Biographical / Historical
The Benezet House Association, Philadelphia, Pa., was formed in 1917 to assist and educate the City's poor blacks and immigrants. It was created by the merger of:
- Joseph Sturge Mission School, a First Day school for Black people, founded in 1865.
- Anthony Benezet School, founded in 1795 as the School for Black People and their Descendants (also known as the Raspberry Street School). Records still under the care of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting (Arch Street) as of 1980. For microfilm of some of these records, See: Microfilm Org S/ School for Black People.
- Western District Colored School, founded 1848 under the care of Twelfth Street Meeting (Philadelphia Monthly Meeting for the Western District) as a graded primary school.
Because of the interrelatedness of the various separate organizations and because of the limited amount of materials for each, one Record Group, Benezet House Association, was created. It includes not only the Benezet House records, but also those of the Locust Street Mission Association, the Joseph Sturge Mission School, and the Beehive School for Colored Children.
The executive committee of Benezet House Association consisted of not fewer than 15 members: Five from Philadelphia Monthly Meeting (Orthodox), five from Philadelphia Monthly Meeting for the Western District (Orthodox), and five from the Joseph Sturge Mission School.
In 1919 the Benezet House Association made alterations which combined the Benezet School building at Latimer and Hutchinson Streets, Philadelphia, with the Locust Street Mission Association building at 918-920 Locust Street. This building had previously housed the Joseph Sturge Mission School and, until l888, the Beehive School for Colored Children. Facilities for day-nursery, cooking classes, kindergarten and domestic science classes were provided, and First Day classes continued. However, the academic classes previously provided by the Benezet School and the Western District Colored School were discontinued since the public schools of Philadelphia had assumed responsibility.
By the early 1930's, the area around the Benezet House had changed. The black population had decreased, the facilities were not being utilized to capacity and in need of repairs, and income from investments had declined. In 1934 when the Welfare Federation withdrew its financial support, the Executive Board decided it could no longer run a successful settlement house program at that location. The building was demolished, and in 1945 the lot was sold.
Locust Street Mission Association was established "to erect and maintain a building for the accommodation of the Swarthmore Mission and other First-day and weekday schools, for the instruction of poor children and for teaching sewing and domestic economy to the poorer classes; and as a central depot for distributing work and assistance to the poor; and for other objects of a like benevolent character; all of which shall be conducted in a manner not inconsistent with the views and practices of the Religious Society of Friends."(1864)
Swarthmore Mission First-day School was established in 1859 by Catharine M. Shipley at Quince and Locust Streets, Philadelphia, to aid the large number of illiterate Italians living in that area. It was a First Day School for both adults and children. When the basement and first floor of the Locust Street Mission Building were completed in 1864, the Swarthmore Mission First Day School moved to larger quarters in that location. It was later known as the John S. Hilles Memorial School.
Bee-Hive School for Colored Children was established in 1865 as a school for boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 12 years to teach sewing and knitting, as well as reading, spelling and writing, and arithmetic. Classes met in the Locust Street Mission building. The school was discontinued in 11mo 1888.
Western District Colored School was established in 1884 by members of the 12th Street Meeting House as an elementary school for blacks in the Southwark section of Philadelphia. Classes were held in the rear of the House of Industry on Catharine Street. By the early 1900's, the Philadelphia Public Schools had taken over much of the work previously done for black children by Friends' schools, the black population had moved away from this area, and school enrollment had declined. In 1917 the Western District Colored School joined with the Joseph Sturge Mission School and the Anthony Benezet School to form the Benezet House Association.
Joseph Sturge Mission School was established as a First Day School for Colored People on New Year's Day, 1865. The classes for men, women, and children were held in the Locust Street Mission Association building. Anthony M. Kimber was the first superintendent, and Catharine M. Shipley in charge of the Primary Department.