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Swarthmore Historical Society Archives

After the founding of Swarthmore College in 1864, a residential community and small business hub developed, centered on the College and the train station which was named Westdale until 1872. The Borough of Swarthmore was incorporated in 1893, and its history has since been intertwined with that of the College. Many of its citizens had close associations -- as graduates, employees, or members of the Quaker meeting -- on campus. 

    The Swarthmore Historical Society was founded in 1988, and its collections were deposited in Friends Historical Library in 1996.  Subsequently, the reference collection was merged with the relevant reference files and photographs in FHL to make the resources more accessible. 

    Colored postcard of Crum Creek in Swarthmore in about 1920
    Postcards of old Swarthmore
    Colored postcard of the falls of Crum Creek in Swarthmore, ca. 1920
    Postcards of old Swarthmore
    Colored postcard of the covered bridge over Crum Creek looking toward Swarthmore, ca. 1920
    Postcards of old Swarthmore
    Colored postcard of the Strath Haven Inn in Swarthmore, ca. 1920
    Postcards of old Swarthmore
    Colored postcard of the Swarthmore train station, looking up to Parrish Hall on the Swarthmore College campus
    Postcards of old Swarthmore
    Colored postcard of "Michael's Corner" on South Chester Road in Swarthmore, before the underpass was built
    Postcards of old Swarthmore
    Postcards of old Swarthmore
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    Borough Walking Tour

    The walking tour can be picked up at any point along the way, but two of the best points of origin are the Swarthmore Business District, which has parking and restaurants, and the College Campus, with parking in the Benjamin West lot on Chester Road and snack bars on campus. Also of particular interest is the Scott Arboretum which encompasses the whole of the College campus and the Crum Woods. Walking tours of the Arboretum are available at their Office and in the College Visitor Center in the Benjamin West House.

    History In Brief

    The Borough of Swarthmore was incorporated on March 6, 1893, set off from a section of Springfield Township. The impetus for its growth from a rural hamlet into a thriving community came from the founding of Swarthmore College in 1864 by a committee of representatives from three Hicksite Quaker Yearly Meetings, Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore. Co-educational from its inception, it lies on over 300 acres of rolling wooded land along Crum Creek. Access to good roads and public transportation encouraged the development of a residential and business community. Swarthmore was developed in sections, beginning with the College and the West Hill Land Company Tract north of the campus. Other late 19th and early 20th century subdivisions soon followed. The College ended its official ties to the Society of Friends soon after the turn of the 20th century, but its Quaker founding and a strong Quaker community continued to influence the Borough in the choice of architectural styles and architects. The result is a "green college town," with a beautiful campus in an arboretum setting and adjacent residential development that reflects a range of architectural styles from 18th century farmhouses, Victorian and early 20th century revival styles, to recent compatible development.

    Walking Tour


    Unlike most communities its size, Swarthmore has boasted a number of newspapers. The first was the Swarthmore, published by the indefatigable John A. Cass in 1894. In 1929, the name was changed to the Swarthmorean that continues as a weekly publication. Digitization of the latter was funded by the Swarthmore Historical Society.

    Research Guides and Finding Aids

    Swarthmore Historical Society merged their reference collection with the relevant reference files and photographs in FHL to make the resources more accessible. In addition to the reference files, several collections relating to the history of the Borough of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania are located at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. You can find links to these online aids here.

    Photograph of Swarthmore Livery

    Search for Books & Periodicals

    Link to Tripod catalog

    Search for Archives & Manuscripts

    Search the Digital Library

    Link to Images & Manuscripts database