About the LTSP Campus - A Brief History

Our 13-acre campus in Northwest Philadelphia (East Mt. Airy) is actually the second location for The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

The seminary was founded in 1864 and began operations March 13, 1865 at 216 Franklin Street in downtown Philadelphia opposite the entrance to the Ben Franklin Bridge. The site was chosen because of its access to the Library and its proximity to where students of the day lived and worked. There were 20 students at the outset.

In 1872 for $17,500 the seminary built a five-story building near what is today the Gallery Shopping Mall. The structure featured three lecture rooms, a chapel and dining room, a library and a reading room or parlor. Three floors hosted dormitory rooms. A kitchen and heating equipment were located in the basement. Women from local congregations supported the seminary by providing meals and other assistance.

The seminary began to experience growing pains, and considered other location options. The Ministerium of Pennsylvania came up with $100,000 for a new location. Explorations of several options led to the purchase of a six-acre plot about nine miles to the north of the original site. The purchase price of the land was $35,000. The location was chosen in part because two railroad stations linking the campus to center city were nearby.

The new campus had a considerable history. Prior to the American Revolution, Chief Justice William Allen (founder of Allentown, PA) had a summer residence along Germantown Avenue in front of where the Hagan Administration Building is today. In 1777 the Revolutionary Battle of Germantown began on the plot. In 1807, Francis X. Brosius, a Jesuit, there founded Mt. Airy Seminary to teach children the French language.

The 1792 building the seminary eventually purchased in 1910 in an expansion to use as its Refectory in 1826 housed the American Classical & Military Lyceum, a training school for military officers which schooled several Civil War generals. Later, the Mt. Airy Agricultural Institute there and in an adjoining barn taught about the practical operations of the farm and the branches of husbandry.

In 1846, James Gowen of the Reading Railroad family built a new residence featuring impressive verandas after tearing down the old Allen estate, which had fallen into neglect. The property came with a gate house, possibly occupied by a gardener at one time, that was used by a seminarian interested in herpetology for keeping 400 specimens of snakes!

With $30,000 in hand the seminary built a dormitory in 1888 on the footprint of what is today the Brossman Learning Center. U-shaped and 110 by 108 feet, the dormitory was by far the most impressive seminary structure to date. It was designed to host about 80 seminarians. The Gowen Estate, today referenced as the Hagan Administration Building was minimally refurbished to provide classrooms and a chapel. The seminary’s new home was dedicated Oct. 4, 1889 on the 25th anniversary of the school and the 112th anniversary of the historic Battle of Germantown on its premises. On Boyer Street, bordering the campus, 7300 and 7304 Boyer were made into faculty residences.

The chapel in the former Gowen Estate soon was outgrown. In a subsequent arrangement a barn on the campus was converted to use as a chapel, assembly hall, reading rooms and recreation room/gym. But the chapel there did not remain in use for long. In 1903 after years of planning, the Rev. William Ashmead Schaeffer, missionary superintendent of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, and his sister, Kate Schaeffer, made a gift of a fully furnished chapel on the campus’s southwest corner where it still stands. The chapel came to be known as the Schaeffer-Ashmead Church with a that the congregation known as “the Church of the Ascension” would have free use of the buildings on Sundays and on other occasions when it would not be in demand by the seminary and its students. That arrangement existed until fairly recently.

Two other significant campus developments came soon thereafter. In 1908, the impressive Krauth Memorial Library was built where it stands today. Gifts from Lutheran tobacconist B. Frank Weyman of Pittsburgh, (holder of the patent for Copenhagen snuff) made the library possible with the stipulation it be named in memory of his late pastor, the Rev. Charles Porterfield Krauth. Two years later during a period of expansion the 1792 homestead known today as the Refectory was purchased, along with an adjoining barn, for $35,000 borrowed by the school. The barn was razed and the building subsequently expanded.

The campus today

LTSP Chapel with Center City Philadelphia in the distanceMuch of the 13-acre campus’s modernization has happened within the past 15 years, resulting in dramatic changes from what students knew in the mid-1990s. The campus, in East Mt. Airy in the city’s Northwest section, is bounded by Germantown Avenue on the West, Gowen Avenue on the North, Boyer Street on the East, and Mt. Airy Avenue on the South. Visitors to the campus are quickly impressed by its landscaping and unique graceful and mature trees. Over the years many trees, some of them once brought to the campus by alums serving in overseas mission fields, have fallen prey to disease. However the campus remains what a former curator of the nearby Morris Arboretum recently called a “wonderful example of an urban forest.” The architecture located nearby along Gowen Avenue from Germantown Avenue to Stenton Avenue has been recognized by the magazine Architectural Digest for its distinctive flair, and homes lived in along Boyer Street by the seminary’s faculty were designed by noted architect Frank Furness and have historic significance.

Wiedemann Center

Wiedemann CenterIn 1998 a Wiedemann family gift and other donations made possible a desperately needed contemporary residence hall with 66 apartments ranging in size from studios to three-bedroom units for seminarian families. The residence hall features laundry and lounge facilities and an exercise room. It houses the campus security headquarters, and originally featured a high technology classroom and conference room. The Residence Hall is also the current home of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod and the East Mt. Airy Neighbors, a community networking organization.

Brossman Center

The Brossman CenterThe campus centerpiece is unquestionably the Brossman Learning Center, built on the footprint of the aforementioned old dormitory. Brossman serves as the first structure in the seminary’s history mainly devoted to classrooms and learning. (Over many previous years seminarians gathered for classes either in the Hagan Administration Building, the Library, or in earlier years even in the homes of faculty members.) Brossman was made made possible by a major gift from Anne Sweigart Brossman and the generosity of hundreds of other donors including a significant gift from the estate of the late Rev. Dr. John Kaufmann, the seminary’s registrar emeritus.

The building features:

First Floor:  Benbow Hall, an assembly hall, which can be divided into three separate units. Benbow and its adjoining commercial kitchen make it suitable for banquets and other special events. The Heritage Lounge,  also known as the Franklin D. Fry Lounge;  "Holy Grounds," a snack/ coffee bar that is becoming the new refectory in the mornings and evenings; the Timothy Lull Common Room, central mail room, post boxes and commuter lockers. The first floor features a reception/security station area.
Floor Two:  Features include the Kaufmann Enrollment Services Suite, (including admissions, financial aid, student services); the Episcopal Classroom, the Urban Theological Institute (UTI) Classroom; the large Atonement (Wyomissing) Classroom; Faculty Lounge, UTI Offices; Field Education offices, Graduate School offices, the Office of the Registar and five breakout/conference rooms.

Floor three: This floor houses the Robert F. Blanck Board Room; the Martin and Vera Heinecken Classroom; an Exhibition Room featuring history highlights of the seminary and church; two large classrooms, including one specifically for Christian Education; the seminary’s  Multicultural Mission Resource Center and the office of its director and seven smaller classrooms/ breakout / conference rooms. The basement hosts the Lutheran Archives Center at Philadelphia and compact storage for the library.

The Krauth Memorial Library

Krauth Memorial LibraryWith its dramatic clock, The Krauth Memorial Library is a key architectural attraction on the campus’s main quadrangle. The Library houses a nationally significant theological collection of some 200 volumes, making it an attractive research center for all kinds of scholars intrigued by religious history. The Library is physically distinctive, having glass floors, which in early gaslight days made it conducive for making the most of available light. In addition to its remarkable collection of books, the Library features a rare book room, a collection of Reformation Era coins and medallions, a room dedicated to periodicals, and the Lutheran Archives Center. A dramatic second floor feature is the Rotunda, suitable for exhibitions and other activities. The Library also has several former classrooms used today for a variety of purposes, including a first-floor room that serves as a comfortable lounge.

The 1792 Refectory

Located along Germantown Avenue, the 1792 Refectory is the seminary’s midday dining facility, a popular place to socialize in the middle of busy days. The Refectory is the building’s oldest campus landmark and once served as a military officers’ training school for Civil War era generals. The building houses rooms on the first and second floors which can serve as meeting areas during mealtimes.

The Hagan Center

Hagan CetnerThe Hagan Administration Center is the prominent brown stucco Victorian-style former Gowen Estate visitors first see when they drive through the campus’s main Germantown Avenue entrance. This building houses the offices of the President and Dean; Business Offices and several offices connected with the Office of Philanthropy. The building also houses most faculty offices on its second and third floors. Hagan is also the home for the campus’s Media Center, Information Technology and Help Desk facilities. Once a stately mansion featuring impressive verandas and gardens owned by a railroad magnate when it was the Gowen Estate, Hagan today is far more modest. In the mid 1950s the building was expanded considerably to add a gymnasium, used today by seminarians as well as many community groups, and the Amphitheater, modernized in the early part of the last decade to become a more comfortable and technology friendly lecture room. Until the building of Brossman, the Amphitheater was the most popular classroom facility. It is still heavily used today for classes and special events.

The Muhlenberg Statue

Muhlenberg StatueTo the left upon entering the campus visitors can’t help noticing the impressive statue of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, known as the patriarch of the Lutheran church in North America. Visitors to Philadelphia quickly become aware of the many statues and sculptures that popularize the urban scene. The specially commissioned statue on the seminary’s campus had fallen into disfavor for use in the city during wartime because of its German connections. The seminary was able to obtain it.

The Schaeffer-Ashmead Chapel

William Allen Plaza and the Schaeffer-Ashmead ChapelOriginally built to serve the seminary and a congregation, Ascension Lutheran Church, the chapel has solely served the seminary and the Mt. Airy community since teh Ascension congregation combined with Churst Lutheran Church in Chestnut Hill to become Christ Ascension LUtheran Church in 1993. The chapel was extensively renovated in 2004, and the space connecting the chapel and LTPS campus to the Mt. Airy business district, known as William Allen Plaza, was dedicated in 2009. 

Other landmarks:

These buildings have served as residences for faculty, students and administrators alike.

The Hoh building is located at 22 East Gowen Avenue and contains six apartments: One is a three-bedroom (the only three-bedroom in the perimeter) and the other five have two-bedrooms.

The Reed building is located on 30 E. Gowen Avenue and contains five apartments: four have one bedroom and one has two bedrooms.

42 East Gowen Avenue contains three apartments: one has two bedrooms; one has one bedroom, and one is a studio apartment.

46 East Gowen Avenue contains three apartments: two have two bedrooms and one has a single bedroom.

The President’s Manse on the campus’ southwest corner is the residence for the seminary president. It recently received some modest upgrades to the dining area, now excellent for receptions. In addition, a patio area was added to the Manse to afford  the President and his family an outdoor relaxation area.

The Kaufmann House, currently known as the Kaufmann Cottage, was the long time residence for the late Rev. Dr. John Kaufmann, the seminary’s registrar emeritus. The two-story structure located between Wiedemann and the Refectory, is a two story, three bedroom home with two and a half baths, a large living room, dining room, full kitchen with adjacent laundry room; and a study, and is used for guest housing.

7318 Germantown Avenue, located across the street from the campus’s main entrance, is a six-bedroom home with two and a half baths and is  currently occupied by five students. The house has a living room, dining room, an enclosed front porch, full kitchen and pantry area, den and a small back porch.

7314 Germantown Avenue, currently occupied by a seminary executive, has four bedrooms and two baths. This home has a living room, dining room and a full kitchen. A laundry room is located in the basement.

The Powerhouse. Next to the library, the distinctive smokestack is a reminder of the seminary’s steam plant, a utility staple from early years. The building now serves as a storage area for facilities management. The stack also serves today as an area cell tower.