Reading and Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania
Schuylkill Seminary/College is one of the three schools that make up the present Albright College. The best source of information is the History of Albright College by E.F. Gingrich, son of one of the principals of Schuylkill. Albright College also has a collection of images from the school. The 1920 ad (right) is from the Evening Public Ledger.
Schuylkill Seminary opened in the fall of 1881, created by the East Pennsylvania Conference of the Evangelical Church. It began in Reading as a preparatory school with three and four-year programs. It moved to Fredericksburg in 1886—partially to provide a rural setting more conducive to moral and academic development. After 16 years there, a schism in the Evangelical Church led to a loss of students and ultimately to loss of the property.
With enrollment down to 37 students, Schuylkill Seminary returned to Reading in 1902. Enrollment began to rise. In 1905 a School of Theology was added, and in 1907 the school offered a Bachelor of Divinity degree. In 1923 Schuylkill Seminary became a four-year college with a name change to Schuylkill College. With the healing of the schism in the church, Schuylkill College merged with Albright College of Myerstown.
Gingrich notes that the religious focus of the school was strong from the first, with daily chapel required. Since Schuylkill was co-education, the school made every attempt to keep the sexes separated. Once each week they merged under supervision at the meetings of the Philomusian Literary Society. It was not until 1892 that they were allowed to walk together on Sunday afternoons. In addition to the literary society, students could belong to the Seminary Christian Society—later split between the YMCA and YWCA. Students also had a yearbook as early as 1884 and a handwritten newspaper.
Bricks and Mortar
Two buildings are associated with Schuylkill Seminary. Through the generosity of Col. J. H. Lick, a four-story building was erected at Fredericksburg. The main building, measuring 75 x 50 feet, contained a chapel, library, recitation rooms and reception room. The East Wing, measuring 78 x 40 feet contained dormitory rooms. It was steam heated with hot and cold running water. When the college moved back to Reading, the building was abandoned and later served as the College Hill Poultry Farm. It was razed some time after 1983.
When the seminary returned to Reading in 1902, it purchased the abandoned Selwyn Hall Academy. Built in 1836 as a private residence, Selwyn Hall was one of four Academy buildings. Others included the gymnasium and chapel. Female students roomed on the ground floor of Selwyn Hall and male students in the chapel. Selwyn Hall has been renovated and currently serves as an administrative center for Albright College; the gymnasium, also renovated, is the alumni center; White Chapel is unoccupied.
Seminary building at Fredericksburg. (Lebanon County Library System) <lclibs.org/matthews/fredericksburg-educational-institutions-a-look-back/>)
School Colors: Purple and Red
Gingrich notes that Schuylkill had little athletic history prior to the return to Reading in 1902. There had been a school baseball team that played pick-up games against local high school and independent teams. However, once the school was reestablished, it quickly became a basketball powerhouse. Four Bohler brothers led the Schuylkill team to a decade-long dominance. Two teams (1905 and 1910) were undefeated. Other teams posted 19-2, 13-4, 11-3 and 15-3 records between 1909 and 1913.
Schuylkill was also a pioneer in women’s basketball in 1905 and 1906. While the conservative region was not comfortable seeing young women running around in middie blouses and bloomers, they were assured by newspaper writers that the girls lost none of their modesty. And the teams were successful.
Until Schuylkill became a four-year institution, it played football locally and sporadically—often against prep teams. With full college status came a pressure to develop a strong program. Starting in 1925, Coach Alvin Julian began to recruit better players and to schedule teams from New York, Washington DC, and Maryland. A “Little Three Conference” Schuylkill, Albright and Lebanon emerged. Julian's last three teams went 6-3, 5-4 and 7-2, attracting home crowds of 7,000 to the Circus Maximus. However Gingrich notes that this success came at a price as other sports programs suffered and certainly the school’s academic standards were compromised.
Fred Bohler (right) was the oldest of the four brothers who made Schuylkill Seminary into a regional sports power. Each brother went on to a successful career as college players and coaches. Wikimedia image taken from the Washington State University yearbook.