The Society’s May Field Trip consisted of a tour of Philadelphia’s W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences and a luncheon and tour at historic Harriton House in Bryn Mawr. The Saul High School is located at 7100 Henry Ave on the edge of the Wissahickon Valley in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia. Founded in 1943 as the Wissahickon Farm School, it became the Philadelphia High School of Agriculture and Horticulture in 1957. In 1966, it was renamed the W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences.
With about 650 students, W. B. Saul ranks as the nation’s largest agricultural high school and has the second-largest chapter of The FFA Organization in the country. Agricultural courses include retail floriculture, greenhouse management, landscape design, turfgrass management, horticulture mechanics, beef and sheep science, dairy and swine science, meat science, small animal technology, equine science, agricultural construction, marketing of agricultural products and aquaculture.
The group was welcomed by W.B. Saul principal Tom Scott and education-to-career coordinator Jean Lonie. Both are members of the Society. Scott explained that, after a nine-year hiatus Saul recently regained its status as a magnet school. The reclassification permits the high school to accept students primarily on a merit basis. While all students have to meet certain prerequisites, a lottery system was employed during the period that Saul lost its magnet status.
Students at Saul take college-preparatory classes and have the option to take advanced placement classes. There are honors classes in both agricultural and academic subjects. In April, the school was victim of what Scott termed a terrorist attack by a radical animal rights group. Taken were many of the small animals.
Jean Lonie took the group on a tour of the school’s facilities, including the large animal facilities, small animal classrooms, aquaculture room and meat science facilities. Student teams in both meat judging and artificial insemination have ranked in the top ten nationally in their competitions. Because the school’s farm borders Wissahickon Park and its fields drain into Wissahickon Creek, students closely monitor the creek’s water quality.
The Society also visited Harriton House built in 1704 on a land grant from William Penn. Located at 500 Harriton Road in Bryn Mawr, it was built by Welsh Quaker Rowland Ellis. The three-story T-shaped stone house with flaring eaves and tall brick chimneys is an example of early-American domestic architecture in Philadelphia. Ellis was an overseer of the Quaker schools in Philadelphia. Harriton’s most famous occupant was Charles Thomson, an ardent abolitionist and progressive farmer who lived there from 1789 to his death in 1824. Early in this century the farm was known as the Harriton Guernsey Dairy.