The Baldwin School
– founded 1888
701 Montgomery Avenue
The original Bryn Mawr Hotel or Keystone Hotel, as it was also known,
was built in 1871. This grand summer resort was constructed by the
Pennsylvania Railroad, and was located in the countryside just north of
the station. The four-story masonry building was designed by Joseph
Miller Wilson. The hotel had 350 rooms, a fashionable polychromatic
slate mansard roof, and an enormous veranda. The hotel's amenities
included: gas lights, bath tubs, the first elevator on the main line, a
"ten-pin alley," first quality mattresses and one bathroom on every
floor. Unfortunately, the hotel was destroyed by a fire in 1887.
A second Bryn Mawr Hotel was built on the site in 1890. This new,
four-story, granite structure was designed by acclaimed architect Frank
Heyling Furness, of Furness, Evans & Co. The Hotel was inspired
by the Chateau de Pierrefonds, a 16th century French chateau, and
contained the latest technologies, including steam heat and electric
light. From 1896 to 1913 the hotel hosted its own annual horse show
that drew high society Philadelphians.
In 1888, Miss Florence Baldwin and her two sisters opened the Baldwin
School with a vision: to provide an educational experience that would
prepare young girls to be successful in the realms of higher education.
The first class consisting of 13 girls, was conducted in Miss Baldwin's
mother's home, which was located on the northwest corner of Montgomery
Ave and Morris Avenues. Their mission was to prepare young women to
enter Bryn Mawr College. The school quickly prospered and they outgrew
the available space in the house.
In 1897, Miss Baldwin contracted with the owners of the Bryn Mawr
Hotel, to lease classroom space in the hotel. The agreement stipulated
that the school could take over the hotel during the off-season during
the fall, winter and spring. The school would be allowed to use the
buildings and grounds, including the ice house and electric power
facility. In return, Miss Baldwin agreed to vacate the premises by the
first of May and promised not to bolt the desks to the floor of the
dining room. The arrangement worked nicely for 16 years with the
curriculum adjusted to the accommodate the abbreviated school year.
As the New Jersey shore became the popular summer location for the Bryn
Mawr Hotel clientele and reservations declined, the hotel closed. In
1913 a new agreement was made between Miss Baldwin and the hotel for a
year-to-year lease. Miss Baldwin made the permanent conversion of the
hotel into a school in 1922, at which time the owners gave notice of
their intention to terminate the lease agreement in 1924. Miss Baldwin
located a 30 acre parcel of land, one mile away in Gladwyne, and
planned a new campus and building design. The Alumnae Association
optimistically hoped to sell bonds to their members to finance the
The Baldwin School
The sale did not go well and the fact that the school was trying to end
its lease on its own terms, angered the hotel owners enough that they
offered to sell the hotel to the Shipley School, at a bargain price.
Shipley collegially notified Miss Baldwin of the owners' offer. At this
point H. Gates Lloyd, a local banker, came up with a bold plan to try a
take over bid of the hotel owners holdings in the company. He arranged
for the school to quickly buy out the individual shareholders of the
company. There was only one holdout who refused to sell his 20 shares.
He insisted that Miss Baldwin come to his house, so he could tell her
in person that he would never sell his shares. When she arrived the
gentleman told her that he had decided to give them to her instead.
This is the first recorded act of philanthropy to the school. The
Baldwin School remains an independent school for girls from
pre-kindergarten through grade 12.