Days of Yore
as recounted by

Bill Day


Bancroft School
a local landmark
The Bancroft School has been in Haddonfield since anyone living in the town can remember.

In 1883 a private school, adjacent to the public school on Chestnut street was taken over and operated by Miss Margaret Bancroft.  She had been the guiding teacher of subnormal children in the Philadelphia system.  In her Haddonfield school she taught normal children and also a few youngsters who were not up to par.  After a short time she purchased a mansion that stood at 134 Kings highway west.  There she had her school for years and her pupils became more and more "special" students.

In the late 1890's Miss Bancroft purchased "The Lindens", the large residence of Mr William Mann, Sr., at 437 Kings highway east.  She now had a boarding school for her unfortunate students and spent her life pioneering to the cause of the subnormal child.  Parents from all over America sent their children to the school.  The Bancroft Training School was the first of its kind in the United States.  Dr Ernest A. Farrington was the superintendent for years.  An administrator was Miss Jenzie Cooley who became the owner of the school after Miss Bancroft.  Miss Miriam Cooley, Miss Jenzie's sister, purchased the spacious home of Mr Charles Mann at the corner of Hopkins lane and east Kings  highway, and it became the nursesí home.  A summer home in an old motel was established on Penobscot Bay at Owls Head, Maine.  Every June a special car loaded at the railroad siding up near east Kings highway, and children, luggage, and animals, dogs and sheep, were put aboard for Maine.  Many townsfolk gathered to watch the departure.  Many of the children embarked on a chartered boat in Philadelphia to go up to Boston, where the remainder of the trip was by train.  No other school maintained such a program and it is still in effect today except that itís done by bus and airplane.

The facilities of the School have become greatly expanded to accommodate "special" children from public schools thoughout South Jersey.

Years ago a "special" at the school was "Doctor" John who had a full time nurse.  Hohn, the son of a wealthy family, had a nervous breakdown in striving for his medical degree and he had never recovered.  In his suite of rooms on the second floor of "The Lindens"  Doctor John had a small office where he carried on his imaginary practice.  He would feel a pulse, listen to a heart, and give a small vial of pills to anyone who approached him for treatment.  Those candy pills were real good, too.

Another "special" was "Jack".  Last names were never known.  Jack was a slightly flighty six foot teenager whose stepmother, when she married Jack's wealthy cattle baron father out in Texas, did not want Jack, and she put him in Bancroft School.  Jack resented this and he was constantly disappearing.  He was found once after two days in the cellar rafters of "The Lindens".

Once when he was in Texas for a summer vacation he was found after a week's search, around his father's vast acreage, in a line cabin.  He did not want to be sent back to Haddonfield.  Jack was always to be seen on his roller skates riding all over town, all six feet of him.

Dr Lawrence Glover was the school physician for years and was always on call to take care of the constant needs.

The author could write this column because as a small one he visited his Aunt Elvira Edwards in "The Lindens" where she was employed for thirty eight years in the office as a bookkeeper.  Previously, she had been a teacher in the school up at 134 Kings highway west.

Mrs Sadie Dreyer, a native of Maine, and Jack Dreyer's widow, was the dietician at the school for years and collaborated on some of the facts.

SNG (Suburban Newspaper Group) readers offer their view ( 3/23/1978)
Thanks for Bancroft article
To the editor:
I read with affection and understanding the article in the Haddon Gazette of March 2, entitled Bancroft School: a local landmark, and was pleased that the authors shared his fond memories of our school with all your readers.  The history of the Bancroft School dating back to 1883 is an integral part of the history of Haddonfield, a fact acknowledged by the Haddonfield Historical Society when the school, its buildings, and grounds, was chosen as one of the sites to be visited during its annual walking tour a few years ago.

Nostalgic pieces make for interesting reading.  I know, whether they focus on Bancroft School, old Kings highway, and the town's stately mansions of some of our famous ancestors.  None of us would deny, however, that just as the face of the business district has changed in the last few decades, so have our schools.  I do feel that your readers should be aware of the many changes that have occurred at our school in the last 25 years, changes in philosophy, in direction, in techniques, in faculty and in the types of children and adults we serve.

Our young students and older adult residents are special, special in every sense, to their families and the Bancroft professionals who teach and care for them.  Modern identification, evaluation and education techniques have enabled the Bancroft staff to make giant strides in their efforts to normalize the students and to help each individual learn and work to the best of his ability.  No one can measure the satisfaction to be gained by helping a handicapped child or adult and seeing him grow and prosper.  Ask our staff members or some of the hundred or more volunteers.

I have been privileged to serve as a member of the Bancroft School family since 1962, first under the direction of Miss Miriam Cooley and later, Dr Clarence N Yorc, our present executive director.  When I attend professional conferences in various sections of the United States, I never cease to be immensely proud of the reputation of the Bancroft School and the recognition it has received for its excellence nationally and internationally.

The Bancroft School is both a national resource (in that residents come from 20 states) and an important resource to New Jersey as our Day School serves some 132 students from 94 different school districts.  Many of our students are multiply handicapped.  There are three classes for children with communications disorders and many other specialized offerings from the tender age of 2 1/2 years to adolescents and young adults in vocational training.

The school has operated a diagnostic and evaluation clinic since 1961 which serves not only our Bancroft population but patients from all of the central and southern New Jersey counties.  More that 600 evaluations are completed yearly.

Thank you for the opportunity to enlighten your readers about our modern day Bancroft School.  We welcome visitors who wish to tour our facility.  Mrs Marion Villalobos, coordinator of Volunteer services should be contacted for tour arrangements.

Mrs Clair B Briese
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Contact Alan Day
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