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The Episcopal School in North Philadelphia

Architectural enrichments are led by Bill Bolger (left), National Historic Landmarks Program Manager, Northeast Region, National Park Service

The historic Church of St. James the Less (est. 1846) is a designated National Historic Landmark, a distinction marking it as a property of significance for all Americans. Both Partners for Sacred Places and the National Park Service combined curriculums to begin an architecture enrichment class earlier in the year at St. James School. The National Park Service launched a course of study that guides student ambassadors in examining the history and architecture of the church and grounds in order to broaden and deepen their understanding of the property.

The emphasis of the Architecture Club curriculum is to foster interests in each student in ways that are personal and experiential. The classes have focused on the church’s construction, the building technologies employed, and the effects that the church environment generates. Students kept a journal on their thoughts on the church itself, the educational materials, and the discoveries that they make along the way.

The church, which serves the St. James School community, also has the potential to attract visitors from around the country who are interested in having a direct experience of the site and its history. The connection between the school and historic site provides an opportunity for our student ambassadors to someday assist visitors as guides and at the same time introduce themselves and their school to the visiting public.

Topics of the classes have included The Who, What, When, Where and Why of St. James the Less: A Closer Look at the Church, The How-To of the Building Traditions, The Burial Ground and the Wanamaker Tower, and The Growing Traditions: Tree Identification.

Field trips have included trips to the Hindu Mandir (Temple) in Robbinsville, NJ; Laurel Hill Cemetery; The Bryn Athyn Historic District; and the Japanese Tea House in Fairmount Park.