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Plymouth Whitemarsh High School students visit Abolition Hall

Plymouth Whitemarsh High School students visit Abolition Hall

Plymouth Whitemarsh High School’s Black Cultural Awareness (BCA) club recently had the rare opportunity to see the inside of Abolition Hall, a building opened in 1856 that served as a meeting place for those committed to the anti-slavery movement.

A tour was arranged for the students as the entire district embraces the study of “A Village Remembered.” The book, written by two Plymouth Whitemarsh High School graduates who are committed to the area’s historic preservation, features paintings and poems about local landmarks. One of those landmarks is Abolition Hall, which is located off Butler Pike. 

Once owned by the Corson family, Abolition Hall and the carriage house adjacent to it now belong to Whitemarsh Township and the Whitemarsh Art Center. Students were greeted at the site by Allison Boyle, Director of Development for the Whitemarsh Art Center, and Roy Wilson, a local historian who once lived on the property. 

During their tour of the site, students learned that the property was originally a farm. The farmhouse adjacent to the barn (and partially hidden from Butler Pike) was the actual Abolition Hall and a major stop on the Underground Railroad. 

Mr. Wilson shared many interesting facts about the building and its former owners. He said initially the property was a working farm, but it later became a place for those escaping slavery to get on wagons to continue their journey north on the Underground Railroad. Abolition Hall was built by George Corson after the nearby Quaker meetinghouse had been attacked for hosting Abolitionist meetings and speakers. Abolition Hall became a non-denominational space where orators and activists like Frederick Douglass could come to address supporters. 

Mr. Wilson also showed students a number of documents that had been located in the hall and barn, including newspaper clippings, a journal, and other documents related to the Civil War.

In addition to its role in the anti-slavery movement, the site also has many connections to art history. Mr. Wilson pointed out that artist Thomas Hovendon used the space as a studio. Mr. Hovendon is known for his paintings such as “The Last Moments of John Brown,” which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mr. Wilson’s wife, Ann, also used the space to create.

The Whitemarsh Art Center hopes that artistic legacy will continue when it moves to the location, but much more work needs to be done in order to have the building become a usable space, said Ms. Boyle. The intent is to also pay homage to the site’s role in the anti-slavery movement through a multicultural center. She noted that the “story is not over” for Abolition Hall, or for those fighting for equality.

“We have to continue the fight,” she said.

Melissa Figueroa-Douglas, Colonial’s Equity and Advancement Officer, encouraged students to think deeply about the impact of the abolitionists and the history of the space in which they were sitting.

“You are the dream realized,” she told the students.

Plymouth Whitemarsh High School junior Jadon Joseph said the trip was a really nice opportunity to learn about local history. 

“This trip taught me that where we live was an Abolitionist hub, one of the many stops along the way to Canada,” he said. “One thing I would share is the persistence of the Abolitionists even with many attempts on their lives, whether from threats or the burning of their meeting places, they still stayed the course for the greater good.”


students pose during visit to Abolition Hall
students pass around an artifact
students listen to Roy Wilson speak outside Abolition Hall
Mr. Wilson shows a pamphlet
Ms.  Boyle speaks to students.

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