A Short History 1848 - 1960
By J. Michael Morrison
In 1848, Jonathan Roberts, farmer, and U.S. Senator (1815-1821), built a school for the use of the poor children who had to walk to the Union School, located at Allendale Road and Swedesford Road (U.S. 202) from the mill workers’ houses on Croton Road. A ten acre site was set aside, and the first Roberts School was built mostly from logs. Replaced by a stone structure, the second Roberts School continued to serve the needs of an ever-growing community, demanding a vestibule and a second floor to be added in the late 1890’s to accommodate an influx of 72 pupils [see Figure 1].
In 1958, the New Roberts School, the third in a series, [Fig. 2] was built on the ten acre property adjacent to the old school, which by this time had deteriorated to the point where all that was left was a portion of the back wall and a stone foundation [Fig. 3].
The King of Prussia Historical Society (chartered in 1955) decided it was in the best interest of the community to restore the Old Roberts School to its former glory, and a monumental fundraising effort began [Fig. 4 - see remaining photos below]. The site was cleared, and restoration began. [Fig. 5] The project also presented a marvelous opportunity to teach young people about the process of restoration. Then President Dr. Robert May wrote about the project: “An educational program to emphasize the importance of the INDIVIDUAL is being welded to the preservation, restoration, and re-creation of certain buildings of various periods and uses, against the backdrop of a modern, rapidly developing community. The educational experience is provided primarily for children of school age and is an interpretive effort to instruct without teaching and to demonstrate without appearing to do so”. [Fig. 6]
The roof of the Old Roberts School and the privy were made of cedar shakes (shingles). The author’s grandfather, Mr. L.W. Morrison, contacted his former employer Phila. Electric Co., and soon a large cedar telephone pole was delivered to the site. [Fig. 7] The Historical Society called upon every friend and family member in the area to assist with the effort to restore the old school. [Fig. 8]
The community responded in a very positive way to the fund raising effort, both with financial contributions and volunteers. [Fig. 9] Every volunteer was put to work on the project, no matter what age. [Fig. 10]
Under the watchful eye and constant care of the Upper Merion Park and Historic Foundation, the school remains a monument to historic preservation. [Fig. 11]