A Brief History of
Lower Dublin Academy
William Penn first appointed his cousin, Captain William
Crispin, of the British Navy, as one of the Commissioners and
Surveyor for his new province in
Pennsylvania. However, in the
fall of 1681, taking a southern route across the
Atlantic Ocean, his ship stopped at
Barbados, where Captain Crispin died. In April 1682, the ship
"Amity" set sail from England. On board was Thomas Holme.
Holme was born in
England, in 1624, and served as Captain in Lord Cromwell's army during
the English Civil war. William Penn had appointed Holme, in
Captain Crispin's place as Surveyor-General. He was also a
member of Pennsylvania's first Assembly in 1682, and itís Provincial Council,
1683-86. Under Penn's direction, Holme laid out the original
Philadelphia. He drafted the first map of the city, 1683, and a map of the
settled parts of Pennsylvania, 1687.
Penn granted to Thomas Holme 1,646 acres of land to which
Holme added additional parcels and had a home in the city at
Front and Arch Streets. He located his country home at the farm
which he called "Wellspring", on the Pennypack, near
the center of his initial grant. He laid off a piece of ground
for a cemetery northwest of his house on a slight rise of
ground. He was buried there at his death at age 71 in the spring
of 1695. A Pennsylvania State Historical Marker identifies the
site at 3000 Holme Avenue.
Thomas Holme's will set aside £4 to be used "for
some charitable purpose in
Township, either a school or putting out the child of some honest man,
that was poor, to a trade, or some honest way of
livelihood." The bequest was not carried out until 1723,
when the Wellspring estate was being divided after the death of
Holme's daughter. An acre and a half was set aside for the
construction of a log schoolhouse. By 1794, the log structure
was no longer adequate and the trustees of the school were
incorporated under the title of
"The Trustees of the Lower Dublin Academy".
Subsequently, the Trustees began to raise money through
subscription and a public lottery authorized by Governor Edward
Shippen. In the
July 9, 1800
edition of The Pennsylvania Gazette, it was reported that the
Academy had been incorporated and endowed under the authority of
the legislature of the Commonwealth
The building cost $5,154.21, and was completed in 1802.
Some of the lumber was sawed at the mills near by on the
Pennypack Creek, including the Rowland Shovel Factory, and the
stone came from a quarry a little further down the creek.
The names of the Trustees at that time were:
J. B. Gilpin
Mr. Duffield was a famous Revolutionary era clock maker. His shop at Second and Arch Streets displayed a large clock
above the front of his store and he donated the clock to the
Academy. It had an old cannon ball, weighing 30 pounds, for a
weight, and remained in use for many years. It was placed in a
round dormer window opened especially for it with a clock dial
painted white with large black numbers. When the property was
sold the Trustees kept the clock but over the years it was paced
in storage and forgotten. The round clock window still exists
today and the clock may lie, unrecognized, under the dust in a
local resident's attic.
In 1855 (one source says 1842) the Academy property was
leased to the Controllers of the Public Schools of the First
School District of Pennsylvania and named Thomas Holme
School. In 1901 the
property was sold to the City and continued to function as a
public school until it was closed in 1925 and put up for sale.
Students were spread around to other local schools until
a modern facility was built in 1952.
The old Academy property then served as a private
residence until the 1990's when it became vacant. Subsequently,
a local law firm bought the property and invested a large amount
of money in renovating the building to use as professional
offices. In 2006 the structure suffered major damage as the
result of arson.
Through the centuries, thousands of students were
educated within the walls of the LowerDublin
. One of the most famous was Stephen Decatur, Jr. (1779
- 1820). Commodore Decatur
was born in
Northeast Philadelphia and went on to
become an American naval officer notable for his heroism in the
Barbary Wars and in the War of 1812. He was the youngest man to
reach the rank of captain in the history of the United States
Navy, and the first American celebrated as a national military
hero who had not played a role in the American Revolution. Also
of note was Thomas Hill (1818-1891), an American educator
and Unitarian clergyman, in
1859 he was appointed president of Antioch
and then president of Harvard
More photos here.