School is out for the summer but at least one in Chester County – the Caln Hexagonal Schoolhouse – is open occasionally for historical tours.
“They say Caln Township was just 12 large farms to begin with when a group of Quaker settlers from Calne England arrived here,” said Caln Township Community Outreach Specialist Abbey Swan. “Those same families are connected to most of the historical buildings in the township (and there are a lot) including the Hexagonal Schoolhouse.”
“In addition to being just an interesting historic building built by one of the founding members of our township, the schoolhouse is extra special because of the role it played in the township’s Centennial, 100 years later,” Swan continued. “Last year, we celebrated our 150th anniversary, so it’s fun to reflect on the changes and continuity between the township’s beginnings and where we are today.”
The Caln Hexagonal Schoolhouse is a six-sided schoolhouse that was built in 1837 by Quakers Richard Pim and Mary Edge Pim as a family and neighborhood school, according to historical records.
Richard and Mary Pim were both well-educated Quakers who valued education, according to Caln Township’s website. Richard was an agriculturist, one of the Founding Fathers of the Chester County Agriculture Society, director of the National Bank of Chester County, a school director, and a successful farmer, according to Caln’s records. Mary was an 1820 graduate of Westtown Boarding School.
The schoolhouse’s walls are made of brown fieldstone and some gray stone. There was a springhouse at the ground level of the school where the family got its drinking water and had cooling facilities for dairy products that were produced on the farm.
The main floor was used as the classroom. There is small staircase that leads to a loft where meats were smoked or cured on a revolving rack.
“Each child had a slate and a slate pencil to write their lessons,” the township’s website says. “This could be erased with a cloth and another lesson written.”
After Richard Pim died, Mary sold the property to her brother, John G. Edge, and it remained in the Edge family for the next 114 years. In 1968, when a descendant of the Edges sold the property and the schoolhouse was to be demolished, Caln Civic Club, which has since disbanded, worked with the township to save the building.
As part of the preparation for the township’s Centennial celebration in June 1968, the 75-ton structure was restored and relocated near the intersection of Municipal Drive and GO Carlson Boulevard in the Caln Municipal Park. The township adopted a logo featuring the schoolhouse at that time.
As part of the Centennial celebration, a time capsule was buried in the ground outside of the schoolhouse’s door. It will be opened in 2068 – 100 years after when it was buried as part of the Centennial.
The Caln Township Historical Commission offers free tours of the schoolhouse the first Sunday of each month, May through October from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m., states the township’s website. The next one will be Sunday, Aug. 4th.
“It’s a really cool part of our history – it’s amazing to learn about how people lived then in the same places we live in today,” said Swan. “It has been around for a long time and we’d like people to recognize the fact that it’s still here and that it had a purpose – it’s not just an empty building. The stories you hear as part of the tour bring the people back to life who lived here. They were really remarkable in the way they used existing technology to create these clever buildings with so many uses – the schoolhouse was a school, a refrigerator (springhouse), and a smokehouse all in one. They were also very dedicated to education, at a time when many people were not. As a community, we should be proud of our rich history.”