MEDIA, Penn. - Williamson College of the Trades won a prestigious Patronage/Stewardship award for maintaining the historical integrity of the school’s Frank Furness designed buildings, at the 2nd annual Trumbauer Awards ceremony at the Union League of Philadelphia recently.
The award was presented by the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA) Philadelphia Chapter, a nonprofit organization that advances the practice and appreciation of the classical tradition in architecture and allied arts.
ICAA says it chose Williamson for this award because it teaches its students the skills, craftsmanship, and attention to detail that lead to the restoration of classical architecture.
The Trumbauer Awards recognize the work of individuals and firms that preserve and advance classical tradition in the region and are named for Horace Trumbauer (1868-1938), internationally renowned, Philadelphia architect, and celebrate contemporary classical projects that express the breadth and inclusiveness celebrated in Trumbauer’s work.
Frank Furness, one of the most highly acclaimed architects of the late 19th century, was commissioned by founder Isaiah Williamson to design the school’s buildings and plan for the campus’ layout. Today, the college boasts the largest collection of Furness buildings in the country.
Since the school opened in 1891, Furness buildings have remained prominent in the daily life of the campus and integral to the curriculum. Rowan Hall and many of the dorms reflect key aspects of Furness’ architectural fixtures — sloped, stone window sills, distinguishable brickwork, extensive stonework, and intricate ironwork.
Williamson was previously named a Pennsylvania historical site by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Heritage Commission of Delaware County recognized Williamson for its upkeep of these buildings and the impact they have made on the region.
The 220-acre campus, located in Middletown Township, Delaware County, PA, was purchased in 1889. Frank Furness, one of the most prominent architects of the day, was employed to design the buildings. Williamson opened in 1891 and it offered three-year programs in bricklaying, carpentry, machine shop, and pattern-making. With the first graduation in 1894, it became a significant pioneer in America’s vocational education movement.
In 1957, when a fire destroyed all but one of the shop buildings, it looked like Williamson might be forced to close, but the college was saved when the Board of Trustees entered into agreement with the Trustees of the Rodman Wanamaker estate, creating The John Wanamaker Free School of Artisans, now an integral part of Williamson. The agreement funded the construction of four new shop buildings and a general education building, and provided an endowment that covered an increase in the number of scholarships offered.
Until 1961, students were of high school age and Williamson’s curriculum emphasized the trades. However, due to the rise of secondary education and the significant advances of technology, the Williamson Board of Trustees decided to convert the school to a post-secondary institution. Programs were upgraded and in 1972 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania granted the Williamson the authority to award the Associate in Specialized Technology Degree.
On July 1, 2015 The Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades officially changed its name to Williamson College of the Trades. The college currently offers Craftsman Diplomas in Carpentry and Masonry and Associate in Specialized Technology Degrees in Construction Technology (with an emphasis on carpentry or masonry); Horticulture, Landscaping and Turf Management; Machine Tool Technology; Paint and Coatings Technology; and Power Plant Technology.
Begun in the 19th century, Williamson still provides a free, quality trade and technical education to qualified young men and continues to upgrade its programs to meet the current challenges of advancing technology.


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