Driven by a desire to understand what Sleighton School had been when operational, I did a quick search online last night. I thought it had been some sort of private school that had run out of funding but the sad vibe of the place that pulled at my gut each time I went by told me something else. Sure enough, it had been a sad place. A reform school for delinquent girls, sent there by the courts of Pennsylvania in an attempt to rehabilitate them. Under the guise of trying build character, develop an intellectual life and train one to earn a livelihood, the girls spent long exhausting hours working each day in the classroom and gardens.
Here is a quote about the property taken from the company currently managing the property:
"The historic campus of the former Sleighton School for girls contains historic buildings, including 19th and early 20th century school buildings, an imposing chapel, cottages, a stone barn, and 19th century farm structures as well as 350 acres of open space. Some of these historic buildings were designed by Cope and Stewardson who also designed educational buildings at Princeton, Bryn Mawr, and the University of Pennsylvania. The campus has been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
The Sleighton School's predecessor, the House of Refuge, was founded by Quakers in 1826. The school closed in 2001 due to financial difficulties. The property is now managed by the Wolfington Companies."
Typical of the many structures found in this area, the school buildings are almost all built of stone and are quite a sight to behold when driving past. They hold your gaze because you can see the work that went into them and it is hard to see them falling into disrepair. The school has been identified as being eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places. Other preservation organizations would like the buildings saved as well. The site reminds me of what Ellis Island once looked like before it was deemed a valuable resource and saved.
Hopefully these buildings will be saved and a bit of their history recorded. It would be interesting to hear the stories of those that attended this school and to know that they went on to better things in their lives. That the reform did help them. That would go a long way toward making me see the possible good in the mission of this school rather than just another place where we housed children in order to tell them how to think and be.
Until I hear those stories, I will simply have to view them as I view the other educational institutional buildings we have for young people in this country. Facilities where students are made to attend by law and given lessons on topics which may or may not help them lead a productive life. Thankfully, homeschooling laws allow some of the lucky ones to escape.
Links of Additional Resources:
Great interior shots of buildings at Sleighton Farm: