The Academy Campaign Project
On Time, On Budget and Done to Specifications

  From its modest beginnings in 1949, The Lower Merion Historical Society grew into a busy all-volunteer institution operating from the second floor at Ashbridge House in Rosemont. This was our headquarters, where the educational and cultural needs of students and adults and their desire for "life-long learning" were met. But the space at Ashbridge House was limited to only 720 square feet with no room for expansion and did not meet our current or future needs.

The Society's Board carefully studied and evaluated space requirements in relation to the services offered. Surveys pointed to an inescapable conclusion that we required a headquarters with more space in order to meet future goals and objectives.

The Lower Merion School District offered to lease us space in Lower Merion Academy, located in Bala Cynwyd, for our new headquarters. This landmark building, now listed by the U.S. Department of Interior on the National Register of Historic Places, provided the perfect solution.

Through creative adaptation and renovation of this 1812 schoolhouse, this architectural treasure provides the Society with a permanent home for its collections, research facility, conservation center and state-of-the-art computer center. The changes make effective use of the areas for research, make available our newly-installed computer center and afford easier access to our special collection of books, documents and artifacts.

Phase I

Phase I involved the hiring of architects and engineers to evaluate the building and identify the requirements for code compliance. We incorporated the special needs for our collections and the furniture and equipment wanted to create an atmosphere for research and learning. The cost to complete Phase I was $40,450.

Phase II

The Society then embarked on Phase II of this multi-year project. We hired Purdy O'Gwynn Barnhart Architects, Inc. to oversee the project, Keast & Hood Company as our structural engineer, Bruce E. Brooks & Associates as our mechanical and electrical engineers, and McCoubrey/Overholser, Inc. as our general contactor. The objective was to meet local zoning and code requirements. Code-required improvements included: major structural reinforcement of the floor joists, upgrade of the sixty year old electrical service, installation of a fire detection system, and upgrading the HVAC systems and installing a security system.

Costs and Funding for Phase II

Funding for Phase II was accomplished by a partnership program of public, private and institutional financial support and "in kind" contributions. Our goal to raise $340,000 was accomplished in this way:

  • $30,000 grant from the McLean Contributionship.
  • $90,000 matching grant from the Keystone Historic Preservation Agency of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
  • $25,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
  • $10,000 grant from the Township of Lower Merion.
  • $5,000 grant from the Merion Community Association.
  • $5,500 grant from Berwind Corporation.
  • $3,000 grant from Helen D. Groome Beatty Trust.

The Society also received generous support from the Lower Merion School District and donations from local groups such as: The Lower Merion Academy Trustees, The Merion Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, The Neighborhood Club of Bala Cynwyd, businesses and individuals.

Budgeted Costs for Phase II

We Met Our Goal!
Construction and Remodeling$200,000
Architects and Consultant Fees$59,000
Fund Raising Expenses$7,000
Legal Fees$3,000
Construction Permits and Related Costs$4,000
Moving and Additional Furniture$20,000
Project Contingencies$37,000
Total Cost$340,000

The Phase II timeline was:

Summer 2002 - Design Drawings Completed
Fall 2002 - Contractor Selected
Winter 2002 - Construction Begins
Summer 2003 - Fund Drive Completed
Fall 2003 - Construction Completed
Winter 2003 - Outfitting of Building & Moving
Sunday April 18, 2004 - Official Opening to the Public

The Lower Merion Academy

The Lower Merion Academy Second Floor Plan

Having these renovations completed will enable the Society to:
  • Provide more effective use of space for visitors.
  • Offer efficient work areas for research projects.
  • Accommodate the newly installed computer center.
  • Preserve the Society's Special Collection of books, documents and artifacts.
  • Afford easier access to the Society's collections.

The official registration and financial information of The Lower Merion Historical Society
may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll-free within Pennsylvania: 1-800-732-0999.
Registration does not imply endorsement.