The Founding of PMFS
The official founding date of Plymouth Meeting Friends School is 1780 when the first written record of the school appears in Plymouth Monthly Meeting minutes. At this time a committee was appointed to oversee the construction of an addition to the Meetinghouse which would serve as a school. It is believed that Plymouth Monthly Meeting members’ children, as well as others in the community, were taught in members’ homes after the Meeting’s founding in 1708 up through the American Revolution.
Early 1800’s and the “eight-square” school
The school was originally attended only by boys; girls were first enrolled in 1812 and the first female teacher was employed in 1818.
As the school’s population expanded it needed more room, and in 1813 the Williams family deeded ninety perches of land to Plymouth Monthly Meeting for the purpose of building a new schoolhouse. The Meeting chose to construct what was called an “eight-square school,” an eight-sided building whose style that was popular at the time, and the building was completed in 1816. The eight-square building served the school well for many years.
1856 – The Main Schoolhouse
It wasn’t until 1856 that the need was seen for a new school building, and another ninety perches of land was deeded to Plymouth Monthly Meeting. The first room of what is now the main school building was constructed on this property. Plymouth Meeting Friends School was still a small country school, averaging enrollment of about 25 with one teacher, usually a member of the Society of Friends. The school faced financial difficulties in the early 1870s and closed briefly from 1877-80, but it re-opened in 1881 and has been open continuously ever since.
1891 – Re-organization of PMFS
The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s Committee on Education took an interest in Plymouth Meeting Friends School, and in 1891 helped to re-organize PMFS into a graded school with three levels, primary, intermediate, and high school, and three teachers.
Benjamin Smith became the school’s principal and served for sixteen years. By this time the school had grown large enough to require adding a second story to the main building. Under Smith’s leadership the school offered high school classes that included Latin, French and German, algebra, rhetoric, Roman and Greek history, bookkeeping, astronomy, elocution, geometry, English grammar, geography, drawing, physics, and chemistry, among others. Sixty-four pupils were enrolled in the 1901-1902 school year.
1913 – The first PTO and first Kindergarten
The first parent-teacher organization held meetings in 1913, and the first official Kindergarten class was offered in 1916. Eventually, the need for high school classes diminished and by the 1920s, PMFS once again became an elementary school.
1938 – The Annie H. Wilson Room
In 1938, Plymouth Monthly Meeting granted PMFS use of the north end of Meetinghouse as classroom space. Eventually, there was a need for more space, both for the Meeting and the school. This brought about the addition of the Annie H. Wilson Room. Built as an addition to the Meetinghouse in 1945, it was used as the social room for the Monthly Meeting and the location for work in aid of the American Friends Service Committee; the room also served as the Kindergarten classroom and lunchroom for the school.
Mid and Late 1900s
1950s – Primary Wing and the Library
The school continued to expand, and in 1957, the Primary classrooms were built using the foundations of the original horse sheds. In 1959, a new entrance, principal’s office, front office, and fire stairs were added to the Main Building. In 1967, what is now the Science room came to the school on a flatbed truck in the form of a temporary pre-fabricated structure. It was originally purchased to house Kindergarten, eventually becoming the Library.
1970s – PMFS Mexican Exchange Program
PMFS’s Mexican Exchange program had its start in 1970 when Head of School LaRue Taliaferro took Fifth and Sixth grade choir members to Mexico to perform. Since that first trip, Fifth Graders have traveled to Mexico annually where they stay with their Mexican Buddies and their families. In January, the Mexican Buddies and their teachers, from Colegio Williams in Cuernavaca, travel to Philadelphia to stay for two weeks with the PMFS Buddies and host families for Part One of the exchange.
1980s – Journey’s End
In 1989, Kindergarten moved to the newly renovated Journey’s End building on the lower part of campus along with the PMFS’s art program. With the addition of Journey’s End, PMFS reached an enrollment of 155 students in Kindergarten through Sixth Grade.
PMFS 2000 to Today
In 2003, PMFS opened the Steinbright Multipurpose Building, Art Studio, and Little House for Pre-Kindergarten (ages 3 and 4). The addition of the Pre-K program expanded student capacity and the age range PMFS is able to serve.
In 2014, PMFS opened the 4,500 square foot Emerson Building which houses two classrooms and the Library. Primary moved from the wing attached to the Main Building to occupy the new spaces. The vacated classrooms allowed for reorganization of classrooms in the Main Building and Wing. What was the Library became a new Science room, for example. In the summer of 2016, work continued on an ongoing initiative at PMFS with the renovation of several classrooms: to improve spaces for the active teaching and learning that is at the heart of PMFS.