The 9 Oldest Schools In Pennsylvania Are Ancient

Very old building in University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The 9 Oldest Schools In Pennsylvania Are Ancient

The great city of Pennsylvania is known for many things, from its history to its culture and all it does for the children. The city hosts a lot of camps and a varied number of schools for kids of all ages. Some schools and school districts are quite large, and some are better than others, but what about some of the oldest schools? That’s what we’ll talk about today. These are the schools that have been around for hundreds of years, and they’re still going strong today. Here are some of the oldest schools in Pennsylvania and some of the fun facts that make them so amazing.

Elementary Schools

Pennsylvania has been leading the charge for young students in their state for decades, and they have some amazing schools to show for it. Elementary school is so important because it sets the kids up for a promising future, and these fit the bill. Let's take a look at what those are, starting with one of the oldest institutions in the nation.

Abington Friends School

575 Washington Ln, Jenkintown, PA 19046

This school opened in 1697, and it’s the oldest school in the state that is still open, operating, and occupying the same parcel of land where it was originally built. It was back then that John Barnes, a wealthy tailor, donated 120 acres of land to create a meetinghouse and school that would be under the direction of friends. The school might be old, but it’s far from old school. The institution has been evolving by leaps and bounds. What was once a one-room schoolhouse now has engineering and robotics labs, the first interdisciplinary outdoor classroom in the state, and more.

Today, it’s a gorgeous campus with unique buildings and a fun atmosphere, and the kids are learning a lot. They even have a vast sports program where students can play soccer, wrestling, women’s lacrosse, and more. Notable alumni of the school include:

  • Jabril Trawick – Basketball player – Israeli Basketball Premier League
  • Bryan Cohen – Basketball player – Israeli Basketball Premier League
  • Matthew Lawrence – Actor
  • Joey Lawrence – Actor

Germantown Academy

340 Morris Road, Fort Washington, PA 19034-0287

This school was established back in 1759, and it’s still going strong today. It was on December 6, 1759, when a concerned group of parents met and created what would become The Germantown Union School. This institution has a lot of great history. In 1793, President George Washington enrolled his adopted son, George Washington Parke Custis. The original school colors were red, white, and blue. Soon after, the white was changed to black. It was an act of tribute to assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. It’s a school of rich history, and the traditions continue to this day. For instance, no new school year starts without the official raising of the flag on the first Friday of classes. Everyone at the school gathers around for the event, and it’s truly something special. 

The school is a bright spot in Pennsylvania’s history, and it continues until today. It’s a fairly large school with just under 1,200 students and just shy of 170 teachers. There’s a great student-to-teacher ratio of 7:1, which means the kids get a lot of individualized attention.

High Schools

Portrait of high school kids sitting on the floor in basketball court indoors
Imagine going to one of the oldest high schools in the state!


The high schools in our country have been preparing young minds for life and college for many centuries, and these old Pennsylvania schools have been a big part of that. A good high school is essential for a successful future, and these are great places for young minds.

Central High School

1700 W Olney Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19141

One of the oldest high schools in the state is Central High School, which was founded in 1836. It is the second-oldest high school still in use in the United States. Technically, it’s a university preparatory magnet school. As soon as it began, this was supposed to be the crowning glory of the early Philadelphia school system. This was back when the citizens didn’t know if there was a need for a high school. The school technically opened its doors in 1838, when it had sixty-three students and four professors. In 1839, the great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Dallas Bache, became the president of the school. 

The school has moved to a few different locations over the years and grew bigger as more students attended. There was a big moment in 1902 when President Theodore Roosevelt addressed the students during a formal dedication. For many years, it was an all-boys school until 1975. That's when a judge ruled that girls must also be admitted. A lengthy court battle was waged after that. Notable alumni of the school include:

  • Larry Fine – One of the Three Stooges
  • Phillip Frost – Physician
  • Richard Grossman – Jazz pianist
  • Eric Owens – Opera singer
  • Harry Shuman – Baseball player
  • John Wallowitch – Composer

Philadelphia High School for Girls

1400 W Olney Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19141

This is another one of those university preparatory magnet schools, and it’s in Philadelphia. It was established back in 1848 as a school for girls only, and it has remained that way ever since. It was the first secondary public school for women in the state. At the very beginning, there were only 149 students, which was considered a huge enrollment at that time. The name started as the Girls’ Norman School. Then, it became the Girls' High School of Philadelphia. The school has moved to several different locations until it found the place that it calls home today. 

The school continues many of the famous traditions that it’s had throughout the years, including “big sister, little sister,” where seniors pair up with freshmen to show them the ropes of the school. They also continue the tradition of career day, where alumni come back to show what they've become since graduating. Notable alumni of the school include:

  • Erika Alexander – Actress
  • Leslie Esdaile Banks – Novelist
  • Tina Sloan Green – Athlete
  • Milly Koss – Computing pioneer
  • Wanda Nesbitt – U.S. Ambassador to Namibia

Pottsville Area High School

1600 Elk Ave, Pottsville, PA 17901

The final high school on this list is the one that serves the Pottsville Area, and it's a coeducational public school that began in 1853. It started from humble beginnings, but it's currently the largest public school in their county. It was in a newspaper in 1847 when it was announced that a new high school would open. The community was excited as the new faculty was introduced. Fast forward to today, and this is one of the most celebrated schools in the area. They have an expansive athletics program with basketball, water polo, golf, and more. 


Some of the oldest schools in Pennsylvania are the distinguished colleges and universities in the region. These are classic institutions that have taught students many things, and some of the most famous folks in history once called them home.

The University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA 19104

The University of Pennsylvania (commonly referred to as Penn or UPenn)
The University of Pennsylvania is one of our oldest and finest institutions.


This famous college has been around in some form since construction began in 1740. The first students began taking classes in 1751. Part of the reason for the success of this school is due to Benjamin Franklin, who had big dreams for the university because he wanted the students there to learn about the crucial aspects of life that could help them thrive, including business. This was such an influential school that it was the first to be called a university and not just a college. It’s said to be the fourth-oldest higher education institution in the United States. However, Columbia and Princeton are also in the running. 

Over time, more campuses were added to the school in 1778, 1802, 1807, and other years up until today. This is also where the first medical school began in 1765. The first teaching hospital opened in 1874. The school is loaded with great art institutions, various libraries, and museums, among other great attributes. Alumni of the University of Pennsylvania include:

  • Gloria Allred – Lawyer
  • Anil Ambani – Businessman
  • Elon Musk – Businessman
  • Elizabeth Banks – Actress
  • William J. Brennan Jr. – Supreme Court Justice
  • Warren Buffett – Businessman
  • Bruce Dern – Actor
  • John Legend – Musician
  • Dr. Mehmet Oz – Doctor/TV personality

Moravian College

1200 Main St, Bethlehem, PA 18018

Sources say that Moravian College is the sixth-oldest college in the country, and it’s the second-ever girls' school. It’s a private university that’s located in Bethlehem, PA. This is still a private institution where 100% of the students receive some form of financial aid. In 1972, they opened a boy's school and now both genders can attend. This school was originally founded by followers of the Moravian church who wanted to branch out into the world of education. However, while there are some spiritual programs, this is no longer strictly a religious school, and people of all faiths and backgrounds can apply. Noteworthy alumni of this school include:

  • John Andretti – NASCAR racer
  • John Gorka – Folk musician
  • Bobby Levine – American jazz saxophonist
  • Sandra Novack – Author

Dickinson College

28 N College St, Carlisle, PA 17013

This school was technically founded in 1773. However, it began as Carlisle Grammar School. It became a college soon after, on September 9, 1783. This is a very famous school because it was founded by Benjamin Rush, who was one of the Founding Fathers and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Technically, it’s named after John Dickinson, who was another one of the Founding Fathers and one of several who voted to ratify the Constitution. The school was chartered just six days after they signed the Treaty of Paris and was instrumental in ending the Revolutionary War. 

The school has many features, including a law school that was founded in 1833 and libraries with some of the oldest books in our country’s history. This place is so old that it was open during the Civil War. Twice during the war, the campus was occupied by Confederate forces. Alumni of the school include:

  • James Buchanan – Former President of the United States 
  • Steve Smith – President of L.L. Bean
  • Rosie O'Donnell – Comedian
  • Stuart Pankin – Actor
  • Charles O'Neill – U.S. Representative
  • Chief Bender – Baseball pitcher

Franklin & Marshall College

637 College Ave, Lancaster, PA 17603

Finally, we have Franklin & Marshall College, which began in 1787 after a donation from Benjamin Franklin. The Marshall in the name comes from John Marshall, who was the first to provide the school with an endowment. This was the first bilingual college in America, and many classes were taught in both German and English. This was also one of the first universities to allow both men and women to attend, which was a big deal back in the day. When the school was first started, there were only 78 men and 36 women in attendance. However, for 182 years, only men were allowed until it got back to how it is today. 

The school has lasted through World War I and II and it has had many famous figures walk through its doors. It's a school with a big athletics program, tons of clubs, an expansive Greek system, and more. Famous alumni of the school include:

  • Treat Williams – Actor
  • Jeff Rineer – MLB pitcher
  • Richard Plepler – CEO of HBO
  • Glen Tetley – Choreographer
  • Jason Narvy – Actor


These are the oldest schools in Pennsylvania. There’s a lot of great history in this state, and many of these institutions have been around since the beginning. If you’re still pursuing your education and you live in the area, consider one of these schools and be a part of history.

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