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A Brief History Of The Pennsylvania Institution For The Deaf And Dumb

Creator: H. Van Allen (author)
Date: 1893
Source: Available at selected libraries
Figures From This Artifact: Figure 2  Figure 3  Figure 4  Figure 5  Figure 6

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In July, 1884, the principal, Mr. Foster, resigned the position which he had so long and so honorably filled, and A. L. E. Crouter, who for a year preceding had acted as vice-principal, and who had been a teacher in the school since 1867, was appointed his successor.


The first year of Mr. Crouter's administration was marked by several important changes and improvements. The Oral Branch was enlarged so as to accommodate one hundred pupils, thus making it one of the largest oral schools in the country, the co-education of the sexes in the classes was begun and gradually extended to the entire school, and new industries were introduced in the industrial department.


In 1888 the educational work at the main Institution was divided into two departments, the primary, under F. W. Booth, as chief instructor, and the advanced, under the immediate charge of the principal.


In 1889 it became evident that a new site for the Institution must be sought at once. The accommodations both at the main Institution and at the "Oral Branch" were entirely inadequate, and it was felt that the wisest plan was to remove the Institution to a suburban point, where greater healthfulness could be secured and where there would be ample room for future growth. From the time of its organization the Institution had been the recipient of gifts and legacies from benevolent people, and during the year a bequest of two hundred thousand dollars from James and Mary Shields became available. These funds enabled the Institution to at length take the important step which it had so long had in contemplation. A tract of sixty-two acres in the northwestern portion of the city, in an elevated and healthful locality known as Mt. Airy, and situated between, and but a short distance from the suburban lines of the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia and Reading Railways, was secured, and the erection was begun shortly after of the magnificent group of buildings which now constitute the finest institution for the education of the deaf in the country.


The plan upon which the Dew Institution was built was the result of careful consideration of the advantages of the various styles of building adopted for large public institutions, and equally careful attention to the needs of the peculiar work carried on by the school. The general plan is a combination of the congregate and cottage style of building. At the outset, it was evident that the prominence given to separate oral instruction demanded a general division of the pupils into two parts, the manually and the orally taught. It was also desirable that there should be such flexibility of plan that changes in the relative number in the two divisions might be readily made should circumstances so demand. The requirements to be met were, therefore, first, a general division of the two systems of teaching; secondly, a separation of the younger from the older pupils; thirdly, in each of these sections, a division by sex, and finally, in each of these resultant parts, a still further division into small groups and families to facilitate supervision.


It was, therefore, decided to erect four department buildings, to be known, for the present at least, as the advanced, intermediate, primary and oral departments, each complete in itself, with its own dining-rooms, dormitories, assembly rooms, play grounds, etc., and with its own school-house in the rear. The general plan of all these department buildings is the same. Each consists of a central portion, containing the dining-room, assembly-hall, office and reception room, parlor, kitchen, etc., and on opposite sides of this there are wings for the male and female pupils. In the wings there are provisions for separating the older pupils from the younger, thus dividing them into groups and greatly facilitating oversight by the officers. The assembly-room on the second floor of each department building is connected with the school-house in the rear by a covered bridge, and this latter is entirely given up to school purposes. Around these four department buildings are grouped an administration building, containing the general assembly-hall of the Institution, the general library, board-rooms and offices; a gymnasium; an industrial building, where under one roof all the varied industries taught by the school may be gathered, and finally, a boiler and dynamo house, connected with all the other buildings by tunnels, and supplying them with power, light and heat. The excellent view of the buildings and grounds of the Institution on the opposite page gives a better idea of their beauty and completeness than any written description.


On October 8, 1892, three of the four department buildings and the boiler and dynamo house were formally opened in the presence of a distinguished gathering of prominent people. Addresses appropriate to the occasion were made by George Gilpin, Rev. Dr. Joseph A. Seiss, Principal A. L. E. Crouter, President E. M. Gallaudet, Dr. A. G. Bell and Dr. Isaac L.Peet. On November 18, the school reopened in its new home. At the present writing the industrial building is rapidly approaching completion, and the Board of Directors only awaits a favorable opportunity to carry out the other details of the plan.

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