to raise only 85% of its established goal which had its effect on the budget expectations of the Settlement. In 1933 at Christmas time, baskets of food were given to the neediest families, clothing was distributed, and coal was sold at a reduced price through the Friends Fuel Society. This pattern of direct relief was carried on by the Settlement throughout the worst of the Depression years. The usual programs with children and youth were extended to the limits of the financial funds available. Times were very difficult but the Settlement met the crises to the best of its ability.
In April 1933, Mrs. John F. Simons was elected to the Board of Trustees. She served as Vice President for many years, twice turning down nominations for the presidency, but in 1971 consented to serve as interim president for two years.
In 1937, the Community Chest, the new title for the Welfare Federation, ruled that no agency could send out appeals for funds without advanced permission from the Chest. Bequest, benefits, and legacies had to be reported and the amounts were to be deducted from the agency’s budget grants. It was also at this time the 44-hour work week went in effect which made it necessary to make adjustments in employees’ work schedules. The restrictions placed upon appeals by the Community Chest had its effect upon the Settlement. Before this move was taken by the Chest, direct appeals for funds for various purposes were made by the Settlement at several times during the budget year. The removal of this source of funding created a situation where the Settlement was more dependent upon a central funding source than at any time in its history. The ability of the Community Chest to attain its monetary goal during its annual drive would have a direct relationship to the work of the Settlement. However, the more pressing needs which arose during the years were usually met through the generosity of Trustees and friends. Of particular note was the continued financial support of Gertrude Abbott whose interest helped when situations became critical.
As the storm clouds of war gathered over Europe, the Settlement was to lose its valued Director, Anna Davies, who, because of ill health, was forced to retire in May of 1941. With Miss Davies’ retirement an era in the Settlement’s history came to a close. Miss Davies was to be replaced by J. Theodore Peters who was to remain in the position of Executive Director for a period of nine years.
Interim Years, 1941 – 1950
The years 1939 to 1946 saw the nation emerging from its several years of economic hardships with financial improvements keyed, mostly, to the immense war industries involved in providing materials for the struggles in Europe and the South Pacific. The nation had become accustomed to the acronyms of the New Deal government with the WPA, RFC, PWA, AAA, CCC, and 1VA recognized by one and all for what they actually were. The intent of government, economic recovery, was changed almost overnight, to victory through war. World War II was to mark a watershed in the way of American life with a completely new world evolving and creating family, social, and governmental relationships which would not have been thought of at the beginning of the century. The metamorphosis is still taking place hurried along by the tremendous advances in the field of communications.
In Philadelphia, the years of World War II saw the emergence of several new faces on the political scene particularly those of the Democratic party. Such men as Joseph Clark, Richardson Dilworth, Francis Biddle, Walter Phillips, R. Sturgis Ingersoll, William C. Bullitt, and John F. Lewis, Jr. were to change the face of the city physically and politically. The city was still having its financial difficulties and meeting the annual budget was always a time of breast beating and hair pulling. On January 1, 1940, the City put into effect the first city wage tax in the United States, a 1 ½% levy on wages earned within the City. Marian Anderson received the Philadelphia Award in 1940 and Wendell Willkie was nominated by the Republicans at the National Convention held in the city during the same year. By November 1940, $1 billion had been awarded in defense contracts to Philadelphia industry. Bernard Samuel was the Mayor of the City when Pearl Harbor was bombed. The draft, rationing, the critical shortage of manpower took its toll of Philadelphia stamina during the war years which ended August 14, 1945 with huge celebrations.
The geographical area serviced by the Settlement during the war years had steadily deteriorated. Housing in the area was in very poor physical shape because of age and the treatment received from the inhabitants with crowding the rule not the exception. Vagrancy and petty thievery grew worse each year with corrupt political conditions bringing about a lowering of police morale which resulted in neglect of the sordid conditions. The area was also undergoing considerable population change, a standard sociological occurrence with the older Italian residents improving their conditions and leaving the area and blacks of poorer economic standing moving into the vacated homes. The change was evident in the statistics of enrollment in the Settlement programs to 60% black participation where before the users of the services had been predominantly white.
In October 1937, a property known as the Witmer estate was purchased by The Settlement. This consisted of 21.65 acres of land with a huge three-story home, a duplex house, carriage house, caretaker house, and several greenhouses. The location of the Witmer estate was of particular importance to the Camp as it directly abutted the property line of the McGregor purchase of 1922. In fact, as one Board member remembers, a prospective purchaser of the estate wanted to convert the large home on the estate into a roadhouse, which would have created a most unsatisfactory situation for a children’s camp. The purchase price was $14,500. The greenhouses were leased to William and Edward Starke, brothers specializing in the growing of orchids and holly, for a three-year period and then sold to the Starkes for $8,000. The three-story home was to become an integral part of the future camping program and most appropriately named the Mansion from which evolved the Mansion Camp for children ages 7 to 9.
In 1948, the third floor of the Mansion was destroyed by fire and was not rebuilt. A flat roof was placed on the second floor and monies from insurance not used for roof replacement were used to purchase a war surplus building, which was converted to a dormitory for the younger boys. The other buildings obtained in the purchase were rented out as a source of income.
One of the important personalities involved with the Settlement and Camp at this time was Miss Ruth Goodwin who served as President of the Board until her death. Miss Goodwin effectively promoted the causes of the organization particularly at Friends Select School. The main room of the Mansion House was remodeled and dedicated to her memory by her many friends and associates after her death.
It was during the Forties that three persons became members of the Board of Trustees who were to play a major role in the future development of the Camp. In May 1941, George M. Kevlin joined the Board and became Chairman of the Finance Committee; in 1944, Marie Rumpp, who had been an active member of the Farm Camp Committee, became a Trustee; in May 1948, William J. Ramage joined as Treasurer of the Board.
At the time of a change in name from the Council of Social Agencies to the Health and Welfare Council, a study was made by the Council of the needs and services being provided through the central funding of the Community Chest. The study showed that in Southeast Philadelphia 2½% of the population had been receiving 40% of the annual funds raised by the Community Chest. With the crying needs of other deteriorating areas of the City, funds were going to need to be distributed in a more equable manner.
As a result of the above, the College Settlement and Workman’s Place would be closed, and the House of Industry would become a part of the United Neighbors organization. The closing became an actual fact in March 1950, although the event took place with considerable reluctance on the part of the Trustees of the College Settlement.
The situation of the College Settlement, particularly after 1944, was ambivalent. The pressures by the Community Chest to close the city operation caused considerable frustration. These pressures, coupled with a badly-deteriorated plant and rapidly disintegrating neighborhood, caused many to look to the Camp as an outlet for continuing program. The Camp, however, had not developed a consistent program to promote such a development but was continuing to struggle with its own financial problems and a plant which needed to be rebuilt. In short, both the in-city and Camp programs were in trouble.
It is evident a considerable portion of the income for the Camp in its summer operations came from rental of buildings and camp sites to other groups. For example, the John B. Deaver Diabetic Camp used the Mansion Camp for a summer operation and the Nicetown Boys Club made use of the Witmer site for its summer camping program. In addition, several of the Main Camp buildings were rented to individual families for their summer use and day groups were brought into the Camp for picnics and outings.
In 1947, a study commissioned by the Health and Welfare Council of the Farm Camp, resulted in the Cairn’s report which was highly critical of the entire operation from a professional point of view. The study did, however, stimulate many of the Trustees to take a long, hard look at the situation and think in terms of long-range goals and development. In September 1949, Leonard C. Ferguson became the Director of the Camps. Ferguson, an experienced school administrator from Nebraska, brought to the Camp a background in camping in agency and church camps, tested administrative experience, and an intense love of children and the out-of-doors. Ferguson, named Executive Director in 1950, was to remain in the Director’s position until June 1982 when he retired.
A new era began with this new directorship in 1950. The innovative director, generous gifts and bequests from several trustees and friends, and a capital fund growing under expert management, all brought the College Settlement Camps to the status of a model operation. Additional real estate was purchased, and excellent progressive programs were introduced. Those early founders, workers and trustees who “had a dream” would be proud of what has become of the impoverished struggle they began in 1892.
A Major Change in Direction, 1950 – 1982
Nationally, the fifties were a quiet prelude to what was to come later. The presidency of Harry S. Truman ended in 1952 with the election of the World War II hero, Dwight D. Eisenhower. The excitement at the time was created by Joseph McCarthy and his virulent anti-Communist attacks. The nation was beginning to get back to normal from the aftershocks of a war economy and the rather quiet terms served by Eisenhower accented our affluence as a nation. One phenomenon which developed during this period at a rapid pace was television which, as it grew in popularity, was to become a central communication source of the world. Uncle Miltie Berle and his antics were soon a part of the American scene.
In Philadelphia, the year 1947 was the beginning of long-term political reform with Richardson Dilworth and Joseph Clark leading the movement supported by the Americans for Democratic Action and its leaders Ada Lewis, Emily Ehle, and Molly Garrett. Although Dilworth was defeated in the mayoralty election by Bernard Samuel, the movement and adoption of a new city charter in 1950 with the many reforms it encompassed paved the way for Joseph Clark and the Democrats to sweep into power and the city of Philadelphia had a Democratic mayor and administration for the first time in generations. Nonpolitical happenings were also stirring the city such as the Phillies Whiz Kids, the 1950 National League pennant winner, the Eagles and Warriors giving respectable performances in professional football and basketball, the AFL and CIO labor groups merged in 1955, suburbia grew at a pace hard to understand, low-rent housing was a critical problem for low-income families, and the United Fund carried a large part of Philadelphia’s total welfare burden.
At the College Settlement Farm Camp things were moving with new vigor and determination. In late 1949 the Camp purchased an additional 36 acres of land adjacent to the Camp boundary to be used for overnight camping groups. In June 1950, this 36 acres was sold by the Camp to Dr. and Mrs. Walter S. Cornell, members of the Trustees, who established a memorial for Mrs. Cornell’s parents in the Henry J. & Willemina B. Kuhn Day Camp. The Kuhn Day Camp provided a valuable resource for the College Settlement as it enabled the College Settlement to relieve itself of the confusion generated by day groups mingling in the resident camp setting. Supported and financed by the Cornells, the Kuhn Day Camp evolved, both in physical plant and program, as a very valuable educational and recreational source for day use by children from the ghetto areas of Philadelphia.
In May of 1951, the physical plant on Christian Street was razed and cleared. The opportunity was there for these buildings to be sold at a rather fancy price but the Trustees, knowing they would be converted to tenements and with their commitment to bettering the situation of the needy, would not agree to compromising their principles and sold the entire plant for $3,000. A part of the agreement was for demolition. For a short while the cleared area was used for truck parking but was soon purchased by the Settlement School of Music and converted into a parking lot for the school’s faculty and clientele. At the same time, the School provided space for the in-city office of the Camp which operated from this source until the 1960s.
At the Camp many multi-faceted things were happening. The physical plant was being rehabilitated with considerable help from Walter Poole, a well-known architect, who had joined the Trustees. Walter Poole’s splendid comprehensive plan for property development provided the basis for physical improvements which came about. Two new all-masonry cabins, completely modern, were built for boys by the summer of 1951 along with a new vehicle shelter. Walter Poole’s design for the cabins was to be used in future construction of four more such cabins each providing accommodations for sixteen boys or girls in completely modern facilities. The design provided for a building approximately 80 feet long by 30 feet wide with sleeping quarters at each end for eight campers. The central part provided quarters for staff plus centralized shower and toilet facilities. A large glass area in each cabin provided for excellent lighting. Each of the cabins contained a heating system for year-round use. In 1951, with the construction of the two new boys’ cabins, the old Longhouse, the previous boys housing, was torn down, the site seeded in lawn, planted with trees, and a flagpole erected.
At both the College Settlement and Kuhn Day Camps, trees and lawns were planted to cover a considerable number of acres. Trees were chosen with the specific purpose of providing a resource for the naturalists programs of the two camps. Today, one who has the knowledge can locate in the two areas almost any kind of tree which will grow in Pennsylvania from contorted hazelnut to metasequoia.
The Trustees under the leadership of Edwin Elliot were also taking steps to modernize the structure of the organization. In 1952, the By-laws were updated, and it was agreed corporation members should be assessed an annual fee for membership. George M. Kevlin applied for charters for both the Farm Camp and the Kuhn Day Camp in Common Pleas Court #2 with both charters being awarded. New Trustees were added to the Board and included Robert G. Erskine, Robert Poindexter, F. Hastings Griffin, and Dr. Oswald Michener. These were soon followed by Mrs. August Martin and Mrs. Roger Hallowell. The enthusiastic support and cooperation of these members with fresh ideas did much to help in the new beginning.
There were also many changes at the administrative level. A new personnel manual was developed which was to become a standard in the field of camping. Positions for staff were classified with duties specifically stated. Salary scales were established at each level of employment and, something of a first in area camping, both male and female pay scales were to be identical for the same classification with the same rules applying for upgrading. Written reports were to be submitted to the Trustees for each Board meeting so that a continuity of written record could be established for historical reference. Annual reports were developed along with yearly audits so that the public would be acquainted with the agency’s program, use, and financial situation. Professional participation in the general field of camping was encouraged and membership in the American Camping Association was attained.
In 1952, all persons associated with the College Settlement over the many years were saddened by the death of Gertrude Abbott. Miss Abbott had been a Trustee with the organization from the year 1919, serving as President of the Board from 1933 until 1940. Miss Abbott’s generosity and concern had great effect upon the work of the agency over the many years.
The year of 1952 marked the 30th year of the Farm Camp and it was decided to blacktop the main road leading from the Main Camp area to Witmer Road and close the entrance leading in from Welsh Road. This was done at an expense of $6,000 and provided a hard surfaced entrance which allowed access at all seasons. It was also in 1952 the Sara Wilson estate, valued at $31,500 was left to the Camp and a gift of $20,000 was received from the Helen T. Read Trust Fund. The camp property situation was shaping up in a most satisfactory manner. However, there were always needs to be met in the way of household equipment, kitchenware, picnic tables, and benches. A sizable number of tables were built for the Camp by the woodworking shop of Bok Vocational School who then tackled the building of a boys’ lodge which was named the Bedford Lodge after the Bedford Settlement which helped in defraying the material costs after the Bedford Settlement had closed.
The camping program of the Camp began to change in a most substantive way. It was believed a camping resource offered a valued opportunity for an educational experience in the out-of-doors. A child could have a most enjoyable learning experience if the natural surroundings present in the site could be studied and the relationship which existed between nature and man could be defined in terms a child could understand. This thinking was gradually phased into the general program and, at a later period of time, resulted in the Outdoor School being established at the Camp for nonsummer months and as the core program for the summer camping experience. New activities were added yearly to the program, rustic bridges were built, a nature cabin was to become the center for all kinds of snakes, turtles, insects, fish, and small animals. An exceptionally fine swimming program was developed which culminated in Red Cross certification in lifesaving. Canoes were purchased and trips down the Delaware and other rivers became a part of the exciting camping program.
In 1954, Hurricane Hazel provided some unwanted stimulation and considerable damage to the camp facilities. Boats were washed over the dam and smashed on the trip downstream. The vehicle shelter was blown apart with major pieces being found a half-mile away. Electrical lines were down and needed to be reinstalled. Insurance monies covered most of the loss and, in time, all repairs were completed.
It was also in 1954 that a Women’s Committee was formed by the Trustees to act as a “Housekeeping” Committee. This committee was the brainchild of Miss Emma Miller, retired to Port Deposit, Maryland and asked Mrs. John Simons to organize the first meeting and luncheon at her home. Through the years this Committee assumed the responsibility for the annual June Supper and its annual Baked Goods table which provides all kinds of goodies for those not on restricted diets. The attractive June Supper has been a major instrument in fostering good public relations within the Camp’s area of contact and the community, a very major objective.
One of the biggest parts of the in-camp day-to-day functioning is the preparation and serving of approximately 800 meals a day to the voracious campers and staff. The early 1940 operations had two kitchens functioning one at the Main Camp, the other at the Mansion Camp. The inefficiency plus the cramped quarters at both the camps led the Trustees to the decision to build a new, modern dining hall located about equal distance between the two camps. A prime mover in this decision was the receipt of $31,970 from the estate of Charles Davies, brother of Anna Davies. This amount plus a solicitation for the purpose plus $15,000 from capital funds sufficed to build and equip the building which was designed by Walter Poole. A beautiful, cathedral-ceilinged building, well lighted and laid out, resulted with seating accommodations for approximately 200 people. The Anna F. Davies Memorial Hall was dedicated on October 20, 1957.
By 1957, the camp was an active, accredited member of the American Camping Association, fully meeting the standards of the organization. The Director, Leonard Ferguson, served for several years as Chairman of the Standards Committee for the eastern Pennsylvanian section and was responsible for implementing the first standards for membership throughout the Eastern Pennsylvania area. Mr. Ferguson also served as Chairman of the Ethics Committee, as President of the ACA section, Regional Standards Director, Vice Chairman of Region II, was a National Standards Trainer, and on the National Standards Committee. For his work in writing and improvement of the standards throughout the camping field, Mr. Ferguson received the American Camping Association’s Distinguished Service Award in 1964.
In 1957, at the Mansion Camp, an addition was placed on the boys’ sleeping quarters which provided for modern toilet and shower facilities previously maintained in a separate building. This was a great improvement over the former situation as the boys in the Mansion Camp, ages 7 to 9, did not appreciate a trip through the trees, weeds, and bushes and owls hooting and bats flying over their heads in the dark of night.
At the Kuhn Day Camp efforts were underway to purchase two adjoining tracts of land, roughly about 20 acres which, if the purchase were successful, would bring the total acreage to 56 acres. This tract of land was called the Foell tract and was in two separate parcels. The arrangements went through and the tracts, which were heavily overgrown, were thinned out and became a delightful site for nature excursions with its heavy stand of trees and shrubs. Restroom facilities and an outdoor pavilion were built in the area.
As the fifties came to a close, a retirement plan sponsored by the National Health and Welfare Retirement Association was adopted by the Trustees for all permanent, full-time employees. This was a revision of an earlier plan which had been in effect and increased benefits for employees. The Trustees of the organization had always evidenced concern for the welfare of those employed by the agency. High personal qualifications were necessary for employment and the regular upgrading of salaries and benefits plus a genuine, personal interest in the staff resulted in superb staff performances from top to bottom. The agency’s personnel procedures also resulted in long-term commitment by staff. As a result, program goals could be formulated and followed through to completion during tenure. This type of consideration was a rare thing in the camping field.
It is appropriate, at this time, to call attention to three men who were most influential in promoting the camping activities of the College Settlement and the growth of the organization into one of the best in the nation. Edwin Elliot had been a member of the Board of Trustees from 1930 until 1967 and served as President from 1943 until 1957. An engineer by training, Edwin Elliot provided stalwart leadership during the difficult days when the in-city program was phased out and major emphasis was placed on the rejuvenation of the Farm Camp. Edwin Elliot was able to attract most able people to the camp’s orbit which, in turn, enabled the Camp to establish a pool of resource knowledge which proved invaluable in the solving of its problems. Dr. Walter S. Cornell was a well-known figure in Philadelphia as the Director of the Philadelphia Public School Health Fund and for his devotion to the causes of the Boy Scouts of Philadelphia. Dr. Cornell became a Trustee in the late forties through the encouragement of his lifetime friend, Edwin Elliot, and served as Chairman of the Camp’s Property Committee for many years. A brilliant person, a delightful raconteur, it was Dr. Cornell who played a most important part in the development of the physical plant and the purchases of additional land space at the Camp.
With his wife, Mable Cornell, the Kuhn Day Camp was founded, and funds provided by their estates enables the Day Camp to function with security after their demise. The third person who served as the mentor for the Trustees and staff was an accomplished attorney, George M. Kevlin. Mr. Kevlin had joined the Trustees in 1941 and it was his guidance through the various legal requirements of government plus his keen knowledge of sound investment policies which enabled the Camp to establish a solid financial base for its operations. George Kevlin served as President of the Board for a ten-year period beginning in late 1957 and has acted as President Emeritus to date. It was chiefly through Mr. Kevlin’s influence the College Settlement no longer needed to shuffle bills around to see which could be delayed in payment but could meet its financial obligations as they occurred. These three men were key figures in establishing the character of the Camps as they developed into fulltime, successful operations.
The turbulent sixties were a period in the nation’s history which many would like to forget. The election of John F. Kennedy and his tragic death, the growing concern with nuclear armaments, the tremendous quantum growth in technology which enabled men to reach the Moon, the agitation for civil rights, and legal decisions such as Escobeda and Miranda created for the average man what can only be described as the age of discontinuity. An age where old values were to be replaced by new standards of relationship to government and the entire social system. The average man was bewildered, confused and not too happy with events. John Doe fast became a negative person not standing for much, just against.
Philadelphia, like many large American cities, had an ever-increasing crime rate with the police regarded as the enemy. Riots in North Philadelphia in 1964, at Girard College in 1967, and at the Board of Education in 1969 helped polarize feeling within the city. James H. J. Tate was mayor; Frank Rizzo was the police commissioner during these turbulent times. Both the mayor and the commissioner had their hands full. The Vietnam War rallies provided an outlet for those protesting American participation in the tragedy. The TWU and PTC were, it seemed, constantly having a battle of their own with Mike Quill becoming a rather well-known figure to the man on the street who found himself walking rather than riding the trolley far too much of the time. The demand for welfare services increased tremendously in the field of public health services, childcare, the aging, housing and, in 1966, the federal food stamp program was begun. Juvenile gangs became a topic of major concern for all when forty-one juveniles were killed in gang wars in 1969. The Sixties also saw the emergence of black leadership in the city with William Gray, Leon Sullivan, Leon Higginbotham, Marcus A Foster, and Cecil Moore leading the way. The school systems of the city, both public and parochial, were in the throes of reformation with never enough funding to meet the demands placed upon them by the society they were formed to serve.
At the College Settlement Farm Camp progress could still be described as slow but sure with continued attention being given to the details which were necessary for the agency to function.
The Greenhouse property, sold in the early 1940’s for $8,000 to the Starke brothers, was put on the market. The acreage abutted the entrance road to the Camp and, because of its location, was of vital importance to the camping operation. The Trustees voted to purchase the property at a price of $25,000 and placed a 6% mortgage of $15,000 to cover the cost. The greenhouses were then razed, and an open picnic pavilion shelter was built on the site with lawns and shrubbery creating a most attractive center.
Since its construction back in the thirties, Friendship Lake had been a major center of camp program and activity serving as a swimming, canoeing, and boating area for the campers. The lake was basically fed from springs on the property and the beginnings of one branch of the Pennypack Creek. Due to construction in the area of housing developments, particularly across Welsh Road the southern boundary of the Camp, which utilized septic systems since public sewers were not available, the drainage patterns of the housing area were into the sources of water supply for the lake. It was decided in 1966 the situation was not a satisfactory one for the agency and steps were begun for the construction of a swimming pool. The design of the pool was developed by the Director working closely with Arthur Caldwell, an engineer with knowledge of the mechanical and structural needs of such construction, who was also a Trustee of the organization. The result was a beautiful, 200,000-gallon capacity, three-stage pool which provided areas for beginning swimmers, intermediate swimmers, and a diving area. The design was in the shape of a large cross with the intermediate area the vertical arm. The design provided access to any child in trouble within 5 seconds from guard positions on the interior corners. The design was awarded second place in competition by Swimmers World, a national aquatic magazine. The basic pool cost the Camp approximately $65,000 and was dedicated as a memorial to Edwin Elliot, past president and benefactor of the camps, who had passed away in October 1967.
During the sixties, honors were received by two of the Camp’s trustees. Dr. Walter Cornell was named “Man of the Year” by Northeast High School with an award of merit by the American Camping Association for his outstanding service to children in Philadelphia. Abbie Houston Evans was honored by the National Institute of Writers for her volumes of exceptionally beautiful poetry.
It was also in the sixties a young man, Frank Gerome, came to the Farm Camp and assumed the position of unit head for the Pioneer Camp, later renamed Senior Camp. Mr. Gerome, a graduate of West Chester State College, served several summers at the Senior Camp, later becoming responsible for total camp program. Mr. Gerome was then promoted as the full-time assistant director with his chief responsibility the development of the Outdoor School when the Camps moved into a twelve-month, full-time program. With the retirement of Leonard Ferguson, he was named Executive Director for the operation in June of 1982.
George M. Kevlin, after serving ten years as President of the Board of Trustees, retired as President and, in January 1969, John Hess became the new President. Mr. Hess, an executive with INA Corporation, was to continue the excellent work of his predecessors.
It is interesting to note the turbulent times had very little effect on the in-camp operations of the agency. The Camp existed as an enclave separated from the rest of society where peace and goodwill were the passwords of the day. Although the program days were hectic, to say the least, the disturbing elements existing in the outside world had no place in the camp world. The Camp had always been integrated from its earliest beginnings so the elements of racial strife had no bearing; the political gesturing and bombast meant nothing as staff was so heavily involved with its charges they seldom had recourse to the news media and went about their work which consisted of a 16-hour work day, 6 days a week. A real, genuine concern for the children present in the camp setting precluded an involvement in the agitation taking place in the rest of society. It was a great place to be.
Prior to the change in emphasis from a settlement program to a full-time camping program, children recruited for the camp program came from the Settlement area around 5th and Christian Streets in South Philadelphia. It was decided in the early fifties recruitment should be expanded and encompass the entire area of Philadelphia and those suburbs which were served by the Community Chest of Philadelphia and, particularly, in those areas where children from the lower economic levels of society were not in contact with nor had access to a camping facility. This change in recruiting area included not only Philadelphia, but Montgomery, Delaware, and parts of Chester counties. In addition, the Camp became a source for other social service agencies such as the Main Line Federation of Churches, Visiting Nurses Society, the Methodist Orphanage, the Society for the Deaf, and the Northern Home for Children, among others.
The Camps sessions were established at two weeks with a child limited to one session unless there were special needs which had to be provided for at the family or agency service level. The quality of program offered resulted in the camp being filled to capacity each summer. The Camp was co-educational for children between the ages of 7 and 14 with individual units established for different age categories. The Mansion site provided for youngsters 7 to 9; Main Camp Boys was for boys 10 to 12; Main Camp Girls for girls 10 to 12; Pioneer Camp was for boys and girls 12 to 14. The individual program in each site was keyed to age and interests.
The Camps purpose for existing was to provide a service for the children of low economic levels in the Greater Philadelphia area. If one were asked to describe these youngsters, it would be a difficult thing to do so in a few words. Each child was an individual character with some being more of a “character” than others. Racially, they were white, black, brown, and after the Vietnam years, yellow. They were of all shapes and sizes, tall, short, thin, fat, and many in between. Few are malnourished today as contrasted with those of earlier years. Some need to be provided clothing upon their arrival in camp. A good majority of these campers come from one-parent homes which is an indication of our times. Most can tell you every television show which exists. Although there is widespread criticism of the educational systems, the amount of factual knowledge these youngsters have is amazing. Most of these campers are streetwise and know all the angles and vices both good and bad. Many come from homes where public assistance has been a way of life for three generations and their expectations are to occupy the same role. Most welcome with enthusiasm the consideration given by staff and others to them at camp.
There are many anecdotes connected with these youngsters. In the early fifties one boy in camp had some difficulty in understanding explicit directions. One evening, when a picnic supper was held, campers were told to save their paper plates for dessert. This young man promptly ate his. And then there was the youngster who had a pet fly whose sudden demise by way of a swatter created a traumatic situation for the entire cabin; and the lad who, while fishing, hooked his counselor through the nose necessitating a quick trip to Abington Hospital. These things could go on forever. They are great youngsters and the Camp means something very special to them.
The financing of the expanded program and capital projects for the College Settlement Farm Camp was, as had been true of the Settlement program, a difficult thing. The building of Davies Hall, the Elliot pool, and the land purchases required the expenditure of considerable sums of money. The increasing costs of operation which went with expansion were also difficult to meet from fees which the clientele could pay. Through this period constant and steady support was given to the agency by various individuals, Foundations, and community organizations which made growth possible. The continued support of the Community Chest, to be renamed the United Fund, and finally the United Way had become one of mutual understanding of the limitations of each and considerable respect on both sides.
No discussion of the financial support of the College Settlement would be complete without the mention of Elizabeth England who became a Trustee of the organization during the early sixties. Miss England epitomizes the character, interest, and dedication of the organization’s Trustee over the many years of its operation. When Miss England passed away in 1973, the England Trust Fund was provided which guarantees the financial security of the organization and its continued operation.
There was one other happening in the late sixties which was brought about by the continued close cooperation of the College Settlement and the Kuhn Day Camp. In 1969 a Board committee, chaired by George Kevlin, was appointed to review the By-laws of both organizations with the desire to eliminate duplication in committee structure and operating procedures. The committee recommendation, Board and Committee structure and operating procedures were to be identical in name and performance, was adopted and became functional. The only real separation of the agencies is in the financial recording and funding which is maintained individually.
The decade ending December 31, 1969 had been a good one for the Camp. Considerable improvements in physical plant, the purchase of additional land areas at both the College Settlement and Kuhn Day Camp, the refinement and consolidation of business practices, and a continued expansion and growth of program proved the wisdom of the policies promulgated by the Trustees.
The historical period of the 70s, often called the period of disenchantment, found the nation at a low ebb spiritually and morally. The Vietnam War came to an end; Richard Nixon was President and the Watergate episode was at hand; a new recognition of Red China occurred; troubles in the Near East were escalating; youth was disenchanted with the “Establishment,” and beards sprouted and proliferated among young and old. The miniskirt often showed more than it was intended to show; the drug scene became a major problem to society; the voices of the silent majority began to be heard. A nation that once had been ebullient in its patriotism and self-respect, its confidence and future unquestioned, now had become a nation of fault finders and quibblers.
In Philadelphia during this period, there was a drop in population during the decade of 13% most of this due to people fleeing to the suburbs to escape the city problems of air pollution, overcrowded schools, racial tensions, and inadequate health and social services. Big city crime, including the increase in drug related offenses, was a major factor in the exodus. The Frank Rizzo administration of 1972-1980 saw the rejuvenation of center city continue and expand. Gallery I was completed and a commercial success from the opening and, in general, the native Philadelphian took some pride in what was happening in Market Street East. The hopes of Philadelphians for better public transportation via SEPTA weren’t to be met, public ownership wasn’t much better than private ownership of the system. Politically, the city was dominated by the Democratic party, a far cry from the period before 1950. This was the time of the MOVE cult and its shootout with the police in the Powelton section of the city; the decay of the Schuylkill Expressway, often called the longest parking lot in the world; the Bicentennial celebration in 1976 provided an outlet for considerable enthusiasm among the populus and some facelifting of the historic sites such as Penn’s Landing, Independence Park, Old City Tavern, and the Art Museum. One constant throughout the decade was the continued enthusiasm of the Philadelphia sports fan for the Phillies, Eagles, and Flyers; another was the Mummers who marched and played “Golden Slippers” each January 1st. The problems of the City were those endemic to all the major cities of the country, no exceptions.
On both the national and local scene, the computer had reorganized the way of life and the fear of atomic energy and the new technocracy was but an indication of a major concern for what the future would hold for posterity.
At the Camp there were many highlights which occurred during the seventies. Due to the encroachment of housing near the Camp borders and the difficulty of recruiting teenage campers, the Senior Camp was closed and the buildings on the site leveled. On the northern boundary an additional 25 acres of land was purchased from Louise Roosevelt. This was added to by another 30 acres purchased from the Natural Lands Trust which had inherited the acreage from the Roosevelt estate. The 55-acre tract extended the camp’s northern border to Mann Road. The first purchase was grassed and planted with black locust, white pine, Norway spruce and Japanese larch as a part of a reforesting plan worked out with the State Department of Forestry. It is proposed the second purchase will be treated as the first.
In early 1970 an ad hoc committee was appointed by the Trustees and chaired by Joseph Watlington, Jr. to develop a long-range plan to include all the various areas of the Camp’s operation. This was done and the comprehensive plan was to become operative immediately with excellent results and all goals reached within a three-year period. A second five-year plan was developed and implemented. At the Kuhn Day Camp it was not until the seventies that a program sponsored and staffed by the Camp itself became incorporated. Prior to this time the Day Camp area served as an outpost for various community groups, as a resource for overnight camping by the resident Camp and was leased for the summer months to the Germantown Settlement which operated a day camp program for children from the Germantown area through 1969. In 1970, a program which was implemented, staffed, and financed by the Kuhn Day Camp itself went into effect with children recruited from those public schools in the area of Temple University, an area of particular need. Primarily, the Kenderton School was the source for most children recruited due to the tremendous efforts put forward by its Principal, Robert Hagerty, who was to serve as the Day Camp Director for many years and, later, to become a Trustee of the organizations.
One of the small incidental items which occurred at the Camp was the stocking of Friendship Lake with large-mouth bass which seemed to thrive on the watery environment and provided, along with the carp, catfish, and bluegills, many an enjoyable moment for the campers. Staff with piscatorial ambitions also enjoyed wetting a line.
Demonstrating the farsightedness of the Trustees, the By-laws were amended during this period increasing the numbers on the Board and permitting the addition of several younger, new members who were expected to assume the responsibilities of policy making in the future. Many of these new people were past members of the Camp’s staff and brought to the Board a familiarity with the day-to-day functions.
In the spring of 1971, a major innovation in program was introduced at the Camp. For several years an increasing interest by staff and Trustees in the preservation of the natural environment and ecology had brought serious investigation of teaching and learning programs across the nation. After considerable deliberation, it was decided to open an Outdoor School which would operate from the closing of summer camp through the following spring of each year. In addition, environmental education was to become the core program for the summer camps. A great deal of credit must be given to Russell Frank, principal at the Weldon School and one of the founders of the Abington Nature Center, who, as a member of the Trustees, provided the expertise and support needed to get the new program thinking underway.
To implement the program, Frank R. Gerome, who had been with the Camp for eight summers as a unit and program head, was appointed Assistant Director with the major responsibility of developing the Outdoor School into a viable, working program function. The Outdoor School, as developed and implemented, proved a tremendous success. The basic arrangement was a contractual agreement with individual schools for the Camp to provide the program, housing, meals, supervision, and pre-planning for whatever period of time the schools wish to be involved. In time, the Outdoor School found itself making arrangements with entire districts for program for all the schools in the district. The program was presented to the schools on a cost-plus basis and, as it expanded, required additional fulltime staff to handle the workload.
In 1975, David Sierer became a part of the permanent staff and was responsible, mainly, for the field work required by the Outdoor School. Mr. Sierer, a graduate of Albright College, had been the unit head of the summer Mansion Camp. When Mr. Sierer moved to Wisconsin in 1978, he was replaced by Walter Grummun, a graduate of Gettysburg College and a member of the summer staff for several years. Wally, as he affectionately was known to the hundreds of children who attended camp each year, was basically involved in the in-camp, field areas of the Camp both summer and winter programs. In addition, Kenneth Voorhis came to the Camp from his position as Director of the Outdoor Education program for the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Mr. Voorhis, in addition to the field work, was also responsible for the content and program planning for the camp year.
The program developed for the Outdoor School was approved by the U. S. Department of Interior, one of ten accepted in the nation, as meeting the demanding standards of the Department for teaching centers in environmental studies. Many citations have been received for the quality of the program from the Department with special commendations from four different Presidents.
In 1963, due to the long travel distance between the Camp and its city office at 416 Queen Street in Philadelphia, the city office was moved to a new address at 48 E. Haines Street in the Germantown area of the city. The new office space was provided by Elizabeth England at no cost to the organization. The office was to remain in this area until 1973 when William J. Ramage suggested a removal to a house at the camp which, when renovated, provided a most satisfactory office facility for the organization.
On March 21, 1973, the death of Elizabeth England deprived the Camp of one of its staunchest supporters. Miss England’s estate provided most generously for the Camp including properties located in Germantown. The building used for an office was a part of the inheritance. It was decided the inherited properties were to be sold and, since all the action taking place was at the Camp, to establish offices there. This was done as above described.
At the May meeting of the Corporations, 1973, James R. Ledwith was elected President of the College Settlement of Philadelphia and the Kuhn Day Camp. Mr. Ledwith, a former Camp counselor while a student at Princeton University, was an attorney associated with the firm of Pepper, Hamilton and Scheetz and soon found himself involved with the many, different responsibilities which were a part of the Camp’s management.
One of the first interests to be resolved were those benefits which were to be extended to staff members. It was approved by the Trustees, Blue Cross-Blue Shield coverage through the United Fund’s program would be provided with costs to be borne equally by the employee and agency. At a later date, the costs of the coverage would be totally carried by the agency. In addition, a revision of the retirement plan with the National Health and Welfare Association was updated whereby the agency would bear the full costs of the retirement fee for each employee. It was further decided to sponsor a Tax Deferred Annuity part of the ongoing operation with specialty program instituted to fit the site. Further purchases of land adjoining the Outpost brought the total area in this site to 59 acres.
In May 1976, William J. Ramage, Treasurer of the organization since 1949, resigned his position due to ill health. His resignation was accepted with regret and deep appreciation for the fine work he had done in seeing the agency through its early troubled financial times to a point of stabilization. A resolution spread on the minutes states, “Mr. Ramage’s reports were never too lengthy, never too complicated, and clearly understandable to the most uninitiated.” R. Noel Turner, an executive with the Fidelity Bank, assumed the Treasurer’s responsibilities and continued the fine tradition associated with the agency’s financial officers.
In 1975, the College Settlement Farm Camp was to be renamed the College Settlement Camps. It was felt by all concerned the Farm, present in the name, was misleading and an anachronism which needed to be clarified for the general public. The incorporated name of the organization was the College Settlement of Philadelphia, so no legal involvement was entailed in the name change.
Also, in 1975, a considerable discussion took place with the Charitable Commission of Pennsylvania which insisted the Camps had to have a license to conduct solicitations. Since the organization had, at a much earlier date, done away with public solicitations, it was argued a license to do something you didn’t do was a most unusual demand for even a governmental body to make. The issue was finally resolved with the Camps agreeing to pay a minimum fee of $25 each year.
The sanitary drainage lines for the Camps had consisted of septic systems scattered through the camp site. With the tremendous growth and use of the Camp through the years, it was felt these systems should be replaced with a modern sewer installation which would connect with the public system located in back of the Mansion Camps. Upon the recommendation of the Long-Range Planning Committee, new lines were installed at a cost of $55,000. At an earlier date, public water had been installed in the Camp to replace the well system and provide a more adequate, safer source of drinking water.
At the Kuhn Day Camp a 20′ x 40′ above-ground swimming pool was constructed to provide opportunity for day campers to take part in an instructional program.
Probably one of the most noteworthy events of the year 1976 was the selection of the College Settlement Camps as the recipient of the Eleanor P. Eell’s award for meritorious service as the outstanding camping operation in the country. The Camps were properly grateful for the consideration but went about their “business as usual” routine.
In October 1976, it was the decision of the Trustees to move all of the Camp accounts to the Fidelity Bank and to take advantage of the investment counseling available by such a change. The arrangements with Fidelity were later expanded so that supervision of the investment portfolios of both the College Settlement and the Kuhn Day Camps would be handled by professional staff from Fidelity. The arrangements have worked quite satisfactorily.
One of the concerns of the Trustees and staff has always been to provide adequate insurance protection for all phases of the agency’s operation. However, because of the high cost of such insurance through commercial institutions, it was decided early during this period to provide medical and accident coverage for campers and staff through a self-insurance arrangement where $2,500 would be maintained in a fund from which expenses would be paid, as needed. It was also decided, at a later date in the period, to set aside each year an amount equal to premiums which would need to be paid for commercial coverage on buildings and equipment. When this fund equaled $100,000, commercial coverage which was still maintained, would be dropped. By the end of the fiscal year May 31, 1983, this fund totaled $57,000. The ultimate goal of this self-insurance is to include only those insurance expenses mandated by law in the agency’s budget.
Another troublesome area for the Camps during the 70s was the property tax situation in Montgomery County. Before this time, the assessment of real property had been low and minimal taxes were assessed which the Camps paid feeling this was a contribution to the community. A reassessment of all property in Montgomery County brought about by tremendous growth in the area and, consequently, increasing land values resulted in a tax situation the Camps could not bear. It was decided that, as a non-profit agency, the Camps would appeal the tax assessments and ask for complete exemption. The splendid presentation of the appeal by Sandra Slade, a Corporation member and well-known authority in the field, resulted in a complete exemption for both the College Settlement Camps and the Kuhn Day Camp.
For a number of years, the Camps had been involved with the Surplus Foods program sponsored by the U. S. Department of Agriculture and administered through the State Department of Education. Such foods, usually described as donated foods, were a part of the federal program which dealt with agricultural subsidies and surplus. For many years the foods available to camps, non-profit in nature, consisted of those food which were not used by the public school systems and released at the end of the school year to be distributed to camps. Food substances usually consisted of dried milk, cornmeal, rice, dehydrated potatoes, cheese, once in a while canned meats, some canned or dried fruits, and for a short period at the end of the decade, peanuts in quantity. Late in 1977, the program was expanded so that not only were the foodstuffs distributed but a system was set up in which children, who qualified because of their economic situations, were to be subsidized at camp on a cash basis with a preset rate per meal. In 1977, the Camps qualified for a cash subsidy of $12,000 which included the administrative costs for the operation. Each year the meal subsidy has been increased so that by 1983 the amount received was $14,913.
The struggle of the College Settlement Camps from its inception in 1922 to its present position was one with plenty of hard knocks, a continual financial problem, and in the early days a lack of direction and definite goals. The period beginning in 1950 changed things around considerably. Definite goals were set in all areas of operation and attained. The program was developed as a sophisticated instrument of learning for the children who were the agency’s clients. Administrative practices were implemented in keeping with sound business procedures. Personnel standards were upgraded, and salaries paid were competitive in the field. A sound financial base was achieved, and investment policies instituted which, if administered in an astute and careful manner, should provide for operations in perpetuity. The physical plant was completely overhauled, and the land area nearly tripled in size. The addition of the Spruce Run site provides an escape hatch if the present site should become unsatisfactory for any reason. In all, the Camp has earned its present place of eminence in the camping field.
Perhaps a better realization of the advancements made by the Camp can be had if one thinks in terms all are familiar with, money value. The Balance Sheet of the May 31, 1983 audit lists the total assets of the College Settlement of Philadelphia at $2,361,331 and those of the Kuhn Day Camp at $434,040. The only obligation of either of the agencies is that of a mortgage in the amount of $121,101 for the land purchase from Natural Lands Trust by the College Settlement. The improvement in the non-financial areas can be considered as great. There can be only one conclusion after considering the situation, someone has been doing something right.
When the final analysis is made, however, it was the people who were a part of the organization which made all things happen. It would be impossible to name all those involved and even more impossible to enumerate each one’s contribution to the successful building of an institution. With the retirement of Leonard C. Ferguson in 1982, the second era of the College Settlement of Philadelphia came to an end. The first was the period from the beginning in 1892 to the death of Anna Davies. With an energetic and competent young staff, Trustees who are concerned and forward looking, an agency which has built into its structure the safeguards necessary for survival, the third major period of the organization has begun.
Societal changes may affect the direction of the future, but the quality of service should not change. This is a mandate from those who have gone before.
Note: Misspellings that occurred in the typesetting of this book’s first edition have been corrected for the posting of this digital edition. No content has been altered, however, in either structure or meaning.